Motoring along the country road that winds up to Homestead Resort and strolling its tree-lined paths, the place feels much more like New England or Napa than it does Utah. Victorian architecture, lush gardens and lawns, big old-growth trees, and the Homestead’s laidback vibe make this AAA Four-Diamond Resort a unique gem. So if you’re ever looking for an “out-of-state” getaway, a mere hour or so from Salt Lake City and Provo, this is the place.
I had been to Homestead Resort in Midway before, mostly to dine at Simon’s Restaurant there. But I’d never visited in the rush of all its spring or summer splendor. Now I get it. I understand why couples celebrate weddings and anniversaries at the Homestead, why families honor important birthdays there, and why folks drop by for a weeklong vacation or just a leisurely meal at one of the restaurants. It’s a wonderful summer escape.
Even so, I wasn’t quite ready for this question: “Would you like to do some scuba diving while you’re here?” I’ve never really thought of Midway as a haven for divers. But as it turns out, along with golf, horseback riding, fly-fishing, biking and winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, you can also scuba dive, swim, soak or snorkel in Homestead Resort’s 90 degree natural mineral-water spring! I, however, was at the Homestead to eat. So, no scuba for me.
Simon’s restaurant has come a long way since I wrote about it in 1997. Back then, the food was mostly continental, with an old-time feel'good, but not especially adventurous. Well, under the supervision of food and beverage director Don Heidel and assistant director Jonathan Ruppert, the menu at Simon’s has become a lot more interesting'maybe even exciting. Both Ruppert and Heidel are very experienced chefs in their own right, yet at Simon’s they’ve hired a husband-and-wife chef team from New York City'Eric and Lita May'to run the Simon’s kitchen. That’s a lot of talent, and the results are top-notch.
I’d already enjoyed the warm goat-cheese tart with baby arugula ($7) at a chef’s dinner recently, so to kick off a dinner at Simon’s recently, I chose steamed West Coast clams served in a light saffron broth ($9). It was an ideal way to begin a glistening summer evening out on the pretty patio at Simon’s, which sits next to a pond full of tropical fish, ducks, geese and ill-tempered swans. “The swans are pretty territorial,” said Ruppert. “They’ve chased most of the mallards away.” I couldn’t help but wonder what foie gras Ã la swan might taste like.
My dining companion and I were both bowled over by a second appetizer, large enough to share: Smoked Idaho trout cakes served with a basil-and-red-pepper aioli ($7). Anyone who likes smoked trout even a little will love this preparation a lot. There’s very little filler, just lots and lots of chunky house-smoked trout that takes to Chef May’s aioli like â€¦ well, like a trout takes to water. Following those divine appetizers, a duo of judiciously dressed salads'a baby spinach salad with walnuts, mushrooms and mustard vinaigrette ($5) and a nice, simple plate of mixed field greens with red-wine vinaigrette and grape tomatoes ($5)'allowed us to take a breather and nip into a bottle of Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc ($40). Table service by the way, provided by experienced pros like Holly Boutler and Angel Morales, is super at Simon’s.
I’ve often said that you can judge a chef’s competence by the way he roasts a chicken. If that’s true, then May gets high marks for competence. His roasted free-range chicken served with velvety shallot jus'thanks for not oversalting!'and mashed spuds ($19) is a simple and sensational pleasure. I’d have thought that May’s chicken might be the most popular dish at Simon’s, but it turns out to be his oven-poached halibut with leeks, carrots, fingerling potatoes and lemon herb broth ($28) that’s the ultimate Homestead crowd-pleaser. By the time I finished the meaty and delicious Colorado lamb chops with potato fricassee, natural lamb jus and roasted veggies (fennel, tomatoes, Calamata olives), my preoccupation with a song the pianist in the restaurant was playing had grown to disturbing proportions. For some reason, I just couldn’t remember which movie the song “Somewhere (A Place for Us)â€ came from. It was driving me nuts. I finally got it the next morning: West Side Story.
Leaving Simon’s so satiated and satisfied I couldn’t imagine sitting down to breakfast just a few hours hence. But, I’m a professional. And at Homestead’s Fanny’s Grill, there was another sunny deck to linger on and breakfast favorites like old-fashioned Irish oatmeal ($6.25), orange fritters ($4.25), omelets, pancakes, french toast and a corned-beef hash “hot pot” to be had, so why not? There’s a warning on the Fanny’s Grill menu about the Homestead cinnamon roll ($4.50): This one’s big, it says. No, Fanny’s cinnamon isn’t big any more than Elvis was big. This thing is a monster! It’s a bit larger in diameter than a regulation Frisbee, a couple of inches thick, and overflows the plate it’s served upon'the perfect carbo load before a round of golf or scuba diving. (Note: After eating, please wait for your food to digest fully before entering deep water.)
Yes it’s true: New England and Napa are nice. But not all that much nicer than Midway and Homestead Resort in the summer. It’s a special summer place: a place for us.