The ski resort food, that is. Here is a brief synopsis of our food experiences, listed best to worst:
- Homemade granola
This was the best thing we ate. It was an option on the a la carte menu at the “casual” resort restaurant, and surprisingly only cost us only $3.50 a bowl (that’s just a buck more than purchasing your very own tiny box of Kellogg’s cereal with milk). I tried it the first morning I was there, and couldn’t believe how good it was (especially considering the company it kept on the breakfast bar). I asked for the recipe, and the guy behind the counter seemed like he was willing to go find it for me, but then got distracted by a cute blonde snowboarder next in line, and alas, I come home recipe-less (imagine the recipes I could garner if I invested in a bottle of bleach, some “gear,” and maybe a botox treatment. Killer.).
- Sushi, at Takashi
We had to get take-out, because the Wee One was on the fussy side (her tiny little body clock never really adjusted to Mountain time). Which is a shame, because the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere, in that uber-cool sushi-sort-of-way. The prices were decent (not the priciest, but not the cheapest sushi I’ve had), and we shared a bowl of well-prepared edamame and a bottle of plum-wine sake while we waited. It was inventive, without being over-the-top or showy-weird. It was fresh and as well-presented as it could be — even after a half-hour ride in a styrofoam to-go box, and even though we ate it from the box while sitting on the rug of the hotel common area with chopsticks, it still wowed us.
- Thai, from Chanon
You might detect a theme here, but: we ate this, too, from a styrofoam to-go box, at the common room of another hotel. The only difference was that the food took a shorter ride: only 10 minutes or so. We did research before choosing our restaurants, and found a good list of local faves online at the SLC alternative paper: the City Weekly. This restaurant was touted as the locals’ favorite place for authentic Thai. The only criticism was that the food is spicy: meaning, if you ask for “mild” spice, you’ll end up with something akin to what’s “medium-hot” at other Thai restaurants. Tim and I are both pretty much spice pansies (it’s the blue eyes, I tell ya!), so we definitely requested mild dishes. We also struck up a conversation with a local who was leaving the restaurant, and she gave us her list of favorites. This was really good Thai. We have a tradition of ordering Tom Kha (coconut soup simmered with lime leaves — usually with chicken and mushrooms) at every new Thai restaurant we try — we view it as a measure, of sorts, as to how good the place is. Interestingly enough, the Tom Kha was our least favorite dish — it was a bit sweet for our taste. But our entrées were fantastic — and indeed, very spicy. We had a coconut red curry with tofu, peppers, green beans, and zucchini, and then a cashew stir fry with chicken, pineapple, zucchini, etc. The cashew chicken was the spiciest, and not even the sweet pineapples could balance the heat. But we ate as much as our bodies would consume — and still ended up with leftovers. If you head to Salt Lake, this is a deal: a ton of really good Thai food for not a ton of cash.
- Mexican, from The Red Iguana
This is where everyone told Tim to go. So he went, and picked up (ahem) take-out, on his way to get me from the airport late Monday. And — to be fair — this meal suffered the most from its take-out status. I was arriving from an exhausting day (preparing for incoming in-laws, saying goodbye to children, driving myself and infant to Atlanta, weaving through throngs of people at overcrowded airport (with infant attached), waiting for a flight that was 1 1/2 hours delayed, four hour flight with an infant who DIDN’T SLEEP A WINK, eastern-to-mountain time change, etc.). So Tim picks me up, with food in-hand, and then I try to eat it from the box, in the backseat of a rental car, while trying to calm a screaming baby, as Tim ascends 5,000 or so feet up a curvy mountain road. Needless to say, the turkey molé and fish tacos didn’t stand a fighting chance. Which really is sad — because even through all of the madness, I knew it was good food. I just couldn’t really eat it. (The only item I would have challenged in eastern-time, normal-altitude, daylight hours was the side of sweet plantains, which they topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Look, I can support having a signature dish, but even though sweet plantains are, well, sweet, they don’t need to be treated like an ice cream sundae.)
- The Aerie
Last, and definitely least. And of course, by far, the most expensive meal we ate. The Aerie was the “fancy restaurant” at the top of our resort. Stunning views, from the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. An eastern-inspired atmosphere. Suited, quiet-speaking servers. The only reason I’m writing about it is because it’s an opportunity for a soapbox moment.Why is it so easy to charge a fortune for bad food?We knew what we were going to get. But we hired a sitter for one night, and that meant just one night where we could eat in peace sitting at a table. Since there happened to be a winter storm hovering over our mountains for the whole visit, we didn’t want to risk going down into the city for a real restaurant when we were leaving Wee One with a stranger (yes, she was employed by the resort, and yes, she was a lovely person who did a wonderful job with our baby — but still. It would have been hard to go down that mountain.) And really — we were hopeful. That our prejudices would be challenged.
But they weren’t. And it was still somehow disappointing (why am I disappointed even when not surprised?). I had “cream of asparagus soup” that lacked a certain requisite flavor… that being asparagus. For all I know, I ate a bowl of salted whipping cream with yellow food coloring. I didn’t even experience that certain dead-giveaway that would convince me that we actually ate asparagus. We were served a decent demi-loaf of bread with butter that tasted freezer-burned. And when I asked for a plate of olive oil to replace it, we were brought a jar of oil that tasted so strongly of citrus, it might as well have been called “orange-flavored olive oil.” We asked the server about the decidedly orang-ey notes of the oil, but she assured us that it was just plain olive oil. Which was fine — just odd. Our entrées were beef short ribs (the special) and grilled scallops. And they, too, were fine. But so one-dimensional and overly-rich — just strikingly not worth what we paid for it. After inquiring and being told that there was a pastry chef on staff who created all the desserts, we decided to try the créme brulée. It was served in a widely-circumferenced, shallow dish. And was overly decorated with under-ripe berries and a strange cookie sculpture. It was like a clown, sitting there on the dish.
And really, the dinner is worth not another word.
But this is a soapbox, right?:
It was like Disney food. Too big, too rich, too shallow, too much. For more money than one couple should spend on an average dinner. They have you trapped up there, on that snowy mountain. And if you’re hungry, you’re gonna have to pay.
That’s really it. I mean it. Not. Another. Thought.
It’s good to be home. I just drank a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, to celebrate (and bring on the sleep that might be slow-coming tonight… I was getting used to Mountain time, after all).