Comfortably nestled within the Wasatch Mountains, the organization known as Alta Community Enrichment (ACE) has been dedicated to providing their community with exposure to the arts. ACE is known for using ski resorts such as Alta and Snowbird as venues for over 70 annual events, and have awarded several grants to local people and organizations in their efforts to promote the arts throughout Utah. One of their most popular events is the Wasatch Art Soiree, which gathers an elite group of local chefs, artists, musicians and other performers for an evening of pure artistic indulgence.
Upon arriving at the event, it was clear that the typically humble confines of Alta’s Albion Grill had undergone a radical metamorphosis. To the immediate right of the entry was an interactive art project—a tree that had been assembled from local cottonwood branches. Attendees were then encouraged to add their own touches, turning the originally skeletal structure into a vibrant plume of impulsive creativity. Towards the back, a photo booth that relied on the talents of a dutiful sketch artist rather than film had been erected. Along the room’s perimeter, the evening’s artists and chefs were busy discussing their work or, in the chefs’ case, dishing it up.
I had intentionally gone for an extended period of time without eating—one simply does not come to an event that features the likes of Katie Weinner and Adam Kreisel on a full stomach. Before each chef adorned their stations with their three-course tasting menus, however, the Avenues Proper cheese and olive bar required my immediate attention. Munching on Kalamata olives, homemade pickles, smoked bleu cheese and buttered crostini while watching the sun lazily set behind our gorgeous Wasatch Mountains is enough motivation for anyone to keep their feet firmly planted in the Beehive State.
After my brief cheese- and nature-induced reverie, I wandered back inside the Wasatch Art Soiree. St. Bohéme had begun their set, instantly transporting the attendees to Rue St. Germain circa 1920. Already, the mood was transforming into something surreal and dreamlike—and then the food was served. Since they were competing for a thousand-dollar grant from ACE based on the amount of votes that they accumulated throughout the evening, all of the chefs were on their A-games. Within each chef’s menu, a secret weapon was waiting to knock attendees out. For Carl Rubidue, owner of Saucy Skillet food truck and catering, it was the Cajun Salmon Cake. These were packed with sweet, perfectly cooked salmon and topped with a creamy, spicy Remoulade Sauce. Andy Walters from Dottie’s Biscuit Barn was slinging Fried Green Tomatoes topped with Pork Belly and local Cranberry Beans. It was a culinary snapshot of Southern comfort food, and an excellent representation of the food that Dottie’s Biscuit Barn is becoming famous for. Amy Oelerich from MediumRare Chefs created some beautiful Tenderloin Sliders with Lemon Aioli and Irish Cheddar. This was one of those bites in which the supporting ingredients combined to emphasize the tenderloin. All in all, this slider can easily go toe to toe with any roast beef sandwich out there. Adam Kreisel’s Chilled Exotic Mushroom and White Chocolate Bisque was a serious study in the flavor profile of a mushroom. The Roasted Mushroom Relish had a sensual quality, swimming in all of that silky chilled goodness—a perfect morsel for the mushroom enthusiast. Finally, Katie Weinner of SLC Pop and Top Chef rounded out her menu with a knee-wobblingly rich piece of Chocolate Stout Cake with Smoked Sour Cream and Summer Fruit. It was a velvety exploration of chocolate layers, and the Smoked Sour Cream ignited the whole powder keg of flavor.
After helping myself to some of the best food that is available along the Wasatch Front, it was a good time to take a look at the visual artists whose work was on display at the Wasatch Art Soiree. Sarabeth Clevenger is an old favorite due to her ability to capture Utah’s rustic beauty with acrylic and watercolor paints. Some new talent to arrive this year came from Jay Dash whose glossy, hi-def photographs leapt from their frames, and Brianne Gonzalez, who hand-paints bolts of silk that function as wall art or as fashion accessories.
While the People’s Choice votes for Best Artist and Best Chef were tabulated, we were treated to an effervescent performance from the Municipal Ballet Company, whose grace and fluidity paired nicely with St. Bohéme’s musical style—even when they threw down the Mos Eisley cantina jam from Star Wars. Upon completing their performance, MC Eugenie Jaffe announced that Carl Rubidue took home the People’s Choice Chef Award, and Sarabeth Clevenger snagged the People’s Choice Artist Award. Both recipients graciously accepted their dough, which will likely be used to create something gorgeous.
With a full stomach and an enriched mind, I walked back to my car. The slightly chilled air was pungent with the mountain trees, and I couldn’t think of a better place to bring so much beauty together. The ACE pulled something special off tonight—an event that was flashy, unique and undeniably classy without a whiff of pretension. Get your tickets for next year as early as possible.
For more information on the ACE, check out altaarts.org.