Wolves at the Bar | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Wolves at the Bar 

Between encounters with Los Lobos, a tasty dinner at Snowbird’s Lodge Bistro.

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Los Lobos is down at El Chanate having drinks in the bar,” was the phone message I retrieved upon my arrival at Snowbird to take in a night of the Rock & Blues Festival. Chris Mueller, food and beverage honcho at Snowbird Resort'knowing that I was an unrepentant Los Lobos fan and that I was coming up for their concert at The Bird'had left me the voice mail. So I did what any true fan would do: Checked my dignity at the door and hustled down to the bar to mingle with America’s best band (with apologies to Cheap Trick).

nn

You know how these scenes play out in your mind. You figure you’ll just belly up to the bar, order a bottle of Bohemia, and say, “Hey, aren’t you guys in Los Lobos?” Of course, they’ll be grateful for the recognition and before you know it, you’ll be yucking it up with David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and the rest of the boys, sharing tequila shots and their recommendations for the best unknown Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles. Maybe David, learning that you’re a guitar collector, will even sign one of his prized Gibson Firebirds for you and say, “Keep it. It’s not every day we get the pleasure of meeting a fan like you!”

nn

There were patio tables full of early dinner customers at El Chanate (formerly The Keyhole) oblivious, apparently, to who was inside at the bar. “Suckers,” I thought to myself. I had the inside poop! So I strolled in and, sure enough, there they were. Various members of Los Lobos were lined up at the small bar, leaving nary a stool for moi. One of the guys was giving Conrad Lozano grief about only buying shots for himself, not the whole band. I thought briefly about elbowing my way to the bar' “’Scuse me, guys, can I buy you a drink?”'but instead found myself slinking out the door, having realized Los Lobos probably just wanted to be left alone.

nn

It was just as well, since I had a dinner reservation pending at Snowbird’s Lodge Bistro anyway. It had been a couple of years since I’d last dined at Snowbird, and I was eagerly anticipating eating at the Lodge Bistro, knowing that R.J. Peterson had recently taken over the reigns there as executive chef and general manager. Raised here in Utah, Peterson graduated from Portland’s Western Culinary Institute and then moved to Chicago to intern and work at Rick Bayless’ renowned Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. A few years ago, he returned to Zion, ultimately taking over the position of manager and chef at Fresco Italian Café.

nn

Peterson is a tall, lean guy, one who could go eyeball to eyeball with most Jazz players. “I got tired of the stairs and bending down all the time,” he said, explaining part of the motivation to leave the tiny, galley-size downstairs kitchen at Fresco and move up to the wide-open spaces of Snowbird. Not that the Lodge Bistro kitchen is all that large, either. But at least Peterson doesn’t have to stoop to cook anymore. Indeed, the smallish menu at the Lodge Bistro is indicative of the kitchen’s size, as well as Peterson’s culinary inclinations. There are four starters, a handful of soups and salads, six regular entrées to choose from and a couple of specials, plus desserts. With his emphasis on using seasonal and local products to cook with, the manageable menu means that Peterson can better control quality and freshness. Of course, in wintertime, the restaurant’s menu bulges a bit.

nn

We were seated on the patio by “Mad Max,” who also turned out to be our server. Lucky us, since Max is a charming and knowledgeable waiter with just the right amount of verve to suit Lodge Club condo-owner regulars as well as once-in-a-whilers like myself. Most of the regulars at the restaurant seemed to know Max, a seven-year veteran at Snowbird. “I wanted to let you know about a special right off the bat,” Max said, “There is only one left.” I immediately called dibs on the last Kobe skirt steak ($30), even though I’d sort of had my eye on Peterson’s steamed wild salmon, served with herb couscous, an assortment of summer squashes and warm lemon vinaigrette ($25). Technically, the Kobe beef couldn’t be called Kobe beef since it wasn’t from Kobe, Japan. “We can’t really call it Kobe,” said Max. It’s actually Wagyu, which is a domestic'and much more affordable'version of Kobe beef raised in the United States. I appreciated the honesty.

nn

A salad of shaved apple and fennel ($7) was light and refreshing, although I felt (as did my companion) that it suffered from a slightly heavy-handed spritzing of lemon. On the other hand, a starter of green-lip mussels ($10) was flawless. A dozen or so plump, juicy green-lips are served in a shallow pool of scrumptious and tangy coconut-lime broth, along with thick slices of grilled bread with which to soak up those delectable juices. I spotted a bottle of Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc ($50) on the wine list'a wine I’d fallen in love with years ago at The Metropolitan'and although the 2000 vintage was a little past its prime, the wine was still a wonderful match for those marvelous mussels.

nn

Not wishing to miss any of the Los Lobos show, I wolfed down my Wagyu skirt steak, which was cooked medium-rare and as tender as pudding, bathed in a slightly tart coulis: a reduction of red wine with blackberries. Absolutely wonderful. But then, so was the fresh trout; it tasted like it had jumped from the water onto our plate.

nn

After a ridiculously delicious hazelnut pot du crème (made by R.J. himself) with Frangelico on the side, we were off to dance, sing and boogie our way through one of the best Los Lobos shows I’ve ever heard. You’d just have to pardon my wolfish grin.

nn

THE LODGE BISTRO
nThe Lodge at Snowbird Resort
nLittle Cottonwood Canyon
n933-2222
nDinner served
nThursday-Monday

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