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Ski Park City: A Food History Tour

Park city foodOkay, how can you NOT want to try Polygamy Porter, a Utah beer whose tag line is “Why have just one?”

And there was the story of the “Boston” tea … er beer … party, complete with locals in colonial dress, and kegs being emptied into the Great Salt Lake to protest a tax on beer.

These tidbits of information were all part of the Park City Food Tours, an historic journey down Park City’s Main Street that included samples at four restaurants and, sigh, a spa treatment for my ski-wrinkled hands.

What better way for an old silver mining town to showcase its food while still celebrating its history?

Park City long-timer Shirin Spangenberg started the tours a couple of years ago. It’s more than just a food sampling. It’s a chance to learn about the city and also taste at restaurants that run the gamut from casual to gourmet. Plus, there’s at least one extra … hand treatment at a day spa or specialty olive oil tasting or perhaps popping into an art gallery.

Skiing Deer Valley's famous groomed snow. Photo by Adam Barker/Deer Valley

Park City is famous for great snowing like this skier is enjoying at Deer Valley. Photo by Adam Barker/Deer Valley

And best, it all goes downhill, which is no small thing on a street that has a 215 foot vertical drop (that’s like 20 stories) in just a few blocks.

Starting with the Old Days

We started at Treasure Mountain Inn with its old photos of the early mining days.

“In 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad (sic) was joined just two hours from here,” said Shirin. “Meanwhile, gold was being found everywhere so folks looked here as well.”

Not much gold showed up, but the consolation prize was silver … some of the richest strikes in U.S. history. There are grainy black and white pictures along a hallway at the inn, showing miners, and the town in its early days before a massive 1898 fire, as well as photos of early skiing.

We learned, among other things, that at the height of prohibition in this heavily Mormon state, there were 26 bars serving booze.

So it’s fitting that our first stop was Wasatch Brew Pub.

In 1986, Stu Brown had an idea … open a brew pub for thirsty skiers. For this, he needed legislation, not easy to come by in Utah, where the question was “a brew … what?”

So he found a friendly legislator, who slid the legislation into a bill so overloaded with other stuff, no one apparently noticed.

Over the years, Stu has approached all this with tongue firmly in cheek.

Wasatch Brew Pub beer and shrimp, Park City Utah

Wasatch Brew Pub is famous not only for its craft beer, but also its coconut shrimp in mango sauce.

There was the move by the state to slap a four percent tax on beer. So Stu rounded up some guys, dressed them in colonial garb and emptied kegs of beer into Salt Lake. It made the newspapers and, yes, a compromise was struck.

And of course, there’s Stu’s Polygamy Porter.

Onto the Food

At Wasatch, our food tasting included giant, butter-tender shrimp coated in coconut batter with a mango/tabasco dipping sauce. It was accompanied by a jalapeno cream ale that screamed Mexican chilies–without the burn. (Check out Stu’s recipe for Coconut Shrimp with Mango Sauce.)

Yes, I had skied all day. Yes, I was famished. Yes, it was mouthwatering. I nearly ate the tails.

Down the street, Shirin pointed out Red Banjo pizza, which, in an earlier life, was a bar with separate doors for men and women. The two doors are still there.

From here, we went to the French flavor of 412 Bistro where the tasting of the day was a “wild forest mushroom sauté” on toast with a goat cheese brandy cream and balsamic reduction.

“Forest mushrooms?”

Japanese beach mushrooms, maitakes foraged from Washington state, and something called hog’s hedge. Who knew there were that many tasty, edible fungi to be had? The dish was earthy, creamy, and spirited yet still mild.

Thaynes Shaft Park City Utah

Top of Thaynes Shaft, left over from Park City’s silver mining days. were used to transport skiers up the hill in the resort’s early years.

Then off to the Park City Museum where we roamed a room with early ski day relics, saw a giant sidecut of what the mines looked like in their heyday and learned about Thaynes Lift, a left-over mining train and elevator used for decades to take skiers up the mountain.

Back in the day, Thaynes wasn’t particularly convenient … three miles in an open mining car, then a spooky ride 1,770 feet up in an ancient mining elevator. The whole trip took 90 minutes and was a conversation piece that few folks undoubtedly wanted to do more than once. Fortunately, accessibility for today’s skiers has improved.

Mushroom taster Park City Utah

The mushroom taster featured a wild mushroom saute over toast along with goat cheese, brandy cream and a balsamic reduction.

Next up was Talisker on Main, voted best restaurant in Park City by Salt Lake magazine three years running.

Chef Briar Handley came out to chat about his braised pork belly that our group voted best taste of the tour. With all that was going on … pork and pickled apples and celery and celery root puree and lobster roe in white wine … we were somehow able to taste each individual ingredient even as they blended into their own earthy tapestry.

Behind us we could see the restaurant’s chefs preparing that night’s food, which added to the special feel of the place.

And, now, on to our final tasting at Wahso, an Asian grill built to replicate the feel of Shanghai, circa 1930.

Park City Museum Park City Utah

The historic display of old gondola and other artifacts at Park City Museum is worth a visit.

The place just drips antiques. There’s a 1,000 pound, 600-year-old Ming Dynasty cat, Mongolian statues with horsehair mustaches, teak columns and an intricately carved wood ceiling.

The offset to this opulence was a simple pear and endive salad sprinkled with currants, candied walnuts and topped with a citrus soy dressing. It was a perfect way to end the food portion of the tour.

We were neither full nor hungry. It was just enough.

Ahh Spa

But Shirin had one more surprise for us: Mountain Body day spa for a “hand wash.”

Grapefruit salt scrub Park City Utah

Grapefruit salt scrub was part of a four part hand treatment at Mountain Body day spa.

The treatment had four parts and even the guys gamely participated.

First, a moisturizer, then a grapefruit salt scrub, followed by honey butter, a rinse under the faucet and finally, creamy lotion which came scented (thank you no, not on top of grapefruit and honey) and unscented.

We scrubbed and rubbed and rinsed. And my hands were smooth for the first time that week.

Four hours had passed. Good food had been tasted. Nice beer and wine had been sipped. And now, our hands, along with everything else, were relaxed and blissfully hydrated.

With all the skiing of the day, how nice to have eaten and drunk without a shred of guilt. – story and photos by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor 

Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski Editor, Powder Stagecoach.

If You Go

Park City Food Tours run year round. Tours are limited to 12 people max, take from two to four hours and occur in the afternoon before main dining hours. Tour prices cover food but not alcohol. The winter tours include:

  • Original Food Tour – $69, includes appetizer size tastings at four restaurants with a non food stop that might be an art gallery or a day spa
  • Progressive Meal – $85, includes appetizer, main dish, dessert at successive restaurants.
  • Gastrolounge – $55, includes stops at four Main Street lounges for food and drink.

Contact: http://www.parkcityfoodtours.com

 



Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor

Yvette Cardozo from the Seattle, Washington area, likes to visit interesting places and learn about interesting cultures and, if a tasty local dish is involved, so much the better. She’s eaten everything from gourmet food at the world’s finest restaurants to native food in Asia, the arctic, and all kinds of places in between.Yvette recalls being in Antarctica and going out on the land with Inuit elders in arctic Canada , then bagging a caribou. They dragged it back to camp and ate it on the spot raw. She quips, “Hey, if you like steak tartare….”Yvette, who is a veteran skier and diver, is RFT’s Ski & Dive Editor.


3 thoughts on “Ski Park City: A Food History Tour

  1. Barbara Rogers

    Loved the article — it brings back fond memories of good skiing and good eating in Park City! I especially remember the chili at the base lodge of Park City Mountain.

    1. realfoodtraveler

      Hi Barbara,
      Glad you liked Yvette’s story. She’s one of realfoodtraveler.com’s finest writers. Cheers!– Bobbie, RFT Editor

  2. realfoodtraveler

    Hi Barbara,
    Glad you liked Yvette’s story. She’s one of realfoodtraveler.com’s finest writers. Cheers!– Bobbie, RFT Editor

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