It’s no secret that Park City is a treasure trove of top-notch cuisine. And in winter especially, robust food and drink pairings take center stage. One thing that sets local eateries apart: the amount of thought that goes into our best restaurants’ beverage selections. Chefs, sommeliers, and restaurateurs here pride themselves on offering libations that complement and elevate the food they serve. It’s a culinary dance that, like the tango, is marked by both subtlety and wild abandon.
Sometimes with food and drink pairings, I’m looking for contrast—slightly sweet, crisp sparkling wine, for example, with salty, buttery popcorn. At other times, it’s affinity we’re after—complementary flavors and textures like those in a classic pairing of black pepper steak with a peppery, high-tannin cabernet sauvignon. My advice, ultimately, is to drink whatever wine you like best with whatever food you are eating. Experiment. Break the rules. That said, here are a handful of my favorite winter dishes from local restaurants, along with recommended beverage pairings—some of them might even surprise you.
At Silver Star Café (1825 Three Kings Dr, 435.655.3456), the pork osso buco is a thing of beauty: Niman Ranch pork shank with pork jus, fresh tomatillo salsa, coconut creamed corn, and queso fresco. It’s not exactly a classic Italian-style version of osso buco, so I’d pair this dish with the Café’s bright and lively house tempranillo, a portion of the proceeds of which goes to Arts-Kids, a nonprofit children’s art therapy program.
Stein Eriksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way, 435.649.3700) is a wonderland in winter, and few things have more appeal on a blustery winter day than Stein’s wild game chili. This meaty mélange made with buffalo, boar, and elk has a bit of tangy spiciness to it, which would go well with a slightly spicy Côtes du Rhône wine such as the 2015 Videl-Fleury from Stein’s outstanding wine list. Or, if beer is your thing, Squatters Outer Darkness, a Russian imperial stout, is big enough to hold its own with that chunky chili.
Chef Houman Gohary’s vindaloo sauce is one of my favorite things on the planet. I just can’t get enough of that good stuff! At his Good Karma (1782 Prospector Ave, 435.658.0958) restaurant, he utilizes the fiery, tangy sauce in his shrimp vindaloo salad. It’s a vibrant, colorful dish that deserves an equally unique and vibrant beverage pairing alongside, like the restaurant’s green curry mojito (didn’t see that one coming, did you?).
Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi (1251 Kearns Blvd, 435.655.0800) is rightly renowned for its seafood. But one of the crowd favorites at this venerable Park City eatery is the Yardbird. It’s a ridiculously tender and juicy sous vide airline chicken breast and thigh that is dredged in seasoned panko bread crumbs; crisped up in hot peanut oil; and served with Yukon gold mashed spuds, French green beans, and lemon-caper beurre blanc. Owner Penny Kinsey says, “I love it with Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale,” a session sour beer that comes from her home state of Delaware.
Dining at Bill White’s Wahso (577 Main St, 435.615.0300) is like being transported to Shanghai in the 1930s, except for the cuisine, that is, which is thoroughly modern and exquisite. A terrific Wahso dish anytime, but especially in winter, is the chicken hot pot. This is a poulet rouge hen with sweet soy shiitake, asparagus, fried sticky rice, and chicken dashi. You could enjoy a selection from Wahso’s list of artisan-handcrafted Japanese sake to sip alongside your chicken hot pot, but another excellent foil for the subtle flavors of the chicken is a slightly herbal, crisp, and refreshing white wine such as 2016 Loveblock sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.
I love a good legume, so, I’m thrilled that Handle (136 Heber Ave, 435.602.1155) restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine, Matt Nelson, thought out-of-the-box to create a vegan, gluten-free, freakin’ delicious dish for his winter menu of curried beluga lentils with socca bread, Romanesco, cauliflower, and harissa. Handle Beverage Director Sean Palmer suggests pairing the lentil dish with St. Urbans-Hof 2015 Riesling Mosel saying, “Third-generation winemaker Nik Weis has put St. Urbans-Hof on the map as one of the best wineries currently in the Mosel. Drawing on estate fruit and natural yeast, this wine is medium bodied with aromas of tangerine and hints of grapefruit, while it finishes with subtle notes of slate and lime-driven acidity. This wine is a perfect complement to the slight spice of the harissa and the lime presence in both the dish and the pairing.”
Tupelo (508 Main St, 435.615.7700) Chef/Owner Matt Harris is a stickler for seeking out the freshest high-quality ingredients (preferably local) that he can find and then using them creatively in his kitchen. A good example is the handpicked chokecherries from his farm in Midway, which he uses to make chokecherry-honey syrup. Says his wife, Maggie Alvarez, “The chokecherries have a bitter cherry flavor profile that immediately brings to mind one of our favorite cocktails—the manhattan!” Harris also sources some beautiful beef for his restaurant, an Angus-Wagyu cross that is 100 percent grass fed and raised in Idaho. So, Maggie and he recommend pairing Tupelo’s desert mountain ranch hanger steak frites with whiskey peppercorn sauce and the chokecherry manhattan that graces the Tupelo drink list this winter.
For many years I’ve loved the freestyle cuisine at Shabu (442 Main St, 435.645.7253), where brothers Kevin and Bob Valaika have been creating eye-popping and mouthwatering Asian fusion fare since 2004. Trained by celebrated Japanese chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa, Chef Bob Valaika has been on the cutting edge of Park City’s dining scene at Shabu with innovative dishes like his Samurai Scallops and Pork Cheek Confit. A favorite dish of mine and many Shabu regulars’ is the signature caramelized black cod with a sweet miso glaze, egg foo yung, and wok-seared veggies. I’d be tempted to drink the Spiced Pear Saketini with the cod, but an even better choice would be Divine Droplets Junmai Daiginjo 60 percent milled sake, with its clean, light finish complementing the subtle flavors of the black cod.