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The Epicurean Alchemists of Alta

12 Feb 2019
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This month your blogger had the wonderful opportunity to experience dining at its finest at Little Cottonwood’s only stand-alone restaurant, The Shallow Shaft. And what a restaurant it is, as both an institution unto itself and constant pursuer of culinary perfection. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Originally a ski repair shop, it has served up dishes in its current incarnation for 51 years and gets its name from the miner’s phrase for grabbing beer and grub and repairing for the evening in what they termed taking a “shallow shaft.” Now it’s a premier dining experience destination. You wouldn’t think a tiny independent would have such chops, but don’t be deceived, it was listed as “Best Wine List 2016” by Salt Lake Magazine and certainly delivered on the promise.

Your correspondent, along with Mrs. Canyon Blog, spent the evening hosted by assistant manager Jason Horn and wine coordinator Peri Ermidis. Peri captures their approach in the spirit of Bacchus, “We try to stock big name staples but introduce esoteric and off the beaten path grapes and wineries.”

Yet it’s the food that carries Shallow Shaft to the top of any dining experience. Anywhere. These people have a passion for fare that is unmatched in the canyon. We started with caviar (Russian osetra of course) on pillows of taro and potato matched with an Obsidian Ridge cab. This was followed by pan seared foie gras (never pâté) paired with a sweet Greek red wine by Mavrrodaphni that was simply brilliant. The sweetness cut through the fat and complemented the huckleberry garnish perfectly.

Next came house smoked trout cakes accompanied by a Donkey and Goat 2016 Barsotti Vine white wine - whose creators Peri described as a “wild bunch of cats mixing a great bunch of grapes” - that left the palate ready for the next course, sunchoke (from sunflowers) and cauliflower gratin with fontina cheese and a warm spinach and pistachio bacon salad. The evening was topped by a wagyu bavette on whipped potatoes and cipollinis with a perfect grenache.

It can honestly be said the meal was the most memorable experienced by this writer in many years. Not bad for an independent at the terminus of a dead-end highway in a tiny canyon at 8,500 feet. And they’re anything but pretentious. Assures Jason, “There’s a reason we call it casual fine dining,” so come as you are. They also provide pizza for takeout while you’re enjoying one of our premier homes. Visit them at https://www.shallowshaft.com/ and tell them Canyon Blog sent you. Thanks again fellas and see you soon.