Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Wonderland - Ski-Tropolis, Utah

We barely got out of Seattle last Wednesday - making it past the six inches of snow that had fallen the night before, weathering the flight delays, and eventually arriving in two groups in Salt Lake City. Scott, Chris, Jeremy, Jason, and I headed to a brew pub for dinner while the others stayed in Park City where they had planted themselves upon their earlier arrival. One of Jeremy's friend who lives in SLC met up with us at the pub and at one point looked at me quizically and asked if I was the only girl on the trip. I thanked him for his [legitimate] concern, and assured him that there was a parallel group at a pub in Park City with whom we'd be merging later, and that group also included a girl. He seemed relieved.
This time the collective we was Josh, Jenine, Scott, Huey, Chris, Chris's friend who lives in Long Beach, CA, Jason, Adam, Jeremy, and me. I had never met Jeremy before and no one besides Chris knew Jason, but it was a great group and everyone seemed to have a great time. Perhaps a little too much fun was had by Chris, but this blog is not here to tattle on people who may or may not have had too much tequila and then rolled in the snow before getting back into the hot tub. But I digress.

Day 2: Snowbird. Jenine and I stuck to the blue runs while the others headed to the top to defy death as they usually do. Jenine and I had a great day swishing our way down the beginner runs, she on her skis, me on my snowboard. The scenery was beautiful, we found runs that were just our speed, and it was super-fun.

At the end of the day, we left the boys to more skiing and headed back to the house to change for dinner. Jenine and I had reservations for the Yurt Dinner at the Solitude Ski Resort. We were to meet at the rental shop, put on snowshoes, and tromp through the trees to our destination which was a yurt in the middle of the woods. It was a magical walk with eight others and our guide/hostess, Sarafina to a fabulous dinner.
The yurt has no electricity and was lit by lanterns; the food was cooked on a giant propane stove. Our chef for the evening was Jaseth who hailed from Mexico and had planted himself and his snowboard in the middle of Utah to shred by day and cook by night. Our five course dinner started with a delicious potato, leek, and celery root soup. It was divine - Jaseth told us he started with a mirapoix, added lots of white wine, roasted the root vegetables separately before adding them to the pot with vegetable stock. The whole thing was blended before being finished with heavy cream. It was a spectacular soup.
Course two was a little plate of grilled shrimp with a thin tomato reduction on a bed of polenta. I'm not a huge fan of polenta or tomato based sauces (except with the obvious exceptions of in a great lasagna or with spaghetti bolognese) but this dish was wonderful. The shrimp were grilled just right, and the tangy sauce and creamy polenta base made for an interesting and tasty presentation.This was followed by a baby arugala salad with grapefruit and a white cheddar cheese from a local cheesery which was flavored with espresso and lavender; it was both terrific and unusual.

And then came the main event: wagyu beef with herbed mashed potatoes and braised cabbage. This really might have been one of the best plates of food ever put in front of me. The beef was just incredibly... beefy, I think Jaseth had roasted in the oven on a sheet tray. One small caveat about the beef... my understanding of Kobe/wagyu beef is that it is very, very tender and this actually wasn't, I'm not sure why, but it took a little sawing through; however, each bite was really fantastically delicious; the outside crust of the steak was perfectly roasty, almost charred and intensely flavorful while the inside was soft and perfectly cooked to medium, which is just how I like it; it was topped with a wild mushroom sauce. Not much to say about herbed mashers, you just can't go wrong and these were great - buttery and smooth, but the cabbage was the real surprise. I like cooked cabbage okay, it's not my favorite veggie but I've certainly enjoyed it at times, but this  cabbage was sublime. I think Jaseth had cooked it with the beef because it was a chocolately dark brown and just dripping with beefy flavor, yet had that smooth but slightly crunchy texture of perfectly cooked cabbage. 

And last there was the chocolate mousse. It was light, whipped, and a nice last touch. A dish of meat, potatoes, and a vegetable is one of my favorite meals, and this one, with all the fantastic courses that proceeded it, ranks right up there with the meals I had at the Cookhouse farm dinners on Vashon with Cheryl. Those were some of my favorite meals, along with those two dinners in Blois, France (same restaurant both nights) with Peter, and lunch at the George V in Paris on that same trip; those meals also included lovely settings (in both the restaurants themselves as well as the greater locale), charming service, and best friends.

Dinner in the yurt lasted a good long time and Jenine and I had fun chatting with the folks sitting next to us while eavesdropping on the quirky couple sitting at the end of the table - they seemed to be on a first date and Jenine caught some chatter about "pleasure centers" being stilmulated by the food. Eeew. It was a nice group of people, mostly it seemed, people who were having their own ski vacations at the Solitude Resort. Diane was a very friendly lady from Texas who was sitting next to me, and I talked to her a bit about  my recent Icelandic adventure. Jenine and I also chatted with another nice couple on our way out who were from Virginia and who were also really interested in my trip to Iceland. We talked about traveling in general and taking trips vs. having stuff (taking trips won). I got the impression that they hadn't traveled much, kids to raise and all that, but were starting to explore. I have a feeling they're going to find themselves in Reykjavik one of these days.