- Escala Lodge
I devoted last week’s column to a roundup of inexpensive, mostly under-the-radar Park City eateries that I thought would appeal to Sundance Film Festival-goers—folks who might not be privy to a big Hollywood per diem or movie-mogul expense account. However, I intentionally left one of the best options out because I wanted to give this terrific resort restaurant more than just a cursory look.
Escala Provisions Company is the cornerstone restaurant of Park City’s Hyatt Escala Lodge, which is located at the base of Canyons Resort. It is not, however, operated by Canyons Resort. Escala Provisions Company (EPC) has been around for a year or so. But, recently, the restaurant got a facelift, a new chef and a new focus.
EPC is now a full-service restaurant and bar, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you head into the restaurant, there’s a small convenience kiosk to the left—Escala Provisions Company Market—were you can pick up grocery and snack items and such, should you wish to pack a lunch for the slopes or prepare a meal in your room at the Hyatt, all of which are equipped with modern kitchens.
As for the restaurant itself, it is gorgeous. There’s a long, rectangular fireplace that serves as the central focus of the interior, an open kitchen where you can watch cooks work their magic, a gleaming bar with leather bar chairs and granite counters, a large communal table with great kitchen views, and a spacious dining room featuring a contemporary look, a well-designed lighting scheme, blond leather chairs, granite tabletops, and lots of amber and cream colors. It looks like a restaurant that should be located on Park Avenue in New York City, and one that should cost a fortune to dine in. It’s not.
The restaurant is pretty, but there are plenty of pretty Park City restaurants. What grabbed my attention about EPC, though, were the prices. These are not standard Park City resort restaurant prices. There’s only one entree on the dinner menu priced over $30, and that’s an herb-grilled, all-natural Prime flat-iron steak that comes with roasted-garlic potatoes, citrus- scented asparagus and a wild-mushroom fricassee. In a town where $35 to $50 entrees are de rigueur, EPC’s prices are refreshingly fair.
Dinner service begins with a selection of rustic breads and whipped butter with cracked black pepper, served on a wood cutting board—a nice touch. We nibbled on bread while perusing the small, but effective, wine list. Although there are only 15 wines offered, they are well-selected, and I like the fact that all are available either by the glass or by the bottle. EPC also offers a signature house wine called Canvas, which is made by Michael Mondavi. So, we sipped one of our favorites: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc ($11 per glass/$38 per bottle) while we plotted our strategy. As we were doing so, Executive Chef Jesse McDannell made an appearance, greeting guests in the dining room.
Recently transplanted from Atlanta’s Grand Hyatt Buckhead, McDannell has wasted no time getting acquainted with local food producers. His menu is chock-full of locally sourced products, including local artisan cheeses and charcuterie, produce from Muir Copper Canyon Farms, lamb from Willis Lamb Ranch in Laketown, trout from the Provo River, local wild game, Pierre Bakery breads, locally brewed beers and more.
Well, how could we resist macaroni & cheese on a cold, snowy winter night? McDannell’s is unique. First, it’s not actually macaroni, but ditalini & cheese ($13)—small pasta tubes engulfed in a wonderfully browned blanket of smoked gouda, roasted chicken and pancetta, served in the iron baking pan it was cooked in and accompanied by toasted Pierre Bakery ciabatta sticks, attractively tied into a bundle. This is mac & cheese that makes an impression.
I should mention that portion sizes at EPC are very generous. Even while sharing dishes, we wound up with lots of leftovers. We could only make our way through about half of the ginormous baby iceberg salad ($12), which was four big wedges of crisp, crunchy iceberg lettuce tossed in a light lemon-Dijon vinaigrette, and adorned with sliced avocado, chunks of hard-boiled egg, diced tomato, minced chives and bits of Berkshire heritage bacon.
A “starter” of pan-seared day-boat scallops ($15) looked more like an entree: three large, perfectly cooked scallops (still slightly translucent in the center) served with a tangy, sweet & sour citrus aioli and pear & sour-cherry relish. It was lovely with Joel Gott’s (a part-time Park City resident) Sauvignon Blanc alongside.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the service at EPC, which was nothing short of superb. Although the restaurant has a classy look and feel, the overall ambiance is laid-back and casual, and the service, from the manager on down, strikes a perfect balance between professionalism and friendliness.
But back to the food. I couldn’t pass on the enormous Willis Ranch lamb shank (Willis is a Niman Ranch provider), which is slowly braised until ridiculously tender and served on a massive mound of parmesan-whipped spuds and perfectly al dente haricot verts with blood-orange gremolata, which was an interesting departure from the standard lemon ($28).
McDannell judiciously honors local Provo River trout ($26) by giving it one of the most delectable—both in eye and taste appeal—presentations I’ve seen. It’s pan-seared trout—blessedly not overcooked—atop a platform of Israeli couscous with crab, blood orange and sauteed baby spinach, cloaked in a lemon and chive nage. Wow.
Although stuffed to the gills, we still managed to force down (actually, it was our pleasure) McDannell’s cranberry- brioche bread pudding with maple cream and vanilla-bean anglaise ($8) before finally raising the white flag.
On the Escala Provisions Company menu it says, simply: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” Precisely. Although, I’d also add: “Fairly Priced. Enthusiastically Consumed!”
ESCALA PROVISIONS COMPANY
Hyatt Escala Lodge
3551 N. Escala Court, Park City