Rocking the Atrium 

Living large and looking for groupies at Snowbird’s killer brunch.

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Where are all the groupies? That’s the question I kept asking myself on a sunny Sunday morning at Snowbird. Where are my groupies?



I was still feeling like a rock star on the Sunday of last month’s Snowbird Jazz & Blues Festival. That’s because on Saturday night, I’d played guitar in front of the Snowbird crowd, just like my own guitar gods Alvin Youngblood Hart and Buddy Guy (who tore down the house). It takes either guts or outright stupidity to try to follow acts like that. And yet, after a half-dozen Squatters’ Chasing Tail Ales or so, I found myself onstage at the annual Snowbird Jazz & Blues Festival jam session, hosted by Salt Lake City’s own Blues on First. Strapping on a Strat and getting the chance to play “Spoonful” behind an incredible singer like Nick Greco'well, that will make you feel like a rock star.



So when I wandered down to Sunday brunch at The Atrium, I was still flying high and wondering where the groupies had gone. My very favorite groupie'my fiancée'let me bathe in this little rock & roll fantasy until I had to borrow a few bucks to tip our Atrium server. Ah, the fickleness of stardom.



You will feel like a rock star, however, if you allow yourself to wallow in the splendor of Sunday brunch at The Atrium. This is especially true while the weather is still gorgeous and you can lounge out on the patio drinking Champagne under the sun, nibbling on chilled seafood and acting all Rod Stewart-ish while you listen to the live sounds of local artists like Anke Summerhill. You’ll definitely get the rock-star treatment from the top-notch Snowbird team that hosts The Atrium’s Sunday brunch, including Chris Mueller, Snowbird’s food and beverage director (despite his flaw of being a “cheesehead” Green Bay Packers fan) and Charlote Odebrecht, the restaurant’s superb manager, who hails from the south of Brazil. From Mueller right down to the guys busing tables, Sunday brunch at The Atrium is a lesson in attentive restaurant service and'priced at $24.95 for adults'a relative bargain when compared with some of the other high-end brunches around the state.



Located on the ground floor of Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge, The Atrium is a sunny (both inside and out) and airy restaurant with ceilings that seem to soar almost as high as Mount Baldy, which serves as the restaurant’s stunning natural backdrop. It’s always an inviting spot for a meal. But the restaurant really comes alive during Sunday brunch, when chef Joe Smith lays out a spread to satisfy the hungriest skier, hiker, biker or guitar picker.



The brunch menu changes from week to week at The Atrium, depending in part on what’s fresh and also on what else might be going on that weekend at The Bird. For example, during the annual Jazz & Blues Festival, the brunch takes on a New Orleans Cajun-Creole theme, with buffet choices like andouille sausage and chicken jambalaya topped with Creole sauce, rock shrimp and okra bisque, and tender pork loin stuffed with oysters. I also came across the best crawfish etouffee (served with yummy liver-flecked “dirty” rice) I’ve eaten outside of Louisiana at The Atrium brunch; just as soon as I shut down my computer here I’m going to try to pry the recipe from the chef.



Of course, every week, The Atrium brunch includes staples like eggs Benedict, country sausage, applewood smoked bacon, cinnamon french toast, pancakes, waffles, omelets made to order, a killer chilled seafood station and fresh sushi. There are few breakfasts more satisfying to me than a plate of freshly shucked oysters, steamed shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari with a zesty Bloody Mary alongside. Oh, what a way to start the day!



You’ll also want to wander outside to the grill station, where Fernando serves up juicy slices of flank steak with a zippy chimichurri mint sauce. And stop by to see Mike, because he’ll flambé Bananas Foster for you right on the spot. Chilled seafood, flank steak and Bananas Foster for breakfast? That’s called living “la vida loca”'and a rock star’s dream.



In restaurants, I’d prefer never to hear the phrase, “Save room for dessert?” uttered to me again. But in this instance I’m going to admonish you to, well, save room for dessert. Snowbird pastry chef Christina McMullen knows a thing or two about fabulous desserts and hers are to die for'another phrase I could live contentedly without but that seems entirely apropos here. From crowd-pleasing standards like Key Lime pie, New York Cheesecake, and the Atrium’s signature bread pudding to more elegant and inspired creations like McMullen’s lavender panna cotta and her stunningly beautiful chocolate pear tart, the Atrium’s dessert selection is a keystone of Sunday brunch at Snowbird, not merely an afterthought. So: Save room for dessert.



But why hurry to rush back down to the city after brunch? Instead, why not do what Madonna or Britney or Bowie would do: Head upstairs to the spa for a bit of luxurious pampering, or maybe out to the heated Cliff Lodge pool for some well-deserved R&R. Because, for just one day at Snowbird, you can be a star. Why, you could even be the backup guitarist for Blues on First.

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