The Culinary Genius of St. Regis Deer Valley in Park City, Utah
My travel companions had no idea what a bundle of nerves I had become before heading west for a much-needed and truly invigorating culinary weekend at St. Regis Deer Valley. The holidays had made mincemeat of my brain, and on our short ride from Salt Lake City International Airport to Park City, they discussed their wellness regimes that included yoga, vegetarian diets, vitamin supplements and frequent juicing. While I have been known to make a smoothie every now and then, I was about to prescribe to a much different panacea: the culinary pampering of the St. Regis and the cuisine of renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Stepping into St. Regis Deer Valley feels like coming home - that is if you live on a 12-acre estate featuring 181 superbly appointed guest rooms. Upon checking in, I was introduced to my butler (take note, Mom) and whisked away to my suite where my worries disappeared.
Featuring Alder cabinets, granite slab countertops and professional-grade appliances by Wolf, SubZero, Bosch and Miele, the suite's kitchen was larger than my New York City apartment and could easily accommodate a dinner party for six, but I wasn't planning on cooking this weekend and quickly dropped off my luggage (or rather, my butler did) and dashed off to the bar for a light lunch.
A Bloody St. Regis Tradition
The St. Regis Bar is synonymous with a brand that currently encompasses 38 properties worldwide. Honoring tradition, it features a commissioned mural by Phillip Buller and is the focal point of the space, with spirits, glassware and bar accoutrements paying homage to the silver miners who first discovered Park City in the 1870’s. They could have dug all the way to China had they the good fortune of indulging in complimentary nibbles of rosemary-laced popcorn and spice-crusted almonds as well as afternoon fare that includes a grilled salmon salad with carrot-ginger dressing, assorted sandwiches featuring local produce and cheeses, and a Jean-Georges classic: black truffle and fontina cheese pizza.
But the true star of the bar is the 7452 Mary (a nod to the resort’s altitude). St. Regis hotels around the globe pay homage to the Bloody Mary, which has been a signature drink since its creation at St. Regis New York in 1934. Deer Valley’s version incorporates a locally-made vodka from High West Distillery, black sea salt rim, wasabi-celery foam and a whimsical vial of Worcestershire-spiked hot sauce. It packs a punch, but was just what I needed to stay warm as I explored the property.
My urban woes melted away amidst the adjacent Terrace Café and Ski Beach. The perfect locale for aprés ski with direct access from one of Deer Hollow’s runs, the grounds feature panoramic mountain views, tranquil two-tiered, year-round swimming pools bookended by hot tubs and a Garden of Fire that is sure to keep you warm if the cocktails don’t. My friends had dashed off for a couple hours of snowshoeing before dinner, but I knew a nap was more my style.
What is more glorious than returning to your hotel suite to find a hot chocolate buffet? I was tempted to bolt the door and take up residence like Miss Havisham in Dickens’s Great Expectations. Included in this over-the-top decadence was a pitcher of steamed milk, chocolate pastilles (dark, milk and white varieties), marshmallows, orange peel, star anise, and assorted liqueurs - just in case the 7,000+ foot elevation wasn’t making me loopy enough.
The next day’s culinary suite treat yielded a whimsical fruit plate of pear with ginger, honeydew garnished with passionfruit purée, watermelon sprinkled with rosemary, chipotle-spiked cantaloupe and mango garnished with star anise and vanilla bean.
And on my final afternoon, I returned from the slopes to find a split of champagne and Louvre-worthy chocolate pralines and cordials. Before I knew it I found myself stripped of my parka and long underwear and gloriously wrapped in a plush bathrobe, dancing to the emphatic musical interpretations of Cee Lo Green while the fireplace roared and the bathwater gurgled with lavender anticipation. But the night was just about to begin.
Unleashing Your Inner Saboteur
A multi-course dinner awaited in the St. Regis Wine Vault, a boutique private event space showcasing a global wine list of 1,000 different labels. But first there was beheading to be done - of champagne, that is.
Each afternoon on the terrace, guests can convene at 5pm to have their hand at sabering a bottle of champagne. I enthusiastically gloved up, grabbed the blunt sabre and was ready to whack off the top as if I was macheteing my way through the Amazon. But this is a delicate art. Just a gentle glide of the blade at a twenty degree angle and Mme. Clicquot, for which the practice came to fame among Napoleon’s officers, would be proud. Apparently I’m a natural, as the cork and lip of the bottle (otherwise known as the annulus, I kid you not) went flying.
J&G Grill’s Culinary Philosophy
Prior to dinner, I had a chance to chat about the philosophy of the J&G Grill with Chef de Cuisine Matt Harris. A recent transplant from Atlanta, Chef Matt sowed his culinary chops in some of his hometown’s most notable restaurants, including TROIS and Market, where his knowledge and skill first caught Jean-Georges’s eye. Matt has been a longtime proponent of the slow food movement and farm-to-table cooking, which is evident in the local sourcing of the seasonal menu.
Featured farmers include meats from Snake River Farms, Niman Ranch and Christiansen Family Farm and a surprising amount of local produce from the tenacious folks at High Star Farms. While staying true to the Jean-Georges aesthetic, Chef Matt interprets these raw ingredients in both classic as well as innovative ways, from Tai Snapper with a sweet and sour jus to parmesan crusted Poulet Rouge, as well as a selection of simply prepared grilled offerings.
Our multi-course dinner in the wine vault felt more like culinary snowmobiling than a lockdown, with a vibrant expression of winter fare. Guiding us along from a libation perspective was St. Regis Deer Valley’s newly appointed Food and Beverage Director, Mark Eberwein, whose sommelier background added an informative flair to the evening’s festivities. Guests can book the wine vault for a personalized seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings to create a truly unique St. Regis experience.
A Taste Worth Savoring
Beyond the impeccable attention to detail, both culinary and otherwise, there is something magical about St. Regis Deer Valley. Having just celebrated its first anniversary, the property is finding its groove within the community and unique programming to engage visitors throughout every season. As I spent my last few minutes in front of the grand two-sided stone fireplace, people-watching as I pretended to flip through a coffee table book, I thought, "people are happy here." Maybe it was the crisp mountain air or the ever-flowing hot chocolate, but I’m pretty sure it is the je ne sais quoi that John Jacob Astor IV created with the opening of the first St. Regis more than a century ago: classic sophistication, unique luxury, and the perfect morsel of refined elegance.