It must be the grappa in these chicken wings, because they’re making my tastebuds simmer and scream for more. Deemed the “#1 Breaded Wing Dings,” I agree. Then the dining room manager, Blythe Wisniewski, tells me the #1 stands for “1 full pound.” I suppose it does look a little like more of a sharing plate (though I’m not sharing).
We’re sitting at Old Yellowstone Garage — better known as OYG — at Teton Village after a sunny day on the slopes. After a hiatus where all of us locals lived in desperation for a decade, Chef Paulie O’Connor brought his Italian-with-a-twist comfort food back to Caldera House in Teton Village with Chef De Cuisine Jeremy Williamson for the perfect pairing.
After I finish the giant dollop of the remaining Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Dressing from the wings, my taste buds keel over in a reunion with real poutine. The gravy stays put like butter on the tater tot rather than slipping into a soupy mess at the bottom of my bowl. And yes, I did say tater tot. The oversized chunks of local squeaky cheese curds from Reed’s Dairy transport me back to the best days of elementary school lunch. How can tater tots and gravy be this divine? Jeremy tells me it’s because they toss them still hot with the rest of the ingredients. “If you let the tots cool a little and then toss them, it wouldn’t be the same.”
Then comes the Father Guido Sarducci flatbread. It’s become increasingly clear we aren’t enjoying reheated frozen pub food here. This place cares about ingredients, and they reduce waste wherever possible down to the fruit in their cocktails. Which reminds me, bartender Jordan Schleicher has just delivered me their go-to cocktail, the Pîna & Tonic, a house-made infused pineapple mezcal with green chartreuse, fresh lime juice, and club soda. It’s precisely the version of a Pîna Colada you’d want on a ski hill — it comes head-freeze free without losing the light, floaty feeling of vacation in the tropics. As I head out on a quick trip to a tropical paradise, the flatbread arrives.
I get my first of taste of Esposito’s (yes, the NYC institution for sausage), spiced-prolone sausage, soft and assertive mixed wild mushrooms from Washington state, and house-made mascarpone topped with wild arugula. And the flour from Naples truly melts in my mouth, and I have a new love in my life.
So what’s their secret to this spread of comfort? “Simple and delicious,” Jeremy tells me with a laugh. “When you take three things that are delicious all on their own, there’s nothing to hide behind.”
And with that, I sit back and enjoy the last tidbits of tater tots to the sounds of Jordan shaking up cocktails amidst afternoon sun and shadows, dogs romping around in the snow outside, and layers getting stripped off as the tables fill up with today’s newfound friends.
Images ©: Lindley Rust