Seeing as it has been 3 seasons and we have yet to sample the chow being thrown down by our good friend and fave chef Adam Findlay (former chef de cuisine at the dear, departed Globe Cafe in Salt Lake City), we were thrilled to be able to get reservations for Valentines' at the Viking Yurt.
For those not familiar with the concept, this is a unique dining experience offered at the Canyons, and while not inexpensive, it is worth every penny.
We arrived in plenty of time for the 6PM cutoff time (your dinner is prepaid, so if you miss the cutoff you are screwed) and had a couple of cocktails and some chips and good salsa at the one open bar/eatery within walking distance.
We assembled at the designated spot and received a quick, friendly lecture about the evening's proceedings along with release forms to sign.
Once everyone was legal, we took a brief walk over to the base of one of the chairlifts to an enormous sleigh hooked up to a Sno Cat (heavy equipment used to groom the skislopes).
The sleigh has 4 benches seating 8 people each, for a total of 32, the max that the venue will serve. After we were seatbelted in, the staff passed out large blankets (3 per bench) and we all bundled up for the 25-minute ride up the mountain.
The trip covers a rise of over 1000 ft, with a couple of steep faces and turns. Definitely fun, and beatifully breathtaking (or is it breathtakingly beautiful?) as we headed around one curve with a view of the base area far below us.
Eventually we arrived at the Viking Yurt, a round, tent-like structure in the middle of the woods. Everyone disembarked and we made the short walk to the entrance, and eventually made it inside. It takes a few minutes as everyone was shedding layers of winterware before entering the dining area proper.
Very rustic and decidedly Norwegian. the furnishings were lovely. We surprised Adam with a quick hug and hello and found our way to our assigned 6-top. We were blessed with a couple of lovely couples who made for fine tablemates. Diverse and interesting, they kept the evening enjoyable as we bounced around topic to topic and worked our way through the fabulous menu.
One of the staff members assisting on the trip up is the pianist...they have a small baby grand piano there. Along with his and hers Viking hats if anyone insists on singing. Naturally I agreed to don the horned helmet when the pianist took a break and I sat down at the keyboard to play a ballad for my honey and the rest of the guests.
We were thrilled to find that dinner totally lived up to expectations after so long. Whereas the Globe's other Adam (the ever-amazing Kreisel, currently executive chef for NBC's private dining room at the Winter Games in Torino...WOW!) has a very brash, inyourface style, Findlay is much more sly and subtle and his style was very evident in each of the dishes. The menu is fixed, changing monthly. With any luck we'll be able to afford a visit in March as well...it's that good, and that much fun. Plus getting a free round of Aquavits from the chef doesn't hurt!
Here's what we enjoyed (descriptions lifted from the site, with my comments):
Soup- Telemark style broth, wild mushroom and artichoke. Champagne poached quail egg
Fabulous. The rich broth was made with chicken, pheasant and duck, with a mix of several wild shrooms, some of which I had never heard of, all of which we enjoyed. The artichoke and quail egg added lovely contrasts in both taste and texture.
Salad-Panzanella salad, shaved red onion, tomato, aged balsamic
Fabulous. Lovely greens, studded with chunks of bread that were dense and chewy/crunchy/garlicky. Shards of Reggiano completed the dish.
Intermezzo- a sorbet palate cleanser
That night's was a granny apple/fennel that was, surprise, Fabulous.
Entrée-Pan Seared Venison Loin, fingerling potato, black mission fig, sugar snap peas, sauce Grand-Veneur
Mmmmm. Fabulous. Cooked a lovely ruby rare, the sauce was rich with deer stock and red wine. The combination of potato, fig and snap peas is Classic Findlay...understated genius.
Cheese course- a selection of cheese and fruit served on an aspen slab
Fabulous, except for the inclusion of available-at-Albertson's boursin. The evening's only false note. By this time the 2 additional rounds of Aquavit and a pair of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ales left me unable to store the names of the various cheeses...but I know I liked them.
Dessert-Toasted banana bread, bittersweet chocolate ice milk, spiced caramel
OMGFABULOUS! Another Classic Findlay treatment. The banana bread was rich, dense with a nice toasty crunch around the edges. While the lovely Denise initially recoiled at the thought of ice milk, leave it to Adam F to know that ice cream would have been too rich for the ending of such a meal. Nice and chocolatey, the ice milk blended in perfectly, accented by the spiced caramel (prepared with a touch of cayenne, which suspiciously reminded us of the Cayenne Chocolate Truffles my missus prepared for the Globe crew one End Of Year Holiday Season a few years back).
I don't think you'll find an experience quite like this anywhere else in the world. There may be other yurts or the like, but they don't have Adam Findlay cooking there. This is a chef not to be missed, whether you are an adventure seeker or not (he cooks at a flyfishing camp in Alaska during the summers).
Donations gladly accepted so I can post a review of the March menu...