Apple Wood Smoked Salmon, Whiskey Battered Shishito Peppers and Bacon Wrapped Delta Blue Shrimp at High West Distillery. Photo: Alex Springer
The concept of Dishcrawl originated in San Jose, California and has since been adopted all over the country. The idea is simple—a group of people who appreciate good food are taken on a walking tour of four to eight restaurants. The restaurants then provide a space for diners and a sampling of their cuisine. It’s a great way for people to add to their dining repertoire while socializing with like-minded foodies, and it helps restaurants attract new customers. An official Dishcrawl ambassador organizes the event by contacting restaurants, creating publicity and planning the evening’s timetable.
Utah’s inaugural Dishcrawl was spearheaded by Park City local Rebecca Noel, who recognized the Beehive State’s growing food culture. “There are so many great restaurants in Utah. Having a Dishcrawl here just made sense,” Noel says. As Park City is Noel’s current stomping ground, attendees were treated to four restaurants in the city’s historic Main Street district: Chimayo, High West Distillery & Saloon, The Mustang and Zoom. Though attendees have no idea what restaurants will be participating beforehand (it’s part of the fun, after all), I was impressed with the diversity in flavor and cuisine among the participating restaurants.
The event kicked off at Chimayo (368 Main St.), where Chef Arturo Flores serves up creative takes on Southwestern classics. I arrived a bit early, but already people were enjoying some of Chimayo’s famous margaritas. I spent some time taking in the atmosphere, which was filled with a very traditional Spanish flavor. Long dining tables set with pewter goblets and plates; artfully mismatched amber lampshades hung lazily throughout the dining room; and a carefully chosen arrangement of antique centerpieces were only a few of the details that transport diners back to a turn-of-the-century Spanish manor.
There is an element of mystery that surrounded the Dishcrawl event, and it made the anticipation in the room palpable. As we patiently waited for our first course to arrive, I found myself reflexively glancing toward the kitchen for the inevitable arrival of our servers. When they graciously arrived, and Dishcrawl had officially begun, it was time to get down to business.
We were presented with a large plate that held four tapas-style dishes: Duck Enchiladas, Arturo’s Tortilla Soup, a Vegetable Trio Skewer and House-Made Chips and Guacamole. As soon as the plates hit the tables, the cilantro-spiked aroma of the tortilla soup was getting fresh with my olfactory region, so that’s where I started. The soup was garnished with small cubes of Oaxaca cheese and crunchy homemade tortilla strips, which paired nicely with the tomatillo broth—which delivered a nice amount of smoky heat to the back of the throat. From there, I moved on to the chips and guacamole. The house-made chip was great—just the right amount of crunch, but I like my guacamole to be a bit more light and fluffy, while this offering was a bit heavier. The Duck Enchiladas were the star of this plate, and their existence has solidified my belief that duck just might be the best variety of meat to stuff into a tortilla. Not only was the duck extremely tender, but there was a sweetness to the meat that I wasn’t expecting, and it made for a very memorable experience.
As we bid Chimayo adios, our next stop was High West Distillery and Saloon (703 Park Ave.). High West has been in the business of making and distributing unique cocktails and spirits since the late 1800s, and it serves as one of Park City’s most popular watering holes. Their specialty drinks for the evening were a High West Lemonade, served with either whiskey or vodka or a concoction known as Dead Man’s Boots, comprised of their locally distilled whiskey, tequila and ginger beer. After attendees had sufficient time to wet their whistles, our servers arrived with the second round of eats. In keeping with the rustic Western atmosphere, we were presented with Apple Wood Smoked Salmon, Whiskey Battered Shishito Peppers and Bacon Wrapped Delta Blue Shrimp. The salmon was amazing—the sweet and smoky apple wood really ramped up the salmon’s natural deliciousness. I liked the crunchiness of the battered shishito pepper, but I was expecting either a burst of heat or smoke—neither of which was present. The barbecue shrimp was a bit overdone for my taste, but the smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and crispy bacon were very tasty.
Destination number three was The Mustang (890 Main St.), one of Park City’s premier fine dining spots. The restaurant has a very cool minimalist style to its décor, which serves as a testament to The Mustang’s culinary perspective. First, we were presented with beautiful plates of Belgian Endive Leaves stuffed with chopped kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, roasted red bell pepper and feta cheese. Each endive leaf was separated by a Tomato and Mozzarella Skewer, and in the middle of this symmetrical dish was a bowl of freshly made Basil Pesto. Like the “less is more” environment in which we were eating, this first dish was beautiful in its simplicity. Everything on the plate was allowed to shine in the way it was meant to shine—the endive was crisp and herbaceous, and the stuffing added some complex saltiness—the almost bitter saltiness of the kalamata olives coupling with the buttery feta cheese created an excellent combination of flavor.
Their entrée was a Salmon Mini Puff Pastry, which was doused in an amazing red pepper sauce. The dish was composed of several different layers of flavor and texture. The light and crispy puff pastry sat on top of a grilled Portobello mushroom and a slice of roasted fennel, which were supported by a thick piece of perfectly cooked salmon. I love it when a dish not only tastes amazing (that red pepper sauce will haunt my dreams), but also provides some variety when it comes to texture. This was a plate that was crafted with a lot of thought, and thought tastes amazing.
We rounded out the evening with a stop at Zoom (660 Main St.), which was opened by Robert Redford in 1995 and is now a part of the successful Sundance Resort group of restaurants. Zoom is the type of restaurant that makes you feel suddenly more stylish just by walking in. My humble group of Dishcrawl attendees had become movie stars, record producers and politicians in mere moments. I had to admit, my expectations were a bit high when we sat down. Without really thinking about it, I snagged a potato chip from one of the bowls at our table and immediately disengaged from our conversation while I pondered long and hard what had just happened. It was a potato chip, food in its most simple form—yet it completely captured my attention. Turns out, these chips are house-made and sprinkled with salt and vinegar, and they are fantastic. After I had polished off half the bowl, our food arrived. The meal consisted of Baby Back Pork Ribs with Poppy Seed Cole Slaw and a Scallop served over Spaghetti Squash glazed in a Citrus Mustard Sauce. I started with the Scallop, which had achieved that perfect combination between firm and melt-in-your-mouth. Though my fellow guests made polite use of their forks and knives when eating the ribs, I could not bring myself to do so. Despite the obvious lack of decorum, licking orange chipotle barbecue sauce off of one’s fingers is not to be missed.
Zoom was also responsible for providing dessert, which was another tall order. How do you follow up four meals that are totally different? Chocolate Mousse, that’s how. Served in a martini glass and topped with a solitary raspberry on a pillow of whipped cream, Zoom’s chocolate mousse was a perfect testament to the glory of chocolate. The dessert was layered with both milk and dark chocolate, and at the bottom, like sunken treasure, a tart and sweet pool of raspberry syrup. Though everything we ate at Zoom was near perfect, this mousse was beyond reproach.
As I meandered back to my car, I didn’t really mind that there was still ice on the ground in the middle of April. I felt like I had been given a rare look at a large chunk of Park City’s culinary scene, and have developed a respect for the owners and operators of these restaurants that I didn’t have before. Thanks very much to Rebecca Noel and all of the restaurants that let us join them for a great evening. You’ve ensured that next time I’m in Park City, it’s going to be extremely tough for me to decide where to eat first.
Keep an eye our for a Dishcrawl near you by visiting the website.