For food writers in Utah, the winter season kicks off with the winter menu tasting presented by Deer Valley. For last week's event, four of us carpooled up the snowy road to the resort; Bob King and Virginia Rainey reminisced about the sixteen years they've been making the seasonal trek.

I'm a newbie; I've only attended the event 3 or 4 times.

So maybe I'm still easily impressed. High ceilings, warm wood, a fire blazing in the fireplace with a leg of lamb twirling slowly in front of the flames, it's a fantasy winter dining scene that we walk into.

Like other ambitious restaurants, Deer Valley is doing more and more of its own charcuterie and the lavish hors d'oeuvres spread included several kinds of saucisson and cheese as well as rolled stuffed quail, house-cured bratwurst with homemade sauerkraut and Niman Ranch sliders with caramelized onions.

Plus there was a seafood spread of chilled Little Snookum oysters with green apple and sherry mignonette and grilled oysters with yuzu mignonette, gorgeously displayed on slabs of rock salt.

(Also like its upscale dining peers, Deer Valley is concentrating on organic and sustainable ingredients, and buying as much locally as possible. So why Niman Ranch and Snookums? Because it's harder for large operations to source locally, oysters, of course, are out of the question, like all seafood, so when you've decided on that theme, you can forget local. But local organic suppliers often don't produce large enough quantities for big restaurant groups.)

Dinner is served in the kitchen, with courses coming from the menus of Deer Valley's several dining rooms: a lovely sea scallop ceviche with cilantro emulsion from Mariposa;

spearfish "papillote" (in pastry) with umi panna cotta and brilliant lotus root confetti (to me, the elements on this plate needed a stronger liaison between the firm fish and the gooey custard.) It's a new addition to DV's cruise ship-worthy Seafood Buffet.

Mole pork tenderloin, from Royal Street, was a personal fave, but I'm a sucker for mole,”the pink pork slices were lapped with a deep mole negro with a tart tomatillo sauce balancing it.

Then came the piece de resistance, that Niman Ranch leg of lamb we'd seen spattering by the fireplace. Rosy slices were fanned out family-style in a black iron skillet around a mash of Copper Moose Farm baby carrots, turnips and celeriac, with whole roasted white baby carrots. Fireside Dining, with its near-weird medieval lavishness, guests roaming from fireplace to fireplace, each featuring a different course, is the most original Deer Valley dining option, unlike anything else in Utah. This was my favorite dish of the evening. But lamb is always my favorite dish.

Finally, the inevitable beef, from the Mariposa menu, a beautifully executed plate of medium rare beef tenderloin, bacon, mushrooms and onions. Pastry chef Letty Flatt (whose revised cookbook will be out in paperback in a matter of days) presented roast pears stuffed with local Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery timid blue cheese (remember I told you about this cheese last week?) sided with pine nut baklava and drizzled with ice wine syrup, served at Seafood Buffet.

and a twist on the now-tired molten chocolate  cake made with Amano Jembrana Milk Chocolate, with its anise overtones and spicy perfume (served at Mariposa.)

Ice milk made  with Underground, the Ogden-distilled herbal spirit

that also has tones of spice and licorice, balanced the warm cake, which I didn't take a picture of with its liquid chocolate flowing out of the center, in case your kids are reading this.

But besides the quality of the food and the generosity of the spread, both of which are amazing, what always strikes me about this occasion is the Deer Valley food team itself. Julie Wilson, the chefs, the marketing folks and managers, have all been working together for many, many years, a newcomer, Emily Summers, has "only been there 12 years." I think this is key to Deer Valley's big success, and its secured reputation for the best dining at an American ski resort. Great meals come from true hospitality. The Deer Valley staff is like a family,a dysfunctional family, they are all quick to quip, and like a family they welcome us into their home on this occasion.