Don’t mention The Dead. The Grateful
Dead. Don’t mention them at Chez
Betty. Really. Just don’t.
Tom Bell, restaurant partner and brother
of Chez Betty co-owner/chef Jerry Garcia
says, “He’s been known to simply turn
around and walk away from tables when
the subject comes up.” He’s been saddled by
the name all of his life and he’s heard all of
the jokes. So, really: Don’t mention the other
Jerry Garcia. It’s about the only time that
the otherwise affable and outgoing (not to
mention very talented) chef gets riled.
Naturally, the first thing I did when I
visited Chez Betty during the Park City
Food & Wine Classic was to ask Garcia
about the Grateful Dead. He didn’t hit me.
But, I can tell you this: He’d much rather
talk about his love of motorcycle racing (he
and Tom are serious racers) or his love of
cooking … or just about anything else.
Park City’s Chez Betty restaurant is now
in its 16th year. Bell and Garcia have operated
it since 1996, after taking it over from
the previous owners, Michael and Barbara
Rapp. Over the years, I’ve seen Chez Betty
grow and mature. It was one of Utah’s first
restaurants to showcase fusion cooking
and pan-Asian flavors in combination with
the rustic, mountain cuisine befitting a ski
town. Last week, I dropped in for a Chez
Betty wine dinner featuring wines from
Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest.
The evening kicked off with passed hors
d’oeuvres and Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc
de Blancs bubbly, poured by the longtime
Chez Betty barman/server known as Robo.
In Robo’s good hands, the party was off to
a festive start; Ste. Michelle’s tasty bubbles
didn’t hurt, either.
Sipping the sparkler, I got a chance
to chat about the restaurant with Bell,
who said they’d had a tough time this
past winter. Just when things were looking
good financially after all these years,
the recession hit and affected many Park
City restaurants. So, Tom and his crew
are hoping that this summer their locals
will come through. After all, it’s Park City
locals, primarily, who have been most loyal
to Chez Betty over the years. Many people
think of Chez Betty as a “destination” restaurant,
but locals know better. The prices
at Chez Betty are lower than at many of the
town’s higher-end eateries, the restaurant
itself is warm and comfy, and the seasoned
staffers know most of their repeat customers
by name. Plus, there’s free and
easy parking at Chez Betty, which is
located in the Copper Bottom Inn.
A rich soup made with Utah apricots,
curried yogurt and Riesling paired
well with 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry
Riesling, and was followed by Honduranstyle
ceviche: yellow-fin tuna with coconut
and green chiles, which worked surprisingly
well with 2006 Columbia Crest
Grand Estates Chardonnay, an elegant
and refined, feminine Chardonnay with
a good balance of oak and fruit. I think
the Chardonnay would also be a knockout
with Chez Betty’s sautéed turkey scaloppini
with rock shrimp and chive risotto.
Moving on to zippy, hoisin-barbecue
sauce-topped salmon with Pearl sake-lemongrass
broth, I couldn’t get quite enough
of the Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private
Reserve Meritage, served alongside. It’s a
classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Bordeaux with salmon? Well, yes. It made
sense with the smoky and spicy sauce—a
clever and unexpected pairing.
When asked about creativity in the Chez
Betty kitchen and how he creates dishes
like spring pea and green curry risotto or
“Low Country-style” shrimp & grits, Garcia
is quick to share praise. He gives sous chef
Brent Whitford credit for conceptualizing
and creating many of the dishes on the Chez
Betty menu and also makes sure to give
props to his pastry chef, Amy Taylor. Chef
Garcia strikes me as a generous, appreciative,
soft-spoken, gentleman chef—the
anti-Gordon Ramsay, if you will. It’s a good
thing, since the Chez Betty kitchen is small,
and a screaming chef would be easily heard
throughout the cozy dining room.
Throughout the evening, Joel Butler,
master of wine and director of education for
Ste. Michelle, deftly fielded wine inquiries
from the mundane to the highly geeky, all
with expertise and good humor. By the time
we knifed into tender, medium-rare, panroasted
slices of Kurabuta pork tenderloin
with huckleberry-balsamic sauce, my tastebuds
were getting fatigued, frankly. But
the delicious pork reawakened my enthusiasm
and the accompanying Chateau Ste.
Michelle Ethos Syrah hit all the right notes.
With such a bounty of great food and
wine, served up with big doses of friendly
professionalism, I could barely put a
dent in pastry chef Taylor’s vanilla brioche
bread pudding with brown sugar peaches,
candied pecans and Mascarpone ice
cream. But, reminding myself that this is
my job, I forged ahead, right through the
Ste. Michelle Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
and that outstanding bread pudding. And,
I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Maybe that’s a good word to help
describe Chez Betty: heartbeat. This is a
restaurant with a heartbeat. There is heart
and soul here, seasoned over the past 16
years. It’s both a place of comfort (I think
you’ll always be able to count on finding the uber-popular New Zealand rack of lamb on
the menu) combined with creativity. At its
heart, though, there is a toasty warmth that
permeates Chez Betty. I have little doubt
that warmth will always be there for the
taking. Just don’t mention The Dead.
1637 Short Line Drive (Copper Bottom Inn)