Driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon on a recent November night, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the dining experience at The Yurt at Solitude. I knew it would be fun—trekking through snow to dinner? Yes! I was optimistic about the food, as Greg Neville is now food and beverage director of the resort. Neville was owner and chef at Lugano, an excellent, favorite neighborhood Italian place in the Salt Lake Valley, until he recently sold it. The new chef at The Yurt is the award-winning Franck Peissel, chef and chocolatier.
After meeting at The Thirsty Squirrel in the resort village, the jolly group departed, heading into the darkness. Sadly, for this early season trip, there was not quite enough snow on the regular snowshoe path. We crunched ahead in our boots toward the glowing lights of the yurt. A yurt, by the way, is a portable tent-like dwelling used by nomads in Central Asia.
I came prepared. As wine is not provided at The Yurt (hard liquor prohibited) but you are welcome to bring you own. I did—in a fanny pack. Corkage is included in the cost of dinner.
The yurt seats 22 guests at two communal tables. It is a warm and convivial setting, everyone rosy cheeked, crowding in together, excited for what is to come. You can book an individual seat or the whole yurt for a group. The kitchen is mere feet from the dining tables, making the cooking part of the entertainment.
Peissel started us off with an amuse bouche of shrimp with ginger in a soy vinaigrette on a crispy wonton. The shrimp was amazingly plump. Next came a silky carrot date soup with a parsley drizzle. The salad of candied walnuts and rosy little tomatoes was simple but delicious. Nobody uses a tarragon dressing anymore and I love it. The main course practically drew applause, Peissel plating the dishes as if on stage, placing the dramatic standing pork shanks. The shanks had been braising for 7 hours and were melt-in-your-mouth good, served on grilled apricot polenta with a mushroom and cream sauce. Other guests at the table, visitors or transplants from at least six other states—were all reverent for a moment while considering—then devouring—Peissel’s dessert. The white chocolate espresso mousse atop a rice crispy chocolate ganache and a base of pastry was as fun to eat as it was divinely yummy.
Just like Utah’s winters, the Yurt is an experience that will create memories that will last a lifetime. Book it for a special gathering, a splurge, or just shrug and say, “why not, because it’s awesome.”
Drive: Solitude Mountain Resort is only 12 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, but allow yourself 45 minutes to get there. Depending on the weather, it could be slow going.
Wear: A medium base layer topped with comfortable pants and a cozy sweater. Wear a shell and a warm hat, gloves, socks, boots you can snowshoe OR hike in.
Bring: Camera, wine, water, head lamp (You might not need any of these things, but they are nice to have.)
Book it: The Yurt books quickly for the season, especially weekends. Plan it now! 801-536-5709, email@example.com. $100 per person.