Sundance Film Festival brings new meaning to "dinner and a movie."
The Sundance Film Festival isn't all just about movies. Food plays a major supporting role. If you are a celebrity or movie star, you won't go hungry due to the many private parties, dinners and lounges waiting to indulge you with complimentary food and beverages.
For the rest of us, there are new local restaurants, a temporary "guerilla" restaurant, the Sundance Film Festival Café and other venues that offer taste experiences from high-end to low-budget, from exclusive to "everybody's welcome." And yes, you may be able to sight a few famous faces along the way.
Some high-end Park City restaurants are hosting private events, but many will be open to the public.
"They will still be busy, but they really want to encourage the local Utah community to come and dine," said Christa Graff, spokeswoman for the Park City Restaurant Association.
But to be sure you'll get a table, reservations are recommended.
If you're hoping to spot some Hollywood stars, the sushi restaurant, Yuki Arashi at 586 Main, might be the place to go. In past years, diners have included Christian Bale, Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Grey, the Cohen brothers, Renee Zellweger, Bradley Cooper, Chris Rock, Josh Brolin and Lisa Kudrow.
"Sushi is a trendy thing in Hollywood," observed the restaurant's owner, Soo Chyung, "During Sundance we open about 11 a.m and we're full until 1 a.m. We average about 700 people a day."
Chyung opened an Italian restaurant, Al Dente, last month in a prime location next to the main Sundance box office on the corner of Main Street and Swede Alley.
He said Al Dente is being leased for private events the first five days of the festival, then open to the public beginning Jan. 24. "In fact, we've already got a bunch of reservations," he said.
The Al Dente menu features Italian dishes such as Linguine alla Diavola and Duck Confit Ravioli, Lamb Scottadito and Veal Piccata. Pricing is typical "Park City" — entrees from $20 to $42.
Chyung also opened a Chinese restaurant, A Wok Away, last February at 1890 Bonanza Drive. "Since it's our first year of Sundance there, we're not sure what to expect," he said.
Other new Park City restaurants include Bistro at Canyons Resort, which serves kosher food, and The Farm, also at Canyons, which specializes in locally sourced ingredients.
Silver, the glittery Park City restaurant, will be closed opening weekend for private events, and then open to the public by reservation only, according to spokesperson Helena Goldglantz. Last year, stars such as Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Ryan Reynolds and Katie Holmes were spotted there.
High West Distillery will host a few private events, but will be open to the public at other times.
Chimayo, Grappa, Wahso, Ghidotti's and Windy Ridge Café in the Bill White Restaurant Group will all be open to the public. Chimayo, Grappa and Wahso will offer an $80 fixed-price menu of an appetizer, a soup or salad and entrée chosen from the menu.
But Park City isn't the only place for dinner and a movie.
"We get hit hard by Sundance — in a good way," said Ryan Lowder, owner of The Copper Onion and Plum Alley restaurants, both located next to the Broadway Theater, one of Sundance's Salt Lake City venues. He opened Plum Alley last month, and he expects it will also be packed. The casual restaurant specializes in small plates with Southeast Asian flavors, and was named after the street where Utah's Chinatown once existed.
Two years ago he and wife Colleen Lowder opened The Copper Onion the same week as the festival started.
"It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but we pulled it off, although it wasn't easy," he said. "Beginning on the 19th, we are booked out for the reservations that we take. There are always portions of the restaurant available to walk-ins, but we will probably have a wait beginning at 4 p.m. until 10 p.m."
A "guerilla" restaurant, The Mist Project, will be open from Jan. 19 to Feb. 19 at the former Metropolitan restaurant building, 173 W. Broadway. Guerilla restaurants are a trendy new breed of high-end eateries that exist for only a few weeks in a non-traditional location.
At the helm is Gavin Baker, former sous chef of London's The Fat Duck, one of the world's top-rated restaurants. Mist will offer 15 courses of Michelin-caliber cuisine for $150 (and an 18 percent gratuity added at the time of purchase). There are only 36 seats per night, and tickets must be purchased in advance at www.themistproject.com.
Mist is billed as "a multi-course, multi-sensory experience," that delves into the sophisticated cooking known as molecular gastronomy. Menu items include Crispy Pork Lollipop with Nitro "Dipping Dots" and Sunrise From My Plane Window, an "edible landscape" that is presented for the whole table to share. Local guest chefs who will take a turn in the kitchen are Ryan Lowder, Viet Pham of Forage, Colton Soelberg of Communal and Pizzeria 712, and Takashi Gibo of Takashi. Rebecca Millcan, Amano Chocolate's pastry chef and a competitor on Food Network Challenge, is overseeing the desserts.
Those whose tastes and budgets aren't in the $150-per-meal range can still capture some festival flavor at the Sundance Film Festival Café at the Beehive Tea Room, Jan. 20-28. Located at 12 W. Broadway, between the screening venues of Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and Broadway theaters, the Café offers a spot for filmmakers and festival-goers to relax or continue conversation after a film. Live music is offered each night from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on the NowSaltLake.com Festival Stage. There is no entrance fee. Hot chocolate, coffee, chai, sweets, English scones, sandwiches, salads and soups are sold on www.beehivetearoom.com.
In Ogden, restaurants near Peery's Egyptian Theater also see a boost in traffic.
"We love Sundance!" said Kym Buttschardt, co-owner of Rooster's and Union Grill on Historic 25th Street. "I am always proud when guests are blown away at the quality of our beautifully restored theater and the Historic 25th Street dining options."
She's noticed an increase in groups who take the commuter rail from Salt Lake City. "It is a unique trip to ride Frontrunner to Ogden, stroll on 25th Street and then head to the theater."
She said the servers are in tune with the film schedules to help guests get to their movies on time.
"We've had producers and directors come in, many times for a quick bite while their film is being shown, and then be at the theater to discuss the film."
So what ritzy events are all of us non-celebs missing out on?
Chefdance is a tradition that evolved around the Festival, where different "celebrity" chefs were brought in to cook each night for about 250 of the entertainment industry's movers, shakers and their friends at Harry O's on Park City's Main Street. Although Harry O's closed earlier this year, the tradition goes on. This year, the chefs are Chad White and Jeff Bonilla of Sea Rocket Bistro in San Diego; Javier Plascencia of Mision 19 and Caesar's Restaurant in Tijuana; Hung Huynh, Season 3 Winner of Bravo's "Top Chef"; Donatella Arpaia, judge on the Food Network's "Iron Chef" and Elio Scanu, owner of Zucca in South Ogden. Scanu earned a spot at Chefdance by winning the Nicholas Foods-sponsored Utah Chef Competition.
Another invitation-only spot will be Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet at the Sky Lodge. Bertolli (makers of frozen Italian-style soups and dinners) will have visiting "talent" ladle bowls of soup and post their ladles on the "Ladles of Love" wall. For every ladle posted, $1,000 will be donated to Feeding America. Besides getting warm with soup, the celebrity guests can indulge in luxury skincare treatments courtesy of Lumene skincare, participate in interactive fun provided by Tic Tac Mints and view this season's newest sunglass offerings furnished by Solstice Sunglass Boutique and Safilo USA.
Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.