Dining | Seeing (Five) Stars: Stein Eriksen Lodge and Glitretind earn their rankings of distinction 

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I don’t know about you, but I’m not accustomed to having CEOs personally handle my customer-service inquiries and issues. A recent run-in with Ticketmaster, for example, was handled by someone so clueless that he insisted the nearest retail location for me to pick up a Flaming Lips concert ticket I’d ordered online was in Charleston, W. Va. “Do you have a map in your office?” I asked. “You don’t really expect me to travel to West Virginia to pick up a $54 concert ticket, do you?”

So you can imagine how stunned I was when, following a restful overnight stay at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Stein’s CEO Russ Olsen responded personally to a simple inquiry I’d made about where to buy the super-duper pillows used at the Lodge (best night’s sleep I’ve had in months!). It’s that kind of customer service and attention to detail that’ll earn you a prestigious Mobil Five Star rating.

Last month, Stein Eriksen joined an elite group of only 41 hotels, inns and resorts throughout North America to achieve Five-Star Mobil status—and it’s one of only a handful of independently owned properties to do so. In fact, Stein Eriksen Lodge is now one of only 30 hotels to hold simultaneously both Mobil’s Five-Star honor and the AAA Five Diamond ranking. Without going into a lot of detail, the Mobil evaluation is based on a set of more than 750 criteria updated annually, ranking everything from the type of linens in the bedrooms to the dinnerware on the restaurant tables.

But I know: You’re here to read about the food. Frankly, I’d been a bit nonplussed in the past about dining at Stein’s Glitretind restaurant. The service, without fail, has been exceptional. And some of the dishes I’ve enjoyed were outstanding. But others were disappointing, usually because there was just too much going on on the plate. It’s as if the chef, in an effort to impress or strut his stuff, had forgotten to actually taste the dishes he was creating. I’d often thought that Stein’s executive chef Zane Holmquist had talent to spare but sometimes had difficulty channeling that talent, maybe letting his ego and creativity get in the way.

Well, it’s wonderful to see a chef mature and grow into his talent, which is exactly what I think has happened with Holmquist. I’d stack many of the dishes on the current Glitretind menu up against those of this country’s finest restaurants. This indeed is five-star dining. And I think the maturation of a chef—and of a restaurant’s offerings—can be summed up in a revealing statement Chef Holmquist made: “I’m not cooking in the kitchen for myself; I’m cooking for our guests.”

At lunch, you’ll want to get your lips around Holmquist’s five-star take on the common corned-beef sandwich ($14): piled-high Wagu corned beef with Emmenthaler cheese and house-made pickle relish served on thick slices of marbled rye bread and a choice of greens, orzo salad or house-cut fries. This is one scrumptious sammy! On the lighter side, a colorful appetizer of heirloom tomatoes (green, red, gold) and local feta cheese is artfully presented with cubed and toasted focaccia “croutons” and pistachio pesto ($9).

In past visits, I recall staring at the Glitretind dinner menu and not really taking a liking to much of anything. Dishes just seemed too complicated, and sometimes without logic. But those days are gone. Now I look over the Glitretind menu and want everything, especially Holmquist’s melt-in-the-mouth braised pork-belly appetizer. This might just be the reason God put pigs on this green earth. Seared Hawaiian orange Nairagi ($16) with avocado mousse, pickled fennel and curry foam may sound a tad precious, but trust me, you’ll go bonkers over this delicious dish. “Surf & turf” at Stein’s is charred Kobe beef tartare and wild Gulf shrimp with arugula salad and root vegetables. And the completely deboned, easy-to-eat pistachio-crusted breast of quail ($15) with rhubarb-parsnip puree, baby carrots and micro basil is exactly as delectable as it sounds.

Five-star service at Stein’s is par for the course. During a recent Glitretind dinner, it struck me that our very professional and knowledgeable server Jim could work in any restaurant on the planet; he’s that good. The same can be said for sommelier Kara Schwindt, who patrols the dining room and shuttles between tables and her 10,000-bottle wine cellar. It’s stocked with many wines you won’t find anywhere else in the state, like a knockout Slovakian Riesling called Château Belá Egon Müller or a wonderful Nino Negri Ca’Brione Terrazzo Retiche di Sondrio from Valtellina, Italy. Schwindt has a knack (actually, it takes a lot of hard work and research) for locating tiny, single-vineyard wines from locales so remote you’d need a sherpa to get there. By the way, guests can arrange an hour-long private wine tasting/seminar hosted by Schwindt with cheese and canapés in the wine cellar through Stein’s concierge.

I could live on Chef Holmquist’s braised Kobe beef short ribs ($26) for a year and likely never tire of them. He serves the tender, tantalizing ribs with a puree of boniato (a type of sweet potato), yellow and green beans, and horseradish “paint.” The ribs are sensational but so are the Glitretind side dishes, which are far more than mere afterthought. Holmquist is dedicated to finding and using only the most high-quality veggies, herbs and fruit available both locally and from places like the Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio. That’s just another aspect of the Five Star experience available right here in little ol’ Utah.

GLITRETIND Stein Eriksen Lodge, Deer Valley Resort, 435-645-6455, SteinLodge.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

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