Shoulder Season in Park City

Some people call it shoulder season. Others call it mud season. Park City locals call it “we finally have our town back” season. And Wasatch Front locals call it “get great hotel and restaurant deals, and avoid the crowds” season.

Way back when I was a kid, I remember my family heading up to Park City in the fall. We’d check out the Autumn Aloft, and then head over to Main Street to walk around and absorb the sights and smells of fall in the mountains. Leaves changing colors and crisp air combined to make it a magical time.

Now, even though I’m a little bit older, fall in Park City holds the same special feeling. And best of all, the summer crowds have gone back to work and school, and the winter ski crowds haven’t yet arrived. It’s a chance for local restauranteurs to catch their breath, take some time off, and enjoy the city without having the accelerator pedal jammed all of the way to the floor.

For locals on the Wasatch Front, the shoulder seasons are a great opportunity to find hotels at a great discount (some priced 25-50% lower than their winter rates). Many restaurants also offer locals deals during this time in order to keep their tables full. Tupelo, for example, offers a five course tasting menu for a bargain price of $49. Optional wine pairing is an additional $25. You don’t see that kind of deal during the ski season.

On a recent weekend, we stayed a couple days at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. This hotel is ideally located at the base of the Silver Lake and Sterling Express lifts, providing easy access for those adventure seekers who aren’t too interested in riding bikes or hiking uphill. Not interested in taking a lift? No problem. There is easy access to dozens of public hiking/biking trails that will take you all over the mountains if you wish. One of my personal favorites is the Mid Mountain trail, which will take you all the way over to the Canyons resort if you are looking for a big adventure. Being on the trails in the fall with the leaves changing colors is really something special, and one of the reasons I love Utah so much.

Of course, one of the reasons it’s called the “mud season” is that you have to be prepared for all types of weather. It is Utah in the mountains, after all. Our hiking and biking plans were quickly derailed when the mountain received about eight inches of snow during our weekend stay. No problem–we fired up the in-room fireplace, headed off to the hot tub, took a dip in the pool, and relaxed in the room.

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Then off to Sunday brunch at the Glitretind we went, which was absolutely phenomenal. Fellow diners and our servers were so good to our little baby, and the buffet offers something for everyone. Seafood, salads, chicken, prime rib, crèpes, waffles, eggs benedict–you name it, and it was probably there. And their dessert table is ridiculous, and featured an aspen tree centerpiece made out of chocolate.

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For dinner, we hopped down off the mountain and headed into a small strip mall next to The Market at Park City. I was thrilled to discover that one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Tarahumara, has opened a second location in Park City. The original Tarahumara in Midway is always packed, but I think that the Park City Tarahumara may still be a hidden gem, because it was not very busy. The carne asada, carnitas, and enchiladas were all excellent. And of course they have their famous salsa bar with what must be 30+ different delicious salsas.

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So if you’re crunched on time, budget, or just want a quick getaway, I’d suggest taking a look at a Park City/Deer Valley vacation. You can enjoy Main Street without the crowds, fill your belly with delicious food at a reasonable price, and perhaps upgrade your hotel accommodations from what you normally budget for. It’s a delicious and affordable getaway.

I was an invited guest of Stein Eriksen Lodge and the Glitretind restaurant. Opinions are my own.

We Olive Salt Lake City

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Step into We Olive in Trolley Square, and be prepared for an education. On a recent visit, franchise owner Stephanie Ennis and her son, co-owner Josh Garcia, took time to walk me through various olive oils, allowing me to taste and pick up on the various nuances of each one. Stop by, and they will be glad to do the same with you.

Just like cheese, wine, and chocolate, tasting olive oils properly involves a few steps. Pour a small amount into a cup. Step 1: Swirl. Cover the top to trap the aromas, and rub the cup against the palm of your other had to gradually warm the oil and release the flavors and aromas. Step 2: smell the oil. Step 3: Slurp it into your mouth, incorporate oxygen to further enhance the taste. Step 4: Swallow.

According to Josh, the three things you want to taste for with olive oil is the bitterness, the fruitiness, and the robustness (high-quality olive oils contain high levels of oleocanthals, which tend to create an urge to cough. The more “robust” the oil, the more likely you are to cough after tasting). I tasted a few different types of arbequina oils, and could instantly pick out tropical notes such as banana in one, while the other arbequina was much more mellow and one-dimensional. Thus, tasting is key.

All of We Olive’s oils are sourced from family farms in California, as opposed to other olive oil companies in Utah who source theirs from Tunisia. We Olive knows their farmers, and understand the provenance of their products.

One of the struggles of the olive oil industry is the lack of consistent regulation and certification of what makes olive oil “olive oil” and what makes extra virgin “extra virgin.” While there are rules in place, there is no international enforcement body to ensure the rules are followed. Josh and Stephanie pointed out that olive oils need to be consumed within 18 months of pressing the olives in order to preserve the taste and health benefits before the oil turns rancid. But large conglomerates of olive oil producers (those kinds that you will likely find in grocery stores) frequently hold olive oils for much longer, and have been known to blend in other types of non-olive oils into their olive oils in order to increase the shelf life. All of this done, of course, without disclosing anything to the consumer.

We Olive also has a wide selection of various balsamic vinegars; some produced in California and some in Modena, Italy. They have the straightforward balsamics, and also have some more outside the box varieties, like mission fig, peach, pear, and blackberry. No artificial flavors are used in these vinegars, rather, fresh purees are blended in. My personal favorite combination was their pineapple balsamic paired with their jalapeño olive oil. It would go perfectly on a fruit salad or as a unique vinaigrette for a salad. They sent me home with a bottle of their mission fig balsamic vinegar, which I used to make balsamic-glazed pork chops over polenta with wilted spinach.

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Venture towards the back of the store and you will find the We Olive wine bar, where you can sit at the bar or a table and taste various wines alongside some delicious food. I was able to taste their cheese and charcuterie plate, featuring Creminelli salumi and prosciutto, a dish of stuffed African peppadews, prosciutto-wrapped dates (my favorite), an orchard salad, as well as a cheese and garlic flatbread. Josh is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, and has worked in various chef roles at the New Yorker and other Gastronomy restaurants, so attention to detail with food at We Olive is a high priority. Various reds, whites, rosés, mimosas, and beers are available, including local producers Ruth Lewandowski, Proper Brewing, Mountain West Cider, and Talisman Brewing in Ogden. They plan to open their patio as soon as things warm up this summer, allowing diners to sip and dine while people-watching Trolley Square shoppers.

Josh and Stephanie are also building out a strong selection of local food producers for their grocery section, and currently carry Slide Ridge Honey, Four Sisters sauces, as well as various local pastas.

The next time you’re at Trolley Square, stop by, say hi, and ask them to take you on a tasting tour. You’ll learn more about olive oils and vinegars than you thought possible. And stay for a sip or two. And be sure to check out their events page which features various cooking demos, tastings, and other events.

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I was an invited guest of We Olive. Opinions are my own.

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Restaurant Supply

I know it’s weird, but I love going to the restaurant supply store. Those of you who have been understand me 100%. Those of you that haven’t: it’s time to go. ASAP. It’s kind of a secret that these places exist; most people either think they’re only open to restaurants and other wholesale entities. Another misconception is that you need to buy in high quantities. But that’s not true (at least for many of the supply stores).

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I stopped by Standard Restaurant Supply and took some shots of my favorite supply store finds–most of these are considerably less expensive than what you’d find in other “fancy” cooking stores.

Have you been? What are your favorite finds? Let me know in the comments.

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Beltex Meats

Beltex Meats in Salt Lake City is a rarity along the Wasatch Front. In a world where the majority of consumers get their meats from grocery stores who focus more on their profit and loss statements than they do on the provenance of their products they sell, Beltex meats stands alone as a diamond in the rough.

Beltex is a whole animal butchery, which means they utilize every part of the animal in order to promote responsible consumption and minimize waste. The owners of Beltex saw that as residents in the area become more interested in purchasing humanely-raised, sustainable products, existing suppliers weren’t necessarily able to accommodate the demand. So Beltex stepped in to fill the gap, first at farmers’ markets, and now at their own shop. What does humanely raised mean? According to Beltex it means that their animals are pasture raised, with lots of room. Their products are never treated with antibiotics or hormones. They know each of their suppliers personally.

Beltex was founded by a chef, Philip Grubisa, which makes sense when you see that their cases not only feature meat, but also meat pies, charcuterie platters, sandwiches (Saturdays only), sauces, ready-to-cook meals, and other items not typically found in a butcher shop. Philip cut his butchery teeth while working at Spruce in the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, then moving on to open Talisker on Main with Briar Handly. Prior to opening Beltex, Philip trained at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat in Denver to certify in professional butchery.

I stopped by on a Saturday morning while the crew was preparing one of their surprising successes: sandwiches. Beltex offered a cuban sandwich one day, and it was so popular, they now offer a rotation of sandwiches on Saturday only. Despite their sandwich success, they limit their production to 50 sandwiches, and once they sell out, they’re out. “We’re not a sandwich shop. We’re a butcher shop that happens to sell a sandwich,” Grubisa says.

Philip has taken care to create a unique space to sell Beltex products. Their shop is located in a renovated house just across the street from Liberty Park on 9th South. Prior to the renovation, this house was a dilapidated mess, and Grubisa hired Brach Design Architecture to update the space to what you see now.

Beltex is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

511 East, 900 South, Salt Lake City. (801) 532-2641. beltexmeats.com

Click on the photos below to open the gallery.