Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Ripping It Up in Mormon Country, Part II

After finally getting to Park City, Utah on February 23rd, getting settled with my friend and host Paige, and having some LOVELY sushi and succulent chocolate, it was time to rest up for the main event: THE SKIING.


Saturday we got up early and headed over to nearby Park City Bread & Bagel for a fueling ski breakfast. Paige got PB on a bagel, and I went for the bacon, egg & cheese bagel. Mmmm.


Sufficiently fueled up, we headed over to the mountain, which is only about a fifteen minute drive from Paige’s place. The day was BEAUTIFUL—sunny with the kind of huge, sapphire blue skies that make the snow sparkle like a million little diamonds. With giddy, schoolgirl-like anticipation, we jumped on the chairlift and began our ascent into the great white wonder that is Deer Valley.

Paige has been raving about Deer Valley to me since the first time we skied together sophomore year of college. And it definitely lived up to my long-held expectations! The mountain is full of big wide cruisers, but also has its fair share of bump runs, bowls, and even chutes. (See pictured the chutes we opted NOT to do. Next time.)


But perhaps the best thing about Deer Valley is that it is indeed “The Skier’s Mountain”—there are no snowboarders allowed! Ok, yeah, I know that not all snowboarders are inconsiderate, reckless assholes who scrape all the snow off the slopes and play racecourse with the skiers who get in their way... but enough of them are to give the whole lot a bad rep.

Before we knew it, it was mid-afternoon. Our morning fuel having worn off, we parked our gear and headed into one of Deer Valley’s several lodges to recharge. Although predictably expensive, the culinary offerings were among the best I have seen at any ski resort, ever... and I have been to quite a few. Paige raved about the Turkey Chili (“It’s so good, I swear they put crack in it!”), so I decided I had to try some. For $7.95 I got a steaming hot bowlful, with bread on the side... and it DEFINITELY lived up to the hype.


I love that it had a chicken broth base (rather than a tomato base), and that it had a touch of heat without being too intense. And the combo of corn, bell peppers, and black beans gave it an even, delightful, oatmeal-like texture. And I’m not the only one who loved it—the stuff is so popular in the area that they actually sell Deer Valley Turkey Chili Mix at the local grocery stores. Naturally I had to grab some and bring it home.

After lunch, Paige and I rode the chairlifts until they closed, zipping down each time to see if we could make it before they roped off the lift lines. When they finally did, we unclipped, de-booted, and headed home to rest up, shower, and prepare for dinner.


Having skied hard all day, we decided to treat ourselves for dinner by making a reservation at Grappa, one of Park City’s fanciest and most awarded restaurants. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to afford such a splurge, but since Paige moonlights as a bartender at one of Grappa’s sister restaurants in the area, we got the V.I.P. treatment. Which essentially means a very nice little discount.

Grappa bills itself as an "Italian Cafe", serving up the finest in pastas, antipastos, cheeses, and classic italian fare. Known to the locals as one of Park City’s go-to fine dining establishments, Grappa also has a distinction from the Wine Enthusiast for it’s impressive wine list, which includes several brands of the restaurant’s namesake Grappa—a brandy-like spirit made from the winemaking leftovers (i.e. grape peels and other stuff). Located in a cosy, three-floor building that looks like it could have been someone’s luxury ski cottage at one point, Grappa’s exposed rafters are strewn with faux grapevines, and real working fireplaces add to the warm, romantic lighting. The cushy, plush chairs only add to the feeling of unpretentious luxury that the place affords.

Having been greeted by our waiter, as well as the night’s manager, we were started with a small antipasto dish, the highlight of which was the delish sweet roasted red peppers.


Next up came our appetizers: Calamari Friti with Lemon Caper Aioli (perhaps the lightest, tastiest, delicately crispy calamari I’ve ever had!), and Insalata Mista (butterleaf lettuce, deliciously light and tangy dijon and dill vinagerette, with a pan-roasted almond asiago crisp).


Then came the main event: our entrees. Paige ordered the Horseradish Encrusted Atlantic Salmon, and I skipped over the sea scallops to opt for the Osso Bucco—which I had heard so much about from Mario Batali, but had never actually tried.


Here’s the documentation of my first bite:


In case you’re a lower food mortal like myself, Osso Bucco is a braised shank of venison, cooked long and slow in stock and herbs. I found it to be an incredibly lush, rich cut of meat, without being too heavy or fatty—the chocolate silk pie of meats, if you will. Velvety in your mouth, but not so much of a hit to your stomach. Apparently the marrow in the bone is also some sort of delicacy—hence the little fork sticking out of the bone. Although kind of grossed out, in the spirit of adventure, I gave the marrow a little taste. It wasn’t bad, kind of like a meat-flavored jelly, but I didn’t go back for seconds.

Once we’d eaten our fill of our main courses, we had them cleared away and ordered some tea and dessert. Here’s Paige with her tea:


And here’s our dessert:


Tortufo, the classic Italian dessert of “cocoa almond sponge cake, surrounded with cherry chip semifreddo, enveloped in bittersweet chocolate mousse, dark chocolate glaze and sprinkled wtih candied rice croccante.” A delightful little sweet morsel to top off our evening of divine eats. We enjoyed it with a spritely, pucker-up sweet Italian dessert wine.

Bellies full and fueled for the next day of skiing, we finally rolled out of Grappa and into the crisp Utah night.

Ski Day Two: Solitude


No real food highlights from day two (lunch was some standard ski lodge chicken fingers & zesty fries, and I made Paige my vodka cream pasta for dinner), but the AMAZING skiing is worth mention. Solitude is a trek up into the mountains from where Paige lives, but totally worth it. Far less crowded than Deer Valley had been the day before, Paige and I spent the day skiing-off and skiing-on to the lifts, while carving up the big cruisers and taking some time to bounce through the powder-strewn woods. We found a few spots with powder approaching knee-high levels, but nothing much deeper than that. Usually the powder is deeper this time of year, according to Paige, but I was plenty happy with what was there. Here is a trail we wanted to take but couldn’t because of avalanche danger. RUGGED!!

All in all, a wonderful but entirely too short ski vacation. I'm already planning for next year.

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