leave your inhibitions at the door
For some strange reason, Ann Arbor schools have a weeklong “mid-winter break” at the end of February in addition to a regular spring break. I didn’t have that growing up. In fact, I think my parents sent me to school anyway during spring break. Sure, you can say it’s how we Asians roll. But as a parent, I can see why extended breaks from school are a pain in the ass. Apparently society frowns upon locking them up in a closet all day, so you have to figure out some kind of child care arrangement if they are younger. If they are older, even with all kinds of electronics and a thousand cable channels, you’ll still hear “we’re bored.” As I write this, it’s spring break and the kids are home. And since I work from home, I get those “we’re bored” complaints in-person.
For this year’s “weirdly placed weeklong break,” we took the kids skiing out West for the first time. I’ve always loved skiing and I’m pretty damn good at it. Ok, I’m slightly better than average but what I lack in talent I make up with volumes of sheer stupid courage. We had a blast skiing in Keystone and Vail. Joining us on the trip were The Sicilian’s and The Bloodsucking Lawyers’ families.
The Ski Tip Lodge
The parents all snuck away for dinner at The Ski Tip Lodge. It’s an historic building at Keystone that is now the site for a bed and breakfast. It got a 28/30 Zagat rating and lots of positive reviews, so it definitely sounded encouraging. The service and wine list were excellent, the food – meh. I can’t really put my finger on why it didn’t wow me. The courses were thought out, executed well, and tasted fine. But while they had some interesting flavor combinations, in general it felt like I’ve had that meal many times before. I also don’t have this overwhelming urge to go back, which I would expect with a meal that’s over $125/person (including drinks). But it’s high-season and we were tourists, so they could charge whatever they wanted.
Here’s some of what we had:
Der Fondue Chessel
At night, the lodge at the top of the North Peak converts to a Bavarian-themed Fondue restaurant with live German music. We wanted to have one dinner together as a big group, and this sounded neat as you have to ride up the mountains in the ski gondola. Fun, right?
You have to arrive at the base of the mountain about 45 minutes early in order to get there on time. We set the reservation so that we would be riding up the gondola as the fireworks were going off. The timing was absolutely perfect – the fireworks were going off directly above us and were spectacular. What wasn’t spectacular was my inability take any good pictures of them…
The ride was pretty chilly going up and we were huddled together in blankets. It was really pretty cool going through the trees at night with minimal sound from the gondola. It was a great time to bond as a family. That is, until one of us unleashed a barrage of eyebrow melting farts in the gondola. The thing was airtight so there was no way of escaping the fury of those stinkbombs.
Ok, I admit it. It was me. But, damn, that chili at lunch really hit the spot.
ski lodge food
The lodge was barely recognizable at night. During the day, it’s packed with people hobbling around in their ski boots trying not to spill their food trays while searching for an open table. At night, with the snow coming down outside and the fire blazing, it was beautiful.
Here’s where dinner took a turn for the worse. Since it takes a full 45 minutes to get to the top of the mountain, you’re pretty much trapped into the meal – there’s no bailing out to go to another restaurant. None of us bothered to check the menu beforehand, so we didn’t realize it was a price fixe place – $70 per person, regardless of age. That’s pretty steep for kids that range from third through seventh grade who don’t eat a lot. You have to feed them foie gras and Russian caviar for it to approach $70.
Actually, calling it price fixe is a little inaccurate. That’s the MINIMUM you’ll pay as, with each course, there were several options for upgrades. For instance, with the cheese course, you could have the plain cheese or for a few dollars per person more your cheese will have bacon or mushrooms mixed in. For the second course, you could just settle for the chicken and pork, or you can spend extra for scallops, filet mignon, bison, elk, etc.
And the waiter worked it hard. He kept on “strongly recommending” that we go with the (fill-in the blank with the most expensive option here). When it came to ordering the desserts, he made sure to nudge a little closer to the kids’ end of the table to build up excitement for the pricey stuff. I thought for sure that we was going to try to sell us a Range Rover with extra floormats and the extended warranty.
Here’s where I have a question for you Germans out there. The first course with cheese and the dessert course with chocolate were what I expected. But for the main course, the meats were cooked on a little griddle. Any time we’ve had fondue, the meats were cooked in hot oil, including with my in-laws who hail from Northern Germany. Is this how they do it in Bavaria?
But here’s the biggest scam of them all – the customers do all the cooking!!! That $70 doesn’t get you lamb prepared sous vide with a cherry gastrique or a sea bass en papillote. It got you some sous chef slicing up raw food and throwing them on a platter.
fondue restaurants suck
Eh, whatcha gonna do? Besides actually reading the menu ahead of time, that is.