We went up to Sundance Resort for part of the holiday weekend, where the sun was totally sitting this one out. In fact, the Wasatch was doing a pretty close impersonation of the Great Smoky Mountains, complete with dripping trees and fog-topped peaks.

Still, Sundance is pretty special whatever the weather. Here's why you should get up there, rain or shine...

We have a lot of new luxury resorts - giant fortresses with flatscreen Tvs in the bathrooms and butlers on every floor - but none offer the simple luxury that Sundance maintains: a feeling of being part of the spectacular mountain scenery.

It's pure luxury to leave your cabin and walk down a trail to the main complex for dinner, through the woods, over the rushing river, on a path that's just asphalted over. It's luxury to have to watch your step. It's luxury that the wooden and log buildings are low, with seamed metal roofs, so they aren't prominent but remain discreetly tucked into the trees.

And dinner in the Tree Room is the same kind of luxury - not ostentatious, not glitzy, just excellent ingredients, simply cooked, so clear flavors sparkle on the palate.

I was not thrilled with my last visit to the Tree Room - it seemed tired, lackluster and lazy. But this visit, one bite of my quivery seared sea scallops, their sweetness offset by spicy crumbles of housemade chorizo, roasted corn kernels and a fragrant cumin vinaigrette, told me that the kitchen had come out of its coma.

Sure enough, it turns out that executive chef Mark Shoup had been in a hands-off position for awhile. Now he's back at the stove, and it shows. Morgan lamb loin chops (above) were jewels of ruby meat on long polished rib bones; instead of the usual starch, they came with crunchy grains of cooked farro. Roasted asparagus gave us some green, and an artichoke vinaigrette replaced the usual port or balsamic reduction or syrupy sauce.

The sous chef created the unusual curried banana apple soup of the day (Chef had been at Zoom in Park City, dealing with the chimney fire) which sounds unlikely, but came out more savory than sweet, and addictively aromatic.


The pepper steak, which has been on the menu forever, was likewise lightened. Yes, there were mashed potatoes, but wilted spinach and a chutney rescued this plate from the ranks of regular meat and potatoes. One of the Sundance wines, the DeLoach Russian River pinot noir, was great with both dishes.

Inventive and refreshing dessert - a chocolate-coated log of strawberry semifreddo wiht dried strawberries and, well, here was that port wine reduction! The satiny chocolate and caramel ice cream milkshake nearly did us in - the meal's equivalent of the wafer thin mint, if you know what I mean...

We never should have drunk the whole thing. But again - that counterintuitive luxury: the refreshing walk back to the cabin gave us time not just to contemplate but to digest our dinner.