With the exception of the much loved – and since it closed, much missed – Spring Chicken Inn, Wanship, Utah was never much of a magnet for foodies. But that has changed in the past couple of years – since Wanship became home to the spectacular Blue Sky Ranch and The Lodge at Blue Sky – an Auberge Resorts Collection property – which is where you’ll find one of the best restaurants in the West: Yuta.
You’ll need a reservation to get past the gatekeeper at the entrance to Blue Sky Ranch, so don’t plan on simply “dropping in” to dine at Yuta restaurant, although it is open to the public as well as to Blue Sky guests. Where did the name – which is pronounced “Utah” – come from? According to the folks at Blue Sky, Yuta means “mountaintop” in the Ute language, which is precisely where Yuta restaurant is located – at the top of a long, winding road that delivers visitors to the eye-popping Blue Sky Ranch.
Take some time to explore The Lodge at Blue Sky before you dine at Yuta; there is plenty to take in – the decor and architecture blends cowboys, horses, and rusticity with sleek, contemporary design features. I recommend popping in to The Bar – Blue Sky’s watering hole – for a cocktail, beer or glass of wine prior to lunch or dinner. Or, nosh at The Bar on items like Cantina Olives, the Blue Sky Burger, PIzza Oaxaca, Local Artisan Cheeses, Charcuterie, Spanish Flatbreads, and more.
On the beverage list at The Bar, you’ll find a cocktail called The Horse Thief, about which there is an interesting backstory. The drink itself is a tasty blend of Casamigos Reposado Tequila, High West Campfire Whiskey, Green Chartreuse, Ginger Syrup, Lime juice and Blackberries. According to the folks at Blue Sky Ranch, “Blue Sky’s Owner Barb Phillips stole Gracie, a mistreated horse, from a neglectful ranch in 2013 so that she could get Gracie the care and medical attention that she so desperately needed. Once she was well, Barb took Gracie to her ranch to live in a nurturing, respectful environment which was the beginning of The Saving Gracie Foundation. A year later officers came to investigate the horse theft. When Barb was told that she could be taken to jail, she told the officer ‘You can put me in jail, but you aren’t taking that horse back to those people.’ Barb has since rescued 23 horses and 30 cows through her Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation to aid in the rescue of neglected, abused, and abandoned horses. To celebrate this fearless woman, Blue Sky has created a craft cocktail named The Horse Thief which will be sold at every Auberge Resort around the world, with proceeds going to the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation.”
Exploring the menu at Yuta, you’ll discover that Executive Chef Galen Zamarra – a James Beard Award-winning chef born in Switzerland and raised in California – favors regional cuisine based on local ingredients and artisanal products in his inspired dishes. That includes ingredients from the onsite Gracie’s Farm at Blue Sky Ranch. We are lucky to have Galen cooking here in Utah. He had worked with culinary luminaries like David Bouley and Alain Passard before opening his own award-winning NYC restaurant, Mas Farmhouse. He moved his family here in 2019 to open Yuta, took rapidly to the Utah lifestyle and landscape, and says that he loves living here.
My wife and I enjoyed a lunch on the Yuta Terrace recently, with gorgeous mountain views and an abundance of sunshine. Each meal at Yuta begins with a complimentary cast iron skillet of house-baked rolls which are absolutely addictive, especially when slathered with Yuta’s scrumptious herb butter. There’s wild rice baked into the rolls which lend them a nutty taste and a bit of crunch.
Summery lunchtime appetizers at Yuta include a chilled curry-coconut soup with marinated shrimp; lemon-dill cannellini bean dip with pita bread; and grilled watermelon and hearts of palm salad with yucca chips. We chose to share a delicious crab and avocado roll with minced red pepper and pickled ramps. Atop the crab and avocado roll our server poured fresh, bright tasting green gazpacho, redolent of cucumber and cilantro.
My wife selected the heirloom tomato salad for her lunch entree with a salmon fillet addition – steak or chicken can also be added to Yuta salads. Along with heirloom tomatoes on the plate were peach, avocado, pine nuts, and whipped feta cheese, drizzled with a lovely basil vinaigrette.
While enjoying our lunch on the Yuta Terrace we were impressed by the outstanding service and also by the attention to detail, including even the uniquely artful cutlery, which includes pricy knives – works of art, really – from New West Knifeworks for cutting up steak.
And that’s precisely what I ordered: steak. More specifically, an oh-so tender grass-fed Wasatch flank steak, sliced and served on a bed of yummy polenta and wilted spinach, with baby leek and zippy homemade dill mustard. Other lunchtime entrees include a black cod fish sandwich; plant burger; grilled tuna tabbouleh; Blue Sky burger; and naan with English pea hummus.
During a previous visit to Yuta for dinner, one of our favorite creations from Chef Zamarra was wood-grilled leeks with Dijon vinaigrette, housemade lamb bacon, hard-cooked egg, capers and microgreens. I’ve never loved leeks more.
Chef Zamarra also is uber-creative with seafood. To wit, we destroyed two sensational seafood dishes from a previous menu that included Hawaiian Ono L’occidental – ono with crispy fried shallots, citrus dressing and micro herb salad, plus a second wonderful seafood offering: a skewer of grilled swordfish with kohlrabi soubise and honey-lavender glaze. Truly remarkable cuisine.
Memorable meat entrees from Yuta included a grilled 16-ounce Wasatch Valley ribeye with Swiss chard, baby turnips and charred onion puree; braised beef short rib with potato puree, baby spinach, king trumpet mushrooms and cocoa nib sauce; and my favorite: sunchoke-crusted rack of lamb, served beautifully rare with artichoke and sunchoke puree, bulgar wheat, chopped almonds, apricots and scrumptious sage jus.
Whether you dine in warm weather on The Terrace, with dramatic views of Alexander Canyon, or inside in the stylish Yuta dining room at Blue Sky Ranch, you can count on experiencing inventive cuisine that is off-the-charts delicious in a splendid atmosphere with outstanding service. And, it’s all in Wanship. Who knew?
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.