Shirin Spangenberg loves to travel, discover new restaurants, and hang out with good people—pretty much like thousands of visitors who arrive in Park City each season with food and fun in mind. Add the fact that she’s well versed in the town’s mining history, and her 2012 launch of Park City Food Tours (parkcityfoodtours.com, 435.640.1271) was pretty much a slam-dunk—truly an idea whose time had come. “The tours give restaurants an opportunity to put their best foot forward and connect with people on a one-to-one level,” she says. “Visitors and locals can get an inside look and experience restaurants they might otherwise miss, and it’s a chance to show off what else is happening around the local food scene.”
Indeed, if you’ve just arrived, you may not know that in addition to landing on the national culinary map (Bon Appétit magazine selected Park City for one of its national “Grub Crawls” in August 2014), the area is rich in food artisans—from award-winning cheesemakers, bread bakers, and condiment makers to craft brewers and a ski-in/ski-out distillery. And with well over 100 restaurants from Kimball Junction to Empire Pass, the question of where to dine can be daunting.
Winter tours take place around the après-ski hours, ahead of the dinner rush when chefs are usually too busy to step out of the kitchen and visit. Spangenberg leads groups of 4 to 12 (though she can handle more if the occasion calls for it) to four dining spots, usually within walking distance of one another. Each restaurant serves a taste-size portion of its signature dish along with its story. Guests can also purchase wines by the glass, specifically paired by the chef with the food served. And then Spangenberg gets the chefs to do something most are unaccustomed to: talking about themselves. “Many of the chefs are really shy—it’s not often that they speak to a crowd,” she says. “But most of the people who go on the tours are really interested not only in food, but in the industry as a whole. I found that people want to know as much about the chef’s background as they do about the food served.”
Rather than simply move from one restaurant to the next, tours are offered at a meandering pace with a couple of non-food stops along the way. Depending on the group, you might visit a chic boutique, a western shop with hand-tooled cowboy boots, or perhaps an art gallery. There’s also a pampering pause at a day spa for a professional hand massage and a chance to sample locally produced lotions and potions. In the summer, you might get a peek at a secret rooftop garden. As a bit of icing on the cake, she also offers some colorful Main Street history, drawing on her years as a docent at the Park City Museum.
The food tours are an especially fun group activity and are popular with book clubs, family reunions, and bachelorette parties. “I hosted a larger corporate group earlier this year and tailored their food tour with a scavenger hunt component that they absolutely loved,” Spangenberg says.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Park City Food Tours is a delectable experience that resonates long after the tour ends. And, if you’re up for more, it’s good to know that Spangenberg varies the experience several times a week, each time introducing visitors to a different set of restaurants. Give it a go. After all, man (and woman) cannot live on powder skiing alone.