PARK CITY, Utah, December 27, 2013 – Powder at the Waldorf Astoria Park City is a fine dining eating establishment that is comfortably laid back. The straight edge lines of modern design meld with Fibonacci curves in the wall mounted antler sculptures and globe lights creating a visually appealing space.
Cognac -toned leather seating and low lights say, “cozy up and unwind right here.”
Chef Clement Gelas sits at the helm and brings a most fitting offering to the snow-capped mountain resort: French Alp cuisine.
Born and raised in Boege France, it was during his time working at La Maison de Marc Veyrat that Gelas had a transformational experience that took him from his early roots of making jellies with his grandmother to a career as a world class chef.
Capitalizing on the growing awareness of local sourcing and artisan foodstuffs, Chef Gelas has embarked on a quest to find local ingredients once only available by import from Europe. Not satisfied with mere internet searches, phone calls and samples, Chef Gelas literally leaves no stone unturned when it comes to his passionate actualization of the farm to table concept. He goes there. He investigates. He immerses himself.
A pink salt mined locally in Utah garnishes everything from main entrees to the salted caramel served with the homemade butterscotch pudding and pound cake. When fresh lamb and beef know only the pastures of Utah, with better care and no feed lots, the results are evident in the flavor.
A hearty hunk of roasted Willis Ranch lamb shank served over a bed of polenta is just the kind of rib sticking entrée the Alps are famous for. It is served with Brussels sprouts and finished with a caraway sauce, another traditional flavor that Chef Gelas loves.
But how does a Frenchman feel about cheese made in Utah?
“Don’t get me started talking about cheese because I could talk forever,” says Chef Gelas as he describes a locally made cheese called Timpanogos Peak, a blue that is used in the Waldorf salad and on the chef’s cheese board. The cheese board is a worthy meal starter comprised of several varieties of cheeses, fruit compote, nuts, muesli bread from a local bakery, and local wildflower honey.
When you add the butcher block to the cheese board you get cornichons, whole grain mustard, and authentic charcuterie by Creminelli Fine Meats which is only as far away as Salt Lake City.
Fondue in America is most often a commercialized affair with multiple permutations of ingredients and presentations. This image belies its humble origins as a cottage food from the Alps that sustained dairy farmers through the long winter months. At Powder, fondue is taken back to its roots. Edam, gruyere, and gouda from local Rockhill creamery that boasts six Brown Swiss cows combine with locally produced apple cider from Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin. No kirsch or white wine is needed as the cider is the perfect complement to the cheeses.
As if the freshest local ingredients were not already enough, the fondue is served in a cast iron pot atop a heated rock that comes from nowhere else but Utah.
Utah is a landlocked state and a few items offered on the menu must be imported, such as seafood, but Chef Gelas is very careful in his sourcing. Gigantic scallops plucked from the deep sea are crisp and grilled but still translucent inside with a taste that is buttery and meltingly soft.
The sweetest of mussels with a subtle hint of brine are shipped from Prince Edward Island.
Trout is one seafood that Utah has in abundance. Steelhead from Koosharem defies all typical troutiness with a delicious almost salmon-like flavor. Chef Gelas can tell you about the streams in which the trout spend their lives, and how geothermal heat keeps the temperature steady year round.
It is served crispy skin up, paired with a lightly acidic sorrel sauce and a mushroom risotto croquette.
At Powder, roasted butternut squash bisque is not some varietal of the sickly sweetened winter squash dishes that Americans expect. It is silky smooth and with a kick from cayenne and nutmeg, topped with parmesan foam.
Sommelier Juan Horta supervises a collection of over 250 wines. At menu planning, he sits down with Chef Gelas and together they review flavor profiles and carefully select a wine that pairs with each dish. The collection contains wines hailing from the west coast to the east and is also internationally diverse.
For Chef Gelas, cooking is an exploratory science in which he experiences the local and native ingredients found right at his doorstep. Foraged mushrooms, herbs from his garden, and local artisan foods combine into some of the finest alpine cuisine to be found.
He serves it up unswayed by American perceptions of what French cooking ought to be to showcase the truth of what the cuisine of the Alps really is.
Wholesome fresh hearty meals with bold cuts of meat and delicate seafoods in beurre blanc offset by crostinis and truffled pommes frites. Local apples and honey, glorious gobs of melting cheeses and polentas, and pasta made by hand. The techniques are French, the dishes robust and the flavors exquisite.
This is food that will take you into the blizzard and back.
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