When Deer Valley Resort opens Dec. 8, visitors will discover some significant changes to the dining scene. Never content to rest on their laurels, regardless of the mountain of awards they’ve garnered, the folks at Deer Valley strive to improve with each new ski season. At a recent tasting to sample some of the new dishes being offered at Deer Valley Resort restaurants, I have to admit I was mightily impressed—not an easy feat given the already stellar food and service that Deer Valley offers.
When you walk into the Snow Park Lodge—which is the main gathering spot for the breakfast and lunch buffet during the day, and home to the famous Seafood Buffet in the evening—you’ll notice some big changes. The lodge’s dining areas have been completely renovated. The traffic flow is much improved and, at night, diners at the Seafood Buffet will be greeted by a gleaming new bar, a welcome sight for thirsty dinner customers.
For breakfast, Snow Park features made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles, housemade cinnamon challah French toast with banana butter, eggs Benedict and more. At lunch, it’s the prime place to indulge in Deer Valley’s famous turkey chili, housemade enchiladas, made-to-order pizzas and deli sandwiches, roasted selections from the two carving stations and my favorite, the housemade bratwurst. At night, Snow Park Lodge morphs into the opulent Seafood Buffet, where mountains of iced Dungeness crab, fresh-shucked oysters, poke tuna, sushi, Pacific white shrimp and dozens of other hot and cold dishes await hungry visitors.
One of the new additions to this season’s Seafood Buffet bounty is seared Wagyu beef, which comes with Yukon gold potato chips fried in duck fat, with bacon and caramelized onion jam. Whoa, that was dee-lish! Another stupendous dish from Snow Park Executive Chef Jodie Rogers was the Seafood Buffet’s new garithes me domata kai feta. This amazing dish is Mexican Gulf shrimp served Greek style, with sauteed heirloom cherry tomatoes in a chive-and-lemon spiked sauce and sprinkled with crumbled feta. Yet another new Seafood Buffet treat was a delicious dessert: brown-butter almond- pineapple upside-down cake with coconut- lime mascarpone cream and candied Marcona almonds. Wow. By the way, for the first time, this season the Seafood Buffet will be in operation on Sunday and Monday nights, which makes it open Thursday through Monday for dinner.
In Silver Lake Village at The Mariposa, changes are afoot as well. According to Silver Lake Executive Chef Clark Norris, this season, The Mariposa will become a small-plates restaurant. “Some customers complained about the large portion sizes,” Norris says. And, of course, Deer Valley is about nothing if not customer satisfaction. So, they listened and will offer small plate portions on the menu this year, although Norris assured me, “If people want entree-size portions, they have the option of doubling or tripling the size of their dish.”
A Mariposa dish you won’t need to double up on—it’s already a fairly large portion—is the new Niman Ranch beef short rib. It’s served with Pontack sauce and chèvre mashed potatoes. What’s Pontack sauce? Well, I didn’t know, either. According to Norris, it’s an elderberry sauce that’s “been knocking around England for at least 300 years,” and named for its originator, Monsieur Pontack. He was the eponymous proprietor of Pontack’s Head Tavern—“London’s first fashionable eating house,” according to food and wine writer André Simon. It’s a tangy and sweet reduction of elderberries and spices; Norris and his crew harvested 60 pounds of fresh elderberries locally. The combination of a tender, rich Niman Ranch short rib draped with the sharp Pontack sauce and crispy smoked and fried shallots would make for a happy, hearty wintertime meal.
An especially fun treat during the Deer Valley winter tasting was a trio of sliders from Royal Street Cafe. There was a zippy maple bacon and barbecue bison burger with habanero barbecue sauce; bulgogi (a Korean dish usually utilizing marinated and grilled meats) made from slow-roasted beef cheeks on a housemade bao bun; and house-smoked pulled pork. All were made using high- quality Niman Ranch meats. I also thoroughly enjoyed the new fried calamari from Royal Street. It’s tomatillo- and jalapeño-crusted calamari fillets, deep-fried until perfectly crisp and served with poblano-chili aioli and red-chili cocktail sauce.
One of my favorite Deer Valley eating spots in winter is Fireside Dining, an all-you-can-eat affair with courses served from Empire Lodge’s five toasty fireplaces. The fire-roasted leg of lamb, raclette cheese, stews and dessert fondues are perennial favorites. But this year, my Fireside fave is sure to be juniper-berry-crusted walleye. OMG, this dish was outrageously good! Fish with cheese might sound nutty; I certainly thought so. That is, until I tasted the melt-in-the-mouth walleye fillet bathed in a lemon-whey sauce with balsamic vinegar “pearls” (that looked like caviar) and housemade thyme ricotta cheese. Quite simply, this is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
Not to be outdone, Deer Valley Grocery & Café offered up some treats that you could purchase to take back to your home, hotel or condo. They included killer queso fundido: a melty mélange of Gold Creek Farms smoked cheddar cheese, oven-roasted poblano chiles and fresh tomato salsa, served with housemade tortilla chips dusted with Deer Valley’s lively Oomph! seasoning blend. Incidentally, Oomph! has become the preferred all-purpose seasoning for meats, chicken, fish, etc., in my kitchen, and is available at Deer Valley Grocery & Cafe. Along with the fundido, I’d also suggest picking up a jar of housemade salmon rillettes and a fresh-baked baguette. The rillettes has zesty hints of dill and anise-flavored Pernod pastis; it’s wonderful when spread on crunchy baguette slices. Equally tempting is Deer Valley Grocery & Café’s luscious smoked-tomato blue-crab dip, made with wild-caught blue crab, house-smoked tomatoes and fresh tarragon. Try it with Deer Valley’s parmesan-baked pita chips.
It’s going to be a delectable ski season at Deer Valley Resort.
DEER VALLEY RESORT
2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City