Not a day goes by that I don’t gaze at Utah’s mountains in awe of their beauty. But I often forget just how close–and accessible–those beautiful mountains are to Salt Lake City. A quick half-hour drive can transform the setting of a bustling city into a relaxing mountainside of nature. And when that peaceful, out-of-town feeling is combined with an amazing meal, it makes for an incredible night. Which is exactly the point of the Wasatch Mountain Table dinner series at Solitude Mountain Resort.
|Dainty wildflowers surrounded the table at Solitude.|
The Wasatch Mountain Table dinner series is a four-course meal served outside against the breathtaking backdrop of Solitude Resort. Chef Michael Richey, formerly of Pago, changes the menu for each dinner, which focuses on locally-sourced ingredients. Set on a communal table, the dinner bridges the connection between nature, community and cuisine.
|The Wasatch Mountain communal table and our menus explaining each course.|
The dinner begins with an appetizer and cocktail hour, providing guests with a chance to mingle together, take in the scenery and get relaxed. On Saturday, we sipped on an apricot-infused gin cocktail and Pinot Grigio while servers wandered around with plates of hors d’oeuvres: ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, potato pillows topped with sour cream and caviar, oven-roasted Mission figs stuffed with chevre mousse and balsamic vinegar topped with crispy prosciutto, and caprese sticks with heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
|The evening started with a cocktail and appetizer hour–and time to take in the scenery.|
After everyone was thoroughly relaxed, we sat down at the table and were introduced to Chef Michael, who explained each course and where the ingredients came from. Some of the producers, like the owners of Clifford Farms and Creminelli Meats, were even in attendance. Then came the food…
The meal started with the classic beet salad, slightly enhanced with cashew brittle and tarragon. The overall flavor was quite salty, but the sweetness of the Pinot Grigio balanced out the dish. I liked the added crunchiness of the cashew brittle.
Next was a complex course full of spiciness: wax peppers stuffed with Beehive cheddar fried tempura-style in a Uinta beer batter with spicy chorizo, balsamic vinegar and cilantro. The subtly sweet peppers and rich balsamic vinegar flavor offset the spiciness of the chorizo, and the cilantro added a nice kick. The whole dynamic of sweet and spicy was further complemented with the Sangiovese. Overall, an awesome dish.
The main course was a stunning lamb gnocchi with sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and Thai basil. As soon as the dishes arrived on the table, the aroma was enough to have everyone whispering with excitement. Once everyone had a bite, echoes of “Phenomenal!” and “Amazing!” could be heard. Then the entire table fell silent as our senses were captivated with the subtly sweet, slightly spicy flavors of the curry, complemented by the fresh tomatoes and corn. The Pinot Noir added further complexity, wrapping up the entire dish perfectly.
The evening ended with an apricot gelée on a crunchy graham crust topped with a fluffy Italian meringue. The tart apricot and lightness of the meringue were a perfect combination, especially for a summer evening, and the Moscato encouraged the sweetness of the dish.
|The changing colors of the sunset provided our after-dinner entertainment.|
The open-air atmosphere and incredible food are enough to create an amazing evening, but my favorite part of the Wasatch Mountain Table dinner was the connection between the farms and producers, the chef, and the community of diners. To dine alongside the owners of Clifford Family Farms and Cristiano Creminelli while we enjoyed their products, to have our courses explained by Chef Michael himself, and to discuss each course with fellow diners who were strangers just hours beforehand, all against the setting sun in the mountains, is what made the dinner special to me.
The Wasatch Mountain Table dinner series continues on Saturday evenings through September. The dinner is $95/person or $125 with wine pairings and reservations are required. Click here for details and contact information.
Note: I was treated to this dinner as an invited blogger by the Wasatch Mountain Table Dinner event promoters.