The Brass Tag 

New Deer Valley eatery gives oven-inspired casual cuisine a gourmet touch

click to enlarge The Brass Tag's oven-steamed clams
  • The Brass Tag's oven-steamed clams

"OMG, Dad, you have to taste this!" That was how my son, Hank, expressed enthusiasm for his delicious 16-ounce Niman Ranch roasted beef rib-eye at The Brass Tag, the newest restaurant at Deer Valley Resort. "This is the best steak I've ever had!" he added. I didn't disagree. The bite I tried was steak perfection.

Each evening, The Brass Tag menu features a "chop of the day" at market price. It's either local beef, pork or wild game, and comes with a choice of side dish: roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon; sweet soy-roasted broccoli with shiitake mushrooms; garlic & leek creamed spinach; crispy herbed potatoes; cheddar-truffle chive spaetzle; or roasted garlic & rosemary focaccia. Side dishes are normally priced at $7.

Oddly, I don't think I'd ever tasted an oven-roasted steak before this. But that's the raison d'etre at The Brass Tag: oven-inspired cuisine. Virtually everything is cooked in the restaurant's big brick oven, at temperatures averaging between 500 and 650 degrees Fahrenheit. But, if you think this is just another in a long line of the wood-fired or brick oven pizza trend, you're wrong. There's not even a pizza on the Brass Tag menu.

The restaurant is located on the second level of The Lodges at Deer Valley—across the street from the main parking lot at the base of Deer Valley Resort—in the formerly homely space that served as a venue for meetings and continental breakfasts. The Brass Tag's décor involves lots of brown and tan hues; it's a space that's casual, inviting and comfortable, to match its brick-oven comfort cuisine.

When I asked why it's called The Brass Tag, I was given a brief lesson in Park City's mining past. Miners were issued individually numbered brass tags, which they would hang on a board prior to beginning a shift in the mines. Upon finishing the shift, they'd remove the tag. If a tag remained on the board at the end of a shift, it was an indication that a miner was missing, and a search party was launched.

Longtime Deer Valley Resort Executive Chef Jodie Rogers oversees the Brass Tag kitchen, along with talented sous chef Ryan Swarts. They're easy to spot, given that the kitchen is open for diners to see. As befits the casual vibe, you could pop in for nothing more than an appetizer or small plate and a brew, or you could go big with a multi-course dinner, cocktails and maybe a bottle of wine from the small but appealing wine list.

Appetizers range from fresh-baked pretzels to one of my favorites: crispy oven-baked flatbread topped with house-cured duck, Parma prosciutto, arugula, green apple, smoked Gouda and whiskey cream sauce ($14). The spectrum of flavors this flatbread offers is awesome. I also really loved the housemade whole-wheat naan, dusted with smoked paprika, oozing melted semi-soft Port Salut cheese, and served with cashew-mint-cilantro pesto ($9). However, my favorite appetizer is the instantly addictive oven-fired potato chips topped with Gold Creek cheddar, Gruyère, bacon morsels and—here's the kicker—chimichurri sauce ($10). Outstanding. I'd never have thought to put chimichurri on chips, but Julie Wilson, Deer Valley Resort's food & beverage director, says, "I put chimichurri on everything!"

Much of the menu is built for sharing, and that is certainly true of the oven-cooked steamed clams ($15). Like most of the dishes at The Brass Tag, the clams are served in the vessel in which they were cooked—in this case, a Portuguese copper cataplana, which is, appropriately enough, a clam-shaped pan/pot with a hinged lid, perfect for steaming Manila clams in a robust white wine and fresh-herb broth. The focaccia accompanying the clams ensures that rich broth won't go to waste.

The shrimp skillet, too, is aptly named, since plump, juicy, perfectly cooked tail-on shrimp are cooked and served in small cast-iron skillets with a choice of sauce: curry chorizo, roasted red pepper, or white wine with tarragon and Parmesan ($16). I'm torn as to which sauce to recommend, since they are all delicious and unique in their way, but I think the white wine with tarragon showcased the scrumptious shrimp best.

One of the more inventive offerings is a whole quail rubbed with Indian-style tandoori spices (garam masala, cumin, cinnamon, etc.) and oven-roasted until tender, but with crisp skin, and served with cornbread stuffing, crisp kale chips, sweet-potato puree, and lime-coconut sauce ($16). The quail paired beautifully with Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé.

And, there's a new burger in town, too. The Brass Tag Burger ($16) is a real whopper: a half-pound of hand-shaped Niman Ranch ground beef with pancetta (take that, bacon!), fresh spinach, Gruyère cheese, house-pickled onion and smoked paprika aioli.

Brass Tag service is exceptionally professional, but friendly, as is de rigueur at Deer Valley Resort, which has the whole hospitality thing perfected. The only not-quite-perfect elements of our Brass Tag visit were a couple of sides: the "crispy" herbed potatoes were mighty tasty, but definitely on the limp side, and I was underwhelmed by the cheddar-truffle-chive spaetzle, which just seemed a bit too busy. But then, full disclosure: I don't really like truffle oil on anything.

To put a sweet finish on the evening, we devoured the soft, warm, chewy, chocolate-chip cookie, which comes in its own iron skillet with a side of ice cream. It was utter heaven. Score another success for Deer Valley Resort.

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Ted Scheffler

Ted Scheffler

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