Ode to Deer Valley and A Baking Magician

I know that baking is often perceived as alchemy and magic, but chef Letty Flatt, who is in charge of all baking at the Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah, really takes the cake. You have to be there to believe the wide variety and exquisiteness of the desserts she creates at altitudes as high as 8200 feet above sea level.At the Seafood Buffet, a little lower down but not much, there is a selection of about 20 different desserts and one can taste all of them as part of the buffet dinner—in fact there are those who do just that (I came close) My favorite—also Elliott’s--was the baklava batons. Another favorite, the Black Forest Crème Brûlée (see photo) is a magnificent plated dessert served only at the Mariposa restaurant at Silver Lake. My top favorite, which I can never resist (I returned for it twice) is the ice cream sandwich served at the Café at Silver Lake. I’m usually torn between that and the Frozen Lemon Meringue Pie. (By the way, they also serve the best crawfish bisque I’ve ever tasted anywhere including New Orleans and an astonishingly good Caesar salad—both of which required a revisit as well.) The ice cream sandwich consists of perfectly creamy vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two terrific chocolate chip cookies, cut into 4 wedges, and served with a little pot of hot fudge sauce for dipping (oh bliss). Happily the recipe is in Letty’s cookbook “Chocolate Snowball.” No wonder she recently was cited in Salt Lake Magazine's Dining Awards as Best Pastry Chef in Utah 2006! I used to think I had to go to Europe to eat well at a ski resort but not since we discovered Deer Valley. Now we just keep going back. Usually we stay on the mountain for dinner as the choices are so varied and excellent, but it’s well worth going into Park City—just about 15 minutes away-- to eat at Wahso—a wonderful Asian restaurant with equally appealing décor. In addition to the great food and staggering beauty of the mountains, we really enjoy the genuine friendliness of the people. Last year, when I wanted to try out snow-shoeing, one of the shop keepers loaned me not only a pair of snowshoes, but also his own gaiters to keep the snow out of my shoes, as none of the stores had them for sale. There was tons of snow and blue skies this year but I actually forewent a day of skiing for the pleasure of hiking with my friends Letty and Julie Wilson (the director of food and beverage at Deer Valley Resort) who led us up the Sun Peak Trail for an unforgettable experience. It was a rigorous one hour uphill climb on a narrow snowy trail surrounded by pines. I couldn’t chat much as I was too occupied with catching my breath, but it was well worth the effort because the summit gave us a panoramic view of the Canyons ski area that was absolutely breath-taking (in every sense!) Deer Valley was the dream creation of Stein Erikson—the great ski hero whose elegant style--rear end improbably extending at near right angles from one’s hopefully parallel skis--everyone tried to emulate when I started skiing back in 1961. He still skis every morning and word had it he skied with Dr. Ruth the week we were there. It was probably was more than a rumor as I spotted dear Dr. Ruth at Kennedy airport waiting for her baggage while we were waiting for ours. But by far the most serendipitous moment of the entire week was discovering at almost the very end of one of the rides up the mountain that the familiar looking person sitting next to me on the lift was the editor of Real Simple Magazine. Disguised as we were by our ski apparel it took that long to realize we recognized each other! I’ve seen her countless times on the Today Show and she’s been baking out of my books for years! Out of 1400 people on the lifts it seemed unimaginably improbably that we should be sitting on the same lift chair. Most delightful was that before I realized it was Elizabeth Mayhew I was charmed by her sweet friendly personality—just the same as she is when she appears on the Today Show. Before we skied off down the mountain Elizabeth invited me to appear on her new PBS show and I invited her to the press party for the launch of the new Gold Medal artisan style flour (more about this in June!). Life is good!