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Park City’s Gourmet Appeal

Wine Spectator Nov 15, 2011

http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/45772

Park City Gourmet Appeal

Food-and-wine destinations rival the skiing in Utahs top resort
Tim Fish
Issue: November 15, 2011

In recent years Utah has relaxed its once-draconian alcohol laws, and a new generation of ambitious, wine-savvy restaurants is opening in this resort town. Add the arrival of four new upscale hotels-the St. Regis, Sky Lodge, Montage and Waldorf Astoria-and Park City is fast becoming one of the hottest vacation spots in the country.

Just 32 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Park City was founded by prospectors in the early 1860s. By 1900 it was a booming silver-mining town, with 10,000 residents, 100 saloons and various houses of ill repute. When the silver petered out, in the 1970s, the town found salvation as a ski mecca.

Today, Park City is among the wealthiest communities in the nation, with about 7,500 year-round residents and a constant flux of people, thanks to the many timeshares and holiday peak weekends. And during the film festival in January the town is bustling with stargazers.

Part of Park City’s appeal is its easy access to Salt Lake City’s airport. “You can fly in from the East Coast and be on the snow by 1 o’clock,” says Heidi Voelker, former member of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and “ambassador of skiing” at Park City’s Deer Valley ski resort.

Yet the 45-minute drive from the airport is not for the meek. Separating Salt Lake City and Park City-and making all those wonderful ski runs possible-is the Wasatch mountain range. Winter is peak season, with 500 inches of snow the annual average, but summers are also popular, attracting hikers, mountain bikers and whitewater rafters.

Indeed, Park City is not the sort of vacation spot that’s meant for resting on one’s derrière. The area is 7,000 feet above sea level, meaning you can lose your breath just walking up the long incline of historic Main Street while browsing the shops. It’s all about cardiovascular exercise in Park City. It’s all about earning that great evening of food and wine.

The city’s restaurant menus are aimed at hearty appetites, with steaks and short ribs, wild game and lamb, local trout and poultry. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than at Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge, where wine director Cara Schwindt says the menu always has something rich to offer: “Comfort food taken to the next level,” she calls it.

Big flavors seem to be the rule as well. At J&G Grill, which chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened in the St. Regis in 2009, dinner could include a grilled Niman Ranch pork chop heaped with intense wild mushrooms and finished with a Pecorino sauce, or roasted halibut paired with Malaysian chile sauce and Thai basil.

No doubt the biggest change in Park City’s restaurant scene is the proliferation of new and expanded wine lists. With the goal of attracting more tourism even prior to the Olympics, Utah began relaxing its strict laws governing alcohol service. Ten Park City restaurants now have Wine Spectator awards for their wine lists, including three Best of Award of Excellence winners: Bangkok Thai On Main, Glitretind and The Restaurant (formerly Spruce).

J&G is the newest and largest addition to the city’s wine scene. Sommelier Mark Eberwein has put together a collection of more than 1,000 selections from California and Europe, all showcased in the restaurant’s spacious wine vault, which doubles as a wine bar and private dining room.

Schwindt has overseen the wine list at Glitretind for 13 years and has watched the city’s wine evolution firsthand. While she’s still required to buy wine through the state, the selection has expanded dramatically. A decade ago she was lucky to have a dozen white Burgundies and other Chardonnays on her list; now she has nearly 70.

Challenges remain, however. Restaurants pay full retail price for wine, rather than the typically cheaper wholesale cost, which means consumers generally face a higher markup. “Getting older vintages is difficult because I can’t really buy at auction,” says Schwindt, who tries to compensate by cellaring bottles for three to five years before adding them to the list.

Vongerichten is the first star chef to open a restaurant in town, though with the arrival of so many showcase resorts he undoubtedly won’t be the last. While restaurant quality has improved overall, there’s plenty of room for growth. Excepting Glitretind, service is generally weak, and while that isn’t unusual for a resort town, you shouldn’t have to suffer a ski dude as your waiter when the price tag for a solitary steak is $45.

As for choosing a place to stay, there is an almost overwhelming number of resorts and hotels from which to choose, not to mention timeshares and private homes to rent. It helps to know the lay of the land. There are three ski areas: Park City Mountain, Deer Valley and the Canyons, and most of the major lodging offers visitors ski privileges at one or another. Deer Valley has been named the No. 1 ski resort in North America the past four years running by readers of Ski magazine.

Many of the hotel resorts bill themselves as ski-on and ski-out properties, but not all such amenities are created equal and avid skiers will need to do their research. Park City stands out for its sheer variety of ski runs, Voelker says, which makes it appealing to skiers of a wide range of experience and skill. And not all the bunny runs are at the bottom of the mountain.

One of Voelker’s favorite runs is Sunset, which is a green, or beginner, trail located about midmountain in Deer Valley. “The view is incredible,” she says, “and I love to take skiers on that run, regardless of their skill level.”

That variety of skiing opportunities is one reason Park City is a popular family destination, and some of the new resorts cater to youngsters. Montage, for example, has a large game room with pool tables, a bowling alley and video games. Heated outdoor pools and hot tubs are considered standard equipment.

Those kids, of course, are the customers of the future. For all its rich history, Park City isn’t stuck in the past. As long as there’s plenty of powder, it will remain a top ski destination. And now, finally, it has a food-and-wine experience worthy of those swift slopes.

WHERE TO EAT

THE FARM
Resort Village, The Canyons, 4000 Canyons Resort Drive, Park City
Telephone (435) 615-8080
Website www.thecanyons.com/dining.html
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entres $19-$36
Credit cards All major
Award of Excellence
Excellent simplicity is the best way to describe the food at the Farm, one of the newest additions to the Park City restaurant scene. The menu follows the seasons, and executive chef John Murcko lets the quality of the region’s fruits and vegetables, cheese, meat and fish do all the talking. Local blue rainbow trout is paired simply with sweet potato hash, while Farm Rockefeller is a deliciously delicate pork belly layered with spinach and Parmesan. The wine list, a compact collection of 300 wines at moderate markup, includes choices at various price points, ranging from Montes Alpha Carmen 2007 ($57) to Chateau Margaux 2001 ($1,795). The restaurant is a small, modest space in the Canyons Resort Village, but outdoor seating abounds when the weather allows.

GLITRETIND
Stein Eriksen Lodge, 7700 Stein Way, Park City
Telephone (435) 645-6455
Website www.steinlodge.com/dining/glitretind
Open Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entres $26-$59
Credit cards All major
Best of Award of Excellence
Glitretind is arguably home to Park City’s most refined food-and-wine experience. Chef Zane Holmquist’s winning menu features upscale comfort food well-suited for a feast following a day on the mountain, with offerings such as a buffalo flank steak and a Kobe beef pot roast. Service is first-rate throughout. Wine director Cara Schwindt has put together a savvy list of 750 selections, focusing on France and California, with a dozen by-the-glass offerings that fit the menu like a tailored suit. Wine pricing is moderate, but there’s room to splurge with Staglin Chardonnay Rutherford 2008 ($130) or DRC Roman Conti 2004 ($5,000), for example. The dining room has the casual elegance of a ski lodge, and there’s an expansive veranda for outdoor dining.

J&G GRILL
St. Regis Deer Valley, 2300 Deer Valley Drive E., Park City
Telephone (435) 940-5760
Website www.jggrilldeercrest.com
Open Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Entres $17-$42
Credit cards All major
Award of Excellence
This dining room is quite literally a mountaintop hideaway, only accessible via the St. Regis tramway. The chef behind it is Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who runs more than a dozen restaurants worldwide. The menu is a satisfying blend of big flavors, from hearty American fare like mac and cheese, steaks and chops to more worldly selections such as Sichuan pepper-crusted yellowfin tuna. The restaurant “wine vault” can be seen through frosty glass as guests enter the dining room, where wine director Mark Eberwein offers more than 1,000 selections from California, France and Italy. Prices run high, with Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 fetching $170, but the trus 2001 can be had for $2,775. The dining room features an open kitchen, rustic stone accents and soothing views of the surrounding mountains.

TALISKER ON MAIN
515 Main St., Park City
Telephone (435) 658-5479
Website www.­taliskeronmain.com
Open Dinner, daily
Cost Entres $27-$39
Credit cards All major
Award of Excellence
This was the first public outlet of Park City’s Talisker Club, which is a collection of elite, private communities in the area. The menu is a greatest hits of Talisker specialties perfected at the clubs, ranging from lobster hushpuppies and elk tenderloin carpaccio to short rib shepherd’s pie. The kitchen isn’t afraid to take a chance or two, and it mostly succeeds. Sean Marron, Talisker’s director of wine and spirits, has put together a fine list of 225 selections, and prices are moderate, with offerings that range from Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2006 for $55 to Harlan Estate 2006 for $995. Most restaurants located along historic Main Street have a certain rustic charm, but this dining room aims for more stately sophistication, with black-and-white tile, a tin ceiling and crystal chandeliers. Paired with an open kitchen, the effect is energetic if a bit noisy, but there are more subdued rooms in the back.

WHERE TO STAY

ST. REGIS DEER VALLEY
2300 Deer Valley Drive E., Park City
Telephone (435) 940-5700
Website www.stregisdeervalley.com
Rooms 117
Suites 67
Rates $179-$1,925
Even with so many first-rate resorts in the area, the St. Regis rises to the top. Open since 2008, the resort’s style is mountain luxury, done in rock and polished wood, and offering grand common areas both inside and out, with views of the surrounding slopes. The rooms are equally handsome, many outfitted with wood floors, granite countertops, gas fireplaces and private decks. Remede Spa offers indulgences in a soothing atmosphere, and the resort’s split-level pool has both quiet and kid-friendly spots. There’s quick access to the Deer Valley ski area, and the resort has ski valets to make things easier. The check-in experience is unique: Guests arrive at the bottom of the mountain and ride a scenic tram to the top.

SKY LODGE
201 Heber Ave., Park City
Telephone (435) 658-2500
Website www.theskylodge.com
Suites 33
Rates $199-$2,000
Venture into the mountains but keep your big-city attitude at this boutique hotel situated in the heart of bustling Old Town. The suites seem rather like urban warehouse lofts, done in sleek concrete and warm colors, with high-tech accents and modern furnishings. They range in size, with the smallest measuring 1,200 square feet. Most have fireplaces, kitchens equipped with wine fridges, and decks with heated floors and hot tubs, ideal for a warming dip on a snowy day. A Japanese-style health spa with a small lap pool is situated on the property, and the rooftop Sky Blue Lounge is a popular hangout for guests gathering around the open-air fire pits. The town ski lift is a few blocks away, and shuttles to other nearby slopes run regularly.

WALDORF ASTORIA PARK CITY
2100 Frostwood Drive, Park City
Telephone (435) 647-5500
Website www.parkcitywaldorfastoria.com
Rooms 94
Suites 80
Rates $129-$6,000
You may be deep in the wilds of Utah, but you don’t have to forgo your share of extravagance. Arguably Park City’s most opulent, this resort has the trademark Waldorf style of dark, polished wood, marble and granite accents and plush furnishings. All the rooms have fireplaces, and many suites have kitchens; some span two levels. The horseshoe-shaped resort grants most rooms semiprivate views of the swimming pool and surrounding mountains, and the Golden Door spa is Park City’s most richly appointed. The restaurant is handsome, with a solid wine list, and a new chef was brought in after press time. Located at the base of the Canyons ski area just north of Park City, the Waldorf offers easy access to the slopes.

More Restaurant Award Winners

BANGKOK THAI ON MAIN
Park Hotel, 605 Main St., Park City; (435) 649-THAI
Wine director Keith Chan
Wine strengths California, Bordeaux
Wine selections 690
Wine prices Expensive
Corkage $20
Cuisine Thai
Menu prices $16-$35
Best of Award of Excellence

CENA RISTORANTE
The Chateaux at Silver Lake, 7815 Royal St. E., Park City; (435) 940-2200
Award of Excellence

GOLDENER HIRSCH RESTAURANT
Goldener Hirsch Inn, 7570 Royal St. E., Park City; (435) 649-7770
Award of Excellence

THE MARIPOSA
Deer Valley Resort, 7600 Royal St. E., Park City; (435) 645-6715
Award of Excellence

THE RESTAURANT (formerly SPRUCE)
Waldorf Astoria Park City, 2100 Frostwood Drive, Park City (435) 647-5566
Wine director Stephen Collins
Wine strengths California, France, Germany, Italy
Wine selections 700
Wine prices Expensive
Corkage $20
Cuisine Contemporary American
Menu prices $31-$46
Best of Award of Excellence

350 MAIN NEW AMERICAN BRASSERIE
350 Main St., Park City; (435) 649-3140
Award of Excellence

Wine Spectator award levels: The Award of Excellence denotes wine lists that offer a well-chosen mix of producers. The Best of Award of Excellence honors lists of greater breadth. The Grand Award is given to restaurants that show uncompromising devotion to their wine programs.