It’s been a good winter. While there are still weeks of sunny spring skiing, the pace has slowed and I can reflect on everything I’ve tried that’s been deep fried or braised in butter. Utah’s culinary scene has plenty to keep a food writer busy for years on end, and I’ll be trying it all until last chair.
A Few Faves:
Dungeness Crab Tower at Royal Street Café, Deer Valley. It’s nourishment at its most playful. An elegant alternative to burgers for a mid-mountain lunch, this artful dish is layers of crab, avocado, cucumber and tomato concassé, with crispy spiced wontons to delicately shovel it into your mouth. Three sauces make for fun eating: wasabi, ginger-soy and sweet chili.
Seared Ahi Nachos at Legends, Park City Mountain Resort. When you think of nachos, you envision a gooey mountain that you are expected to share. Don’t share. Get your own. A creation of Chef Brian Prusse, this dish is an organized display of large wonton chips topped with chunks of ahi, mango and wasabi crème fraiche balanced by crunchy seaweed-sesame slaw.
Fried Pickles, The Garden Restaurant, Downtown SLC. I’ve eaten lots of fried pickles, beginning in 1994 at some restaurant in the woods outside Auburn, Alabama, so I can tell you that these pickles are legit. They use super crisp spears that are battered in a mix that includes pancake flour and Old Bay, giving them a light coating with superb seasoning that holds up to dipping. The Garden Room is atop the historic Joseph Smith Memorial Building, where you’ll find the best view of Temple Square and the holiday lights.
Afternoon Tea, Alta Lodge, Alta Resort. Just like most things at Alta, there is no flash or flair to the tea service. It is simple mug of Earl Grey poured by a man with a warm smile who offers fresh muffin bites and zucchini bread. Served in the deck lounge, it’s a peaceful and convivial way to après and I adore it.
Macaroni and Cheese, Outpost Grill, Eagle Point Resort. It’s easy to mess up something as simple as mac n’ cheese and I always hesitate to order it. It can be bland and gelatinous. In the Canyonside Lodge, they do it right. The presentation is gorgeous and each bite is a creamy, flavorful meld of cheesy pasta.
Fireside Dining, Empire Lodge, Deer Valley. A ski trip is not complete without this experience. It’s a buffet on steroids, a fete of food that is being roasted and simmered by crackling flames, emerging from hearths that you visit from room to room as if on a gustatory carnival ride. It begins with Raclette, veers to leg of lamb or veal stew then ends with chocolate fondue. What else do you need?
Bahn Mi Sandwich, Oh Mai, Holladay. Possibly one of the best sandwiches on earth, this Vietnamese sub has quickly become Utah’s most wanted eats. Powerful and distinct flavors are packed into a perfect baguette—soft enough it doesn’t tear your mouth up, but holds up to the goods. I recommend the honey glazed pork or the curry chicken. It’s cheap and close to the 6200 South exit for the Cottonwood Canyons.
The Pile (made by Gino), Alpine Rose, Brighton Resort. To be clear, this is no gourmet dish. This is as the name indicates, it’s a pile of food, namely a hash of eggs, potatoes and veggies topped with cheese. But when it’s served by Gino, who whirls like a Brooklyn dervish around the grill, it’s a great way to start your day. Perfectly seasoned, The Pile is a favorite among snowboarders who need the fuel for big days of pow.
Chicken Wings, The Powder Keg, Powder Mountain. These tasty wings are hard to describe. They are coated in a spicy-sweet sauce and fried like most wings, but finished on the grill, giving them a nice charred flavor. Somehow, they still manage to be juicy and serve as a constant distraction while skiing the endless terrain of Powder Mountain. When’s lunch?