It’s a bummer that one of Utah’s best restaurants is open only four months out of the year during the ski season. But then, maybe I’m just looking at my cup as two-thirds empty, rather than one-third full. Perhaps I should view the limited dining season at Deer Valley Resort’s Mariposa restaurant like I do baseball season, strawberry season or the Formula 1 racing season: Marvelous things too often come in limited supply and vanish in the blink of an eye.
Potential dining dates, however, are the only thing in limited supply up at Mariposa restaurant. Quality and quantity abound. And maybe it’s a good thing I can’t eat there year ’round lest I find myself swelling into The Biggest Loser contestant size. Dinners at Mariposa are prime ground for overindulgence.
Take the new tasting menus at Mariposa, for instance. Executive chef Clark Norris has created two “small portion” tasting menus—one vegetarian, the other with meat and seafood—which serve as a sort of survey of some of Mariposa’s best dishes. The folks at Deer Valley Resort tend to do everything in grand style, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that portions considered “small” at Mariposa could serve as regular entrees elsewhere. Order either of the tasting menus at Mariposa and you will not leave hungry.
They’re not inexpensive however, these six-course tasting menus. The regular tasting is $85 per person, plus another $60 for the optional wine flight pairing; the vegetarian version is $75, and the veggie-friendly wine-flights an additional $45. But it’s only money, right? And what a dinner at Mariposa can do for the soul might just be priceless.
Shortly after menus and wine lists arrived, so did an amuse-bouche: a tiny piece of rye toast and a sliver of house-smoked wild salmon, topped with horseradish creme fraíche. It’s a single bite intended to tantalize the palate; a preview of good things to come. Like fresh Cove oysters on the half-shell ($2.75 each), for example. These plump bad boys explode in the mouth with a taste of the sea, and come with mignonette and house-made cocktail sauce. At Deer Valley, even condiments like cocktail sauce, ketchup and mustard are made in-house. That’s par for the course in a place that lives and breathes quality control. So sit back, sip a glass of Champagne and trust that you’re in very good hands.
The tasting adventure officially began with a generous slice of deep burgundy-colored No. 1 sushi-grade ahi sashimi, garnished artfully with micro pea shoots, an avocado slice, sesame cracker, cucumber sticks, wasabi, soy and ginger sauces. The vegetarian menu starter was a fried green tomato with melted chevre, red and green chile sauces and crisp fried leeks and shallots. Both dishes were paired with Veuve Clicquot Champagne—a lovely beginning.
We worked our way through a warm salad of Vidalia onion-crusted goat cheese and roasted baby beets, a wild mushroom “Beggar’s Purse” with Explorateur cheese and a Beaujolais reduction sauce, baby spinach and Gala apple salad with tarragon vinaigrette, and a sublime caramelized onion and Gruyere tart with Muscat reduction and roasted grapes—all paired with well-chosen wines—before succumbing to the need for a halftime respite from one glorious dish after another. Of course, our Romanian-born server Alex Marica and the kitchen graciously honored our request for a pause to slow things down a tad. We needed to catch up on the wine we had in front of us.
I can think of only a handful of Utah restaurants that have survived for 25 years or more. Mariposa chef Clark Norris and general manager Clint Strohl both celebrate their 25th anniversaries at Deer Valley this month. That’s remarkable, and just two reasons why dining at Mariposa is virtually a risk-free endeavor.
Not that this restaurant is flawless. The hardwood surfaces (this is a ski lodge, after all) bounce every sound around, and I could eavesdrop on conversations from upstairs diners at our downstairs table. I also think the look of Mariposa—wood, wood and more wood—is a little monotonous. Something as simple as fresh flowers on each table and wall art to add splashes of color would provide a substantial visual improvement.
Now, I hate using the “melt-in-your-mouth” food descriptor but I have to admit it’s dead-on for describing chef Norris’ exquisite sablefish Mariposa, a delicate sablefish filet glazed with honey and tamari and bathed in a delightful fresh ginger sauce, accompanied by a shiitake-mushroom-scallion rice cake ($39 on the a la carte menu). Just as appealing, surprisingly, was sesame- and nori-crusted tofu from the vegetarian tasting menu, with the same glaze and sauce preparation as the sablefish.
Heading into the home stretch, the sautéed wild mushrooms and herbed quinoa with roasted cipollini onions, house-dried tomatoes and mushroom broth was a rich, earthy dish, yet somehow light on the palate, paired with Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir. The pairing of Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard Bordeaux-style Cabernet blend with a thick, tender, medium-rare Rocky Mountain lamb chop with roasted shallot sauce, fresh pesto and potatoes Anna ($48 a la carte) nearly did me in. I thought I might expire from gluttony and glee.
But not before dessert, which was pastry chef Letty Flatt’s infamous chocolate snowball and a mind-blowing banana creme brulée with glasses of Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927—a lovely end to a lovely evening. I can’t wait to return for the Mariposa cassoulet.
Silver Lake Lodge
Deer Valley Resort