Overindulgence seems to be the norm for Thanksgiving weekend, in both eating and shopping. Gourmands are warned about the average 3- pound weight gain that results from non-stop eating on turkey day, and last-minute shoppers are led to the brink of hysteria by retailers who say they are only stocking their shelves to get them through the first week of December.
For those of us who have little control over either of our appetites to eat or shop, the end of Thanksgiving weekend comes as a welcome relief.Our relief was underscored on the last night of our long weekend by our experience at Chez Betty, a comfortable restaurant nestled on the first floor of the Copperbottom Inn in Park City.
With all the leftovers finished and mail order shopping completed, a little celebration was just what we needed to bolster our spirits for the upcoming "holidaze."
From the art deco logo intricately etched on the pumpkin at the entry way to the appetizing and engaging menu, care and craftsmanship are apparent throughout this well-appointed restaurant.
Nattily clad service with rust- colored shirts and color-coordinated ties tended to us with information about the clever menu and muted enthusiasm for our choices. As our meal progressed we were considerably more vocal.
The evening's special leek, potato and wild rice soup ($3.50) brought oohs and ahhs. The grilled egg plant salad ($5.50), smothered with lentils, dried tomatoes, roasted sweet peppers, adorned with just slightly bitter lettuces, dressed with a warm red wine vinaigrette and topped with a chunk of creamy Greek style cheese dotted with oregano, left us speechless. An earthier appetizer, polenta with venison sausage served with sauce piparade ($6.50) and a side of stewed greens and sweet peas, were bolder but just as complex. The piparade, a Basque specialty, consists of chopped onions and sweet red peppers sauteed in olive oil mixed with coarsely chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil. While not mixed in with the more traditional scrambled egg, it still had the robust qualities of its origins.
Other appetizers and salads include house-made gravlax cured with lemon thyme and black pepper, terrine of veal served with peach chutney and black currant vinaigrette, shrimp risotto stirred with butternut squash, Caesar salad with asiago cheese, warm spinach salad with spicy chicken livers, each priced from $3.50 to $7. Evening specials were roasted sea scallops and beef tartar.
Three of the eight entrees we sampled were just as finely crafted and presented as the appetizers. The rack of lamb ($22 and enough to split) was appropriately understated with just a hint of Pro-vencale seasonings. Petite flageolet beans, crunchy haricot verts and creamed parsnips added to the dish. Medallions of pork tenderloin ($15) with spicy sausage, sauced with mustard and a green tomato relish, and accompanied with cheese grits and stewed greens, livened up our palates. As difficult as it may have seemed the braised veal shank with vegetables with red wine and herbs ($15) was the best of our very good choices.
Other items on the seasonal menu include turkey breast scallopini, peppered elk steak with potato pancakes, beef tenderloin, sauteed calves livers and fresh Atlantic salmon.
Homemade sourdough bread and corn muffins come with the entrees. The flourless chocolate torte cheesecake and sliced wine-poached pear delicately arrayed atop a frangipani tarte (each $4) were just as flawless as the other dishes.
Chefs and owners Michael and Elizabeth Rapp are the perpetrators of this wonderful cuisine. Having worked at Riverhorse, Mari-posa, via Napa Valley, they represent the breed of young chefs striking out on their own (which includes growing much of their own produce on their Heber Valley spread), preparing affordable gourmet cuisine while setting high standards for local and Salt Lake competitors. And because of their efforts local diners have just a few more things for which to be thankful.
Rating: * * * * *
Chez Betty, 1637 Short Line Road, (located in the Cop-per-bottom Inn), Park City. 649-8181. Open for dinner Thursday through Monday; from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. Accepts most major credit cards and check with guarantee card. Reservations recommended. SF (smokefree).