The author created her own gin, using grapefruit peel, juniper berries, rose hips and more at Alpine Distilling.
A porridge of beans and pickled watermelon rind was a surprising delight at Lakehouse.
Selinger opted for Doritos to compliment her Prosecco and caviar while enjoying the views of Deer Creek reservoir.
Herber Valley, at twlight.
A moose showcases the lighter side of Park City, Utah.
The Post Office offers 17 gorgeous cocktails to sample, courtesy of its Beverage Director Crystal Daniels.
Rio Connelly's Scion Cider was a happy surprise.
A plate of sushi at Post Office.
Mention “Utah” and “culinary scene” in the same sentence and you’re bound to be met with some skepticism.
It is true that the state still maintains extremely harsh liquor laws, which are dictated by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services, or DABS. (I had a chance to discuss this at length during a trip to the state in June, but the shorthand is this: Spirits are still measured out at bars and restaurants; the state owns all liquor stores; and you cannot go into a restaurant and order a glass of, say, wine without the intent to dine.)
Rubbing up against these rules is an increasingly inventive set of creators, like Sarah and Rob Sargeant at Alpine Distilling and Alpine Pie Bar, where, on my first unexpectedly soggy afternoon in Park City, I was able to smell through a set of aromatics and distill my very own bottle of gin. (The cost of this activity is $179, but guests are also welcome to come into the pie bar and sample the award-winning spirits in the company of a slice of pie). I added to my concoction grapefruit peel, juniper berries (technically de rigueur if you’re distilling gin, for otherwise you’re making vodka), rose hips and more, and watched as Sarah transformed my sensory vision into a bottle keepsake that would later become a Massachusetts martini.
Park City is framed by mountains and by clouds, and nowhere is this as readily apparent as it is at Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley, a breathtaking alpine resort that opened in 1982. My own room, for two nights, was within the residences, contemporary one- to five-bedroom accommodations with fireplaces, lavish bathrooms, kitchens, and access to a spa, indoor pool and outdoor pool. On our first cool evening, we sat on the deck of the main lodge, in individual pods known as Alpenglobes. The verdant fields and a misting rain surrounded us, but from our vantage point — on top of the world, really — it felt like being inside of the world’s prettiest late-spring snow globe.
The next night, I was whisked to the Heber Valley, not far from Park City, where a new restaurant — it opened just last year — the Lakehouse at Deer Creek, was hosting me for dinner. The restaurant also operates a boat charter club, and so, by way of cocktail hour, I was taken out on the Deer Creek reservoir, which serves as a desirable recreation point for local Utahans. In the early evening, we had the lake to ourselves, with Prosecco and caviar, and a bag of Doritos, my idea.
Back ashore, chef Tamara Stanger, a native Utahan, prepared a multi-course meal using foraged and local foods. Raised in a ghost town in central Utah, Stanger learned foraging well before it had captured the national zeitgeist. From her day afield, foraging closer to Provo, she found rose petals, seeds and fragrant herbs. It was a shock, on first taste, how magnificent a porridge of beans and pickled watermelon rind could be. Then came a salad punctuated with fresh blackberries and toasted corn husk, complemented by a cocktail made with nixtamalized corn spirit, and it occurred to me, as the sun slipped behind the Wasatch range, that Utah’s food and drink scene was very much not what I had expected.
Everywhere I went, in fact, food and beverage creators were impressing me with their wild and interesting ideas. Creativity, pressed up against the boundaries of the DABS, has opened up a minefield of ideas, it turns out, culinary gold just waiting to be mined. In Salt Lake City, I sat down with Crystal Daniels, the beverage director for the 4-year-old Post Office Place. Over lunch, Daniels poured a sampling of her gorgeous cocktails. Seventeen appear on her list in total, and her bar offers about 30 Japanese whiskies, among the most in the country.
The state’s restrictions, she says, often make her a more creative mixologist, forcing her to test her skills in a place where, until recently, beer sold in restaurants could not exceed three percent ABV. A five-minute drive down the road, Rio Connelly’s Scion Cider surprised and delighted with 20 artisanal ciders on tap and in bottle, and cold pintxos. (From behind the bar, Connelly constructed a glorious plate of tinned yellowfin tuna, pork terrine, membrillo, conserva, cheese and pickled squash, to accompany a multitude of ciders, which ranged in flavor from Sidra-like to lambic-sour.)
During the golden hour, before returning to my well-appointed suite at Salt Lake’s Grand America Hotel, I strolled through Red Butte Garden, one of the largest botanical gardens in the west: 21 acres of developed gardens, five miles of hiking trails and acres of protected land that operate in the State Arboretum of Utah, in conjunction with the University of Utah’s eastern campus. Snacks arrived in a cavalcade: charcuterie from Caputo’s Market & Deli, chocolate from Ritual, cocktails from Beehive Distilling. As the sun dusted the desert botanicals a sandy pink, I thought about how much I’d underestimated the Beehive State. All of this food and drink had been right here, all along, a hidden gem in Utah. Why hadn’t we been looking for it?
Stein Eriksen Residences
One- to five-bedroom luxury suites within a stone’s throw of Park City’s walkable downtown area, which is accessible by shuttle. steinres.com
The Grand America Hotel
Salt Lake’s largest hotel is also its most luxurious. This 775-room property has a stunning outdoor pool, a French patisserie and a state-of-the-art spa. grandamerica.com
The Lakehouse at Deer Creek
Located in Heber, abutting the pristine waters of Deer Creek, this restaurant, helmed by native Utahan Tamara Stanger, boasts heritage cuisine in a tranquil setting. thelakehousedeercreek.com
Six wood-framed Alpenglobes sit on the deck of Stein Eriksen’s Mountain Lodge, available for 90-minute breakfasts, dinners and lunches, with menus from the property’s Troll Hallen Lodge. steinlodge.com/dining/stein-alpenglobes
Post Office Place
A formidable Japanese whiskey list, combined with a tasty food menu (think crudos, tiraditos and ceviches, for instance) make this Salt Lake City bar a must-visit. popslc.com
Scion Cider Bar
This cider-focused bar in Salt Lake offers up 20 ciders on tap, as well as wine, beer and a variety of delicious snacks. scionciderbar.com
Visit Sarah and Rob Sargeant’s distillery and pie bar in Park City for an experience in making your own custom bottler — or for a flight of their world-class spirits, paired, of course, with pie. alpinedistilling.com
Red Butte Garden
With acres of unfolding beauty, Red Butte Garden — which also plays host to visiting musical guests — is a necessary stop for every nature lover. redbuttegarden.org
One fine body…