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Many of Utah's ski resorts spent the off-season upping their on-mountain gastronomic game, and the result is impressive ski resort cuisine across the Wasatch. With major changes happening last year at Solitude, Snowbird, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resorts, skiers and boarders can now have many of their gustatory desires satiated without even leaving the slopes.
Gone are the days of canned goods, frozen foods and overpriced slices of cardboard pizza and sawdust hockey-puck burgers served under a heat lamp. Now, the terms "house made" and "from scratch" are the mantras that resort executive chefs hold in high regard.
"What's changed is the level of freshness and incorporating local," says Andrew Fletcher, the new director of food and beverage at Solitude Mountain Resort. "We are trying to up ski resort fare."
Here's a look at some of the dining changes at area ski resorts.
Solitude Mountain Resort
Solitude was bought by Deer Valley last spring, so it's no surprise that food offerings at this Big Cottonwood Canyon resort have adjusted to reflect the upscale nature of ownership. Fletcher worked at Deer Valley for the past 17 years, most recently as the chef at Empire Canyon Lodge.
Solitude diners can expect to see resortwide changes such as organic and GMO-free greens and fresh-ground burgers in addition to the arrival of Deer Valley's famous turkey chili at Last Chance Southwest Grill and Thirsty Squirrel.
Other changes reflect distinct personalities of specific restaurants. At Honeycomb Grill, order the Niman Ranch bison burger that's ground specifically for them by Wasatch Meats.
But the biggest change in menu concept is at Roundhouse, where a percentage of all food sales are donated to worldwide mountain relief efforts. This mountain hut between the Moonbeam and Eagle Express chairlifts serves a lunchtime menu of Himalayan and Wasatch Mountain-inspired cuisine with prices under $10.
Roundhouse's biggest seller is the veggie entrée featuring a flavorful saag paneer (sautéed spinach and paneer cheese), a hearty dal bhat (lentil and vegetable stew) and Himalayan-spiced vegetable curry along with jasmine rice and naan. A meat entrée combo subs in tangy butter chicken and spicy lamb curry. Another vegetarian option is the citrusy chana chaat (chickpea) salad that is fresh and filling.
For those who might be intimidated by Himalayan food, "we went with more traditional mountain food like Bear River lamb shepherd's pie and the Powderhorn potatoes, aka funeral potatoes," Fletcher says. The shepherd's pie features generous servings of tender lamb and vegetables cloaked in a mashed potato crust while the chicken pot pie selection is highlighted by the flaky pastry crust containing a savory mix of chicken, carrots, peas and celery.
At Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, completion of The Summit at the top of Hidden Peak and adjacent to the tram finalizes the vision of Snowbird founders Dick Bass and Ted Johnson. The Summit can house 400 hungry skiers and boarders inside in addition to outdoor deck seating with breathtaking views of the Wasatch Mountains on bluebird days.
"This new facility offers guests authentic French rotisserie cooking from an internationally inspired menu created by executive chef George Lackey," Snowbird president Bob Bonar says.
Focusing on fresh and local ingredients prepared in the new commercial kitchen in the base of the building, lunch stations offer artisan pizza and flatbreads, rotisserie meats including a quarter-chicken, panini featuring local breads and cheeses, house-made soups and stews and a variety of salad choices.
Deer Valley has always been known for world-class cuisine in its fine dining establishments but this year skiers will see significant changes to the midmountain Silver Lake Village area. In Silver Lake Restaurant, guests will find a new taqueria station serving high-end tacos.
Each order of three tacos can be mixed and matched to include mole Wagyu beef short rib, traditional pork carnitas made from Niman Ranch pork butts or kicky cilantro lime Gulf shrimp on white corn tortillas. Top each taco with salsa verde, pico de gallo, mild red chile sauce, a grilled pineapple salsa, pickled red onions, fresh cilantro or lime wedges.
Additionally, "we're serving a fresh black bean, corn, baby kale and quinoa salad with it," says Deer Valley executive chef Clark Norris. "We want to keep it really fresh."
Around the corner in the main dining room of Silver Lake Lodge is now Bald Mountain Pho. "It's very popular these days," says Norris of the Vietnamese soup. "We wanted to do something a little bit different and it's more edgy."
Although there are just three items on the menu here, each is worth trying. Two pho broths a rich beef bone broth made in house beginning with beef marrow and knuckle bones and finishing with ginger and charred onions or the earthy vegan ginger mushroom broth can be paired with thinly sliced Wagyu beef or tofu and shiitake mushrooms. Both bowls are served with glass noodles, bean sprouts, lime, Thai basil, sliced chiles and mint along with house-made hoisin, Sriracha and hot red chile oil.
If a fresh salad is in order, the Asian grilled chicken (or tofu) salad is surprisingly complex thanks to the power blend mix of thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, baby kale, tricolored carrots, mushrooms and bean sprouts. It's accented with Thai basil mint and jalapeños and tossed in an addictive soy ginger vinaigrette.
Newly crowned as America's largest ski resort after the merger with Canyons, Park City enlisted Alex Malmborg, resort executive chef of mountain dining, to redesign the menus at 13 resort restaurants in time for opening day.
"All of the restaurants have their own personality," Malmborg says. "I write all the menus so I try really hard to have every spot have something stick out a little bit."
Red Pine Lodge at the top of Red Pine Gondola gained 250 new indoor seats and added an Asian section to the menu. "They're making tom kha gai [Thai coconut soup] from scratch," Malmborg says, in addition to a sweet chile pork banh mi sandwich with sriracha aioli and pickled vegetables.
For heartier appetites, head toward Sun Peak Express to find Sun Lodge and its new taqueria bar serving nachos, made-to-order burritos, homemade posole and bison chili. "It's right at the bottom of the snowboard terrain park so a lot of guys come in and are excited to have tacos and burritos and that kind of hearty food," Malmborg says.
Additionally, Park City built Miners Camp from the ground up last year. Staking claim at the base of Quicksilver Gondola and Silverlode lift, the restaurant can seat 500 guests inside in addition to outdoor deck seating.
"We wanted the food to represent the kind of food you would have seen the miners eating back in the old mining days," Malmborg says. "Kind of rustic, kind of simple food but not the standard fare you'd find at a ski resort."
Signature dishes include the Utah Lamb Miner's Pie, a shepherd's pie filled with root vegetables and fresh herbs built around local lamb from Superior Lamb that grazes at the Canyons in the summertime, and the Hobo Stew a dish Malmborg pictures the miners preparing of braised beef shortribs with root vegetables and demi glaze.
Lovers of Greek food should head straight to the Mediterranean station for hand-stacked lamb gyro meat off the vertical broiler combined with tzatziki sauce made in-house.
"We try to do everything from scratch," Malmborg says, from the focaccia pizza dough and sauces to everything on the meatloaf sandwich (bread, meatloaf and barbecue sauce) right down to the house-made sweet and spicy pickles.