If you're not sure where Eden, Utah, is, it's time to find out. Eden is about an hour north of downtown Salt Lake City, and lies between the north and middle forks of the Ogden River, above Pineview Reservoir. The small town—population 600 in the 2010 census—is just minutes from superb skiing and shredding at Powder Mountain, one of the largest ski resorts in the United States, which spans more than 7,000 acres with views of four states.
But, skiing isn't what brought me to aptly named Eden. I'd been hearing a lot about North Fork Table & Tavern, which had opened in the location vacated when Harley and Buck's restaurant relocated to Ogden. I always liked Harley & Buck's, but something about the upscale ambiance, oversize chairs and such just didn't seem to mesh with the laid-back Eden/Powder Mountain vibe.
North Fork Table & Tavern does. For starters, walls have been removed—along with those elaborate chairs—and the entire place now has an open, bright and airy ambiance. Relax at the bar, and watch wood-fired pizzas and the like being prepared while you eat and drink. It's still upscale, but you won't feel out of place if you show up wearing ski pants and a parka.
The story behind North Fork Table & Tavern is fascinating, and I'll get to it. But first, I should mention that I was thrilled, after a dinner at NFT&T, to discover that a chef I admire was working there. His name is Jeff Sanich, a Utah native who ran the kitchen at Sundance's Foundry Grill. In addition to his executive chef duties at NFT&T, Sanich also oversees the food and beverages services at Powder Mountain.
One of the delights of dining at NFT&T is having the opportunity to socialize with terrific server, manager and "jack-of-all-trades" employee Ken Donegan. Previously a Harley & Buck's staffer, Donegan says laughingly, "I come with the building." "K-Bass"—his musician moniker when he's slappin' the bass—knows the NFT&T menu inside-out, and also has a formidable knowledge of the wines. The list is one that would serve many Salt Lake City restaurants well—a very balanced selection of great wines from the United States, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy and Argentina. We ordered a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($29) and settled in to peruse the menu, aided by informative and detailed suggestions from Donegan.
Do not, I repeat, do not overlook the stromboli ($8) on the appetizer menu. It's a beautiful thing, literally. Traditionally, strombolis are turnovers that are filled with cheeses, meats, veggies and so on, rolled, then baked. Chef Sanich's stromboli is unique in that he takes strips of dough and weaves them together, creating a lattice-like crisp crust for the fillings, which, in this case, included Creminelli meats, ricotta cheese and arugula. Alongside for dipping the stromboli pieces were two divine sauces: housemade marinara and arugula pesto. A stromboli and a brew would make for an excellent après-ski nosh, especially since NFT&T opens at 8 a.m., and doesn't close until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
Either as an appetizer or side dish, be sure to treat yourself to an order of Sanich's amazing Brussels sprouts ($7). They are crispy and coated in a "fish caramel" sauce, a luscious concoction that includes fish sauce, star anise, sugar, salt, shallots, jalapeño, black pepper, ginger, mirin and more. Sanich gives credit to a previous chef for the sauce recipe, but it's spectacular—whatever the origin.
I can't tell you how often I'm disappointed by Bolognese sauce in restaurants. Most are bastardized versions with way too much tomato, inferior meats and so on. Sanich offers up one of the best pasta Bolognese ($19) versions I've ever eaten. It's a generous dish of perfectly cooked, thick bucatini pasta bathed in a Bolognese that incorporates beef, pork, veal and pancetta, simmered long enough for the flavors to meld together, topped simply with fresh Parmesan.
The menu at North Fork Table & Tavern is nothing if not eclectic. Wood oven-fired pizzas share the menu with pan-seared Shetland salmon, wild-caught Pacific black cod, roasted organic chicken, Cobb salad, grilled New York strip steak and a vermicelli bowl with short rib, pickled daikon, cilantro, Marcona almonds and nuoc cham ($17). My wife loved her quinoa bowl with salmon ($22), a large, flaky salmon fillet atop a teeming portion of crunchy quinoa tossed with winter squash, nuts and grains, kale and French green beans.
But as great as every one of the aforementioned dishes was, the pizza at North Fork Table & Tavern takes the blue ribbon. It's artisan-style pizza that hits very high notes. The quattro formagi ($13)—with Parmesan, fresh mozzarella, cambozola and Beehive Promontory Agiano—is so good I'd have it once a week if NFT&T were closer to home.
The enterprise behind North Fork Table & Tavern—Summit—is interesting. It's made up of a collection of artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, nonprofit leaders and the like who believe that "business and collaboration are tools that should be used to [e]ffect positive impact in the world." In 2013, Summit purchased Powder Mountain and, according to its mission statement, "aims to rethink the great American mountain town through innovation, entrepreneurship, arts and altruism." If excellent food and service is also part of Summit's grand mission, North Fork Table & Tavern has it nailed.