It’s difficult to imagine Park City’s elevated dining scene without Bill White. Since opening his flagship restaurant, Grappa, at the top of Main Street in 1992, he and his team at Bill White Enterprises have raised the bar and changed the game when it comes to dining in Park City. His current roster of outstanding restaurants includes the aforementioned Grappa, along with Chimayo, Windy Ridge Cafe & Bakery, Ghidotti’s, Sushi Blue, and Billy Blanco’s.
Bill White restaurants are known not only for superior cuisine and service, but for their unique – and often eye-popping – ambiance and decor. And that’s true of his newest venture as well: Pine Cone Ridge. Located in the space previously occupied by Wahso Asian Grill, Pine Cone Ridge looks like a million bucks, with gorgeous reclaimed wood tables, emerald green tufted booths, Brazilian hardwood flooring, and art – lots of art – covering the restaurant’s walls. According to Bill White, all of the pieces are examples of Americana coming from local galleries and Bill’s personal collection, each depicting local subject matter and/or painted by local artists. And so, dining at Pine Cone Ridge feels a lot like eating in a really classy art gallery with excellent food.
Head up the stairs to the second-story restaurant from Main Street and you’ll pass by Pine Cone Ridge’s gorgeous bar area on the way to check in for your reservation. Reserved for guests 21 and over, you can pop in for a drink and a full meal or take advantage of the 50-cent “Intent To Dine” spiced bar nuts. There’s also a special bar menu that includes a Pub Burger, Beef Tenderloin Tartine, Duck Queso, Broiled Oysters, Sticky Wings, and more.
Butterfly Blossom Cocktail
As you peruse the Pine Cone Ridge menu I recommend enjoying one of the craft cocktails from the bar. I’m particularly fond of the yummy Butterfly Blossom cocktail, made with Cerulea Gin from Holystone Distilling in Murray, Utah, along with raspberry simple syrup, lemon juice and ginger ale ($16).
Complimentary Crudites & Hummus
Dinner at Pine Cone Ridge begins with a complimentary crudites bowl and homemade hummus, a nice touch. Bread service is also offered, with housemade brioche Parker rolls, biscuits, seed bread, and artisan butters.
Although the Baked Brie ($22) appetizer with Park City Creamery Brie, strawberry-rhubarb jam, and sesame crackers comes highly recommended, we decided to kick off dinner with an order of Broiled Oysters ($20). These were plump, luscious West Coast oysters topped with Gruyere cheese, bacon lardons, silky béarnaise sauce, and chopped scallions.
Additional appetizing temptations include Crab Cakes “Louis” ($20), Beef Tenderloin “Crudo” ($22), Chicken Fried Mushrooms ($18), and a starter my wife and I really enjoyed: Spicy Clams ($20). This was a bowl of steamed Manila clams bathed in a vibrant, spicy ‘nduja and tomato broth, served with olive oil bread for soaking up that sensational sauce.
Crispy Baby Back Ribs
Pine Cone Ridge Chef Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen and her team have created a unique menu of what I would call elevated American comfort cuisine. A good example is her Chicken a la Queen ($42), which is roasted organic chicken with wild mushrooms and root veggies, buttermilk biscuit dumplings, and chicken velouté. One of the tastiest appetizers I’ve had in a while is Chef Thorne-Thomsen’s plate of delicious Crispy Baby Back Ribs ($19) – pork ribs with a crisp exterior served with homemade hushpuppies and honey-mustard BBQ sauce.
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
The Salad & Soup portion of the Pine Cone Ridge menu offers guests a House Salad ($14), Spinach and Blue Cheese Salad with bacon vinaigrette ($16), French Onion Soup with Comte cheese ($15), Romaine Wedge Salad ($16), and a Panzanella Salad ($17) that we particularly enjoyed. It was a shareable portion of ripe heirloom tomatoes with local burrata, cucumber, arugula, red onion, dill, torn toasted croutons and sherry vinaigrette.
As is the case at every Bill White restaurant, service at Pine Cone Ridge is superb and we loved our server, Sasha. We were equally thrilled to meet up again with longtime Bill White restaurant manager Lawrence Acedo, who in addition to knowing the culinary end of Bill White’s restaurants inside-out, is also as well-versed in wine as most sommeliers I’ve met. His recommendation of Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon from Australia to accompany our dinner was spot-on.
Miso Chilean Sea Bass
Fish and seafood entrees at Pine Cone Ridge include Seared Diver Scallops ($55) with caper tapenade, frisée and Marcona almond salad, roasted fingerling potatoes, and blood orange honey. My wife opted for a beautifully seared Miso Chilean Sea Bass ($65) with summer vegetable slaw, celeriac purée, and caramelized lemon. There are a couple of gluten-free, vegetarian entrees on the menu too: Roasted Wild Mushroom with warm farro salad, sugar snap peas and romesco sauce ($38); and Blackened Cauliflower Steak with buttermilk orzo salad, roasted heirloom tomato, feta, and spicy chimichurri.
Braised Lamb Shank
For meat lovers, entrees like Grilled Filet Mignon ($66), Bison New York Strip Steak ($58), and Crispy Duck Leg with potato pierogi ($46) will have plenty of appeal. But I absolutely loved my Braised Lamb Shank ($56), which was falling-off-the-bone tender braised lamb served with stone ground grits, pickled vegetables, red chile mole, and guajillo honey, sprinkled with white sesame seeds. I thought the south-of-the-border spin on a braised lamb shank – with guajillo pepper honey and mole – was a brilliant one.
Hot Cocoa & Beignets
For after dinner, there’s a good selection of post-dinner drinks and desserts like Sticky Whiskey Cake ($14), Chocolate & Peanut Tart ($14), Currant Mousseline ($14), and my absolute favorite: Hot Cocoa and Beignets ($15) – rich, steaming Parisian-style hot chocolate and scrumptious sourdough beignets dusted with powdered sugar. They were every bit as tasty as the legendary beignets I’ve had at Cafe du Monde.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really surprised at how wonderful our dinner at Pine Cone Ridge was. That’s because – as mentioned earlier – Bill White sets a very high bar for his dining establishments. There is so much attention to every detail, from the decor and the cuisine coming out of the kitchen to the WCs, lighting and dinnerware. Frankly, I’d expect nothing less from an overachiever like Bill White. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has on the drawing board next.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” – Thomas Keller