Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge
7700 Stein Way, Park City ; 435-645-6455
One of the best restaurants in Utah, in a quiet sort of way. Extensive wine list.
Hours: Open daily, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 20
Recommended Dishes: Beef filet, Caesar salad and foie gras.
April 18, 2007
Elevating dining to near-perfection
By Mary Brown Malouf
DEER VALLEY -- Every year, hundreds of chefs, caterers, food writers, nutritionists, cooking school owners, food manufacturers, scientists and stylists gather to obsess about their common interest: eating.
This year, the International Association of Culinary Professionals met in Chicago and as usual, I learned something. In a panel discussion about the science of sensory perception as it relates to food and beverage, I heard that taste and smell are not solely chemical. Because of the complex way memories are stored and linked in the brain, context and preconception affect our sense of smell and therefore our sense of taste. The experience works in reverse, too -- a visual cue can evoke an olfactory response. In our minds, pleasant experience literally translates into pleasing flavor memory.
And that, in a nutshell, is why taste is so personal -- the science, rather perversely, proves the subjectivity of the dining experience. Each one of us colors our own experience. You must, with all your senses, fall in love with the whole place.
Considering this in terms of a recent visit to Stein Eriksen's Glitretind explains why my memory of a meal at this highly-regarded, award-winning restaurant is not completely starry. At some point, objectivity loses out to subjectivity when it comes to the senses.
The evening was nearly flawless; only a few design problems marred the experience. First impressions are important, especially of a place where you know you're going to spend a lot of money. You feel, rightly, that you deserve an extraordinary experience from the start. Instead, when you pull up the winding drive to the glittering entrance of the Stein Eriksen resort, those of you who are coming only to dine at Glitretind are waved into the parking garage to a second entrance that feels like the back door to a shopping mall.
Inside, a flight of stairs delivers you not into the restaurant, but to the hotel lobby. Glitretind opens, rather indistinctly, off the lobby -- around a couple of couches to the left. This may be the lap of unpretentious luxury for those who are staying in the lodge, but it's slightly disconcerting to the destination diner who feels a little like she's arrived through the service entrance.
The dining room benefits from dim light. By candlelight, the low-ceilinged space has an Alpine coziness and intimacy; in daylight, the tables seem too close together. The room's color scheme is subtle to the point of blandness and the only real loveliness is the view.
On the other hand, once your waiter arrives and starts bringing food, the rest of the room seems irrelevant. That's when the stars come out.
Chef Zane Holmquist offers a list of dishes that veers gently from the merely perfect (what more do you really want with Colorado beef filet, $42, than blue cheese potato gratin and bacon-wrapped beans?) to the apparently zany (seared foie gras and crisped banana with marshmallow sauce and candied peanuts.) Every dish has a gentle flourish -- like the huckleberry gastrique and baby basil on the beef -- but most fell solidly at the center of the bell curve for kitchen originality. (I'll address the marshmallows in a minute.)
At a time when so many high-end chefs are playing with the bizarre (I had foie gras foam at a restaurant in
Dallas last month), Holmquist's style comes off almost as comfort food -- at least, for rich people who have split their day between the alpine scenery and the spa. Still the buffalo short rib soup ($12) was sustaining -- the amber broth was as clear as water but the flavor was as strong as the rib bone at the bottom of the bowl. A deconstructed Caesar salad ($12) featured whole white anchovies next to whole sweet baby romaine leaves shingled with Parmigiano-Reggiano. And the foie gras ($21) a melting, seared square on buttery egg-bread toast, drizzled with marshmallow and candied peanuts, showed Holmquist's confidence in his sense of balance. Foie gras is famously complemented by sweetness -- the marshmallow drizzle substituted for the intense sweetness of more conventional foie gras pairings, though I still prefer Sauternes. I have to point out that marshmallows have no bouquet.
For years now, one of the wonders of Glitretind has been sommelier Cara Schwindt, or rather, the wine list she assembles. The 350-label list is easy for novices and satisfactory for connoisseurs, though pricing in Utah restaurants is always a surprise. With our table's selection of entrees ranging from the unfortunate blandness of a vegetarian, overly-mild goat cheese risotto ($26, with squash, trumpet mushrooms and soy beans) to hearty Canadian caribou ($52), the center of each loin slice as bright as red Jell-O, Rhone seemed the way to go and we were happy with a Croze-Hermitage. The wine steward was friendly and helpful, part of the perfect service that outshines the food at Glitretind just because good service is so rare in Utah.
Glitretind is a great restaurant, by Utah standards or any others. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone and I'll stick all the requisite stars in the ratings. But as highly as I professionally recommend it, I'm not personally starry-eyed about this restaurant and I wonder why don't I feel more rapturous about it. The place reminds me of the blind date who seems perfect or the man your parents wish you would marry -- it's got great food, perfect service, good looks.
I guess I'm just not in love. But I wouldn't be surprised if you could be.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.