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Dining At The Parks: National Park Restaurants Striving To Raise the Culinary Bar


The Metate Room at Mesa Verde National Park has a strong reputation for pleasing tastes. ARAMARK Parks and Destinations photo.

From time to time, we try to point out the improving culinary landscapes in the national parks. In recent months we've been highlighting recipes from park lodges, featuring some of the chefs, and on occasion touching on the "slow food" approach that is being welcomed in some park kitchens.

No doubt, many lodge restaurants can't completely embrace "slow food" concepts simply because they have too many mouths to feed in too short a time. But progress is being made.

ARAMARK Parks and Destinations is trying to lure the foodie crowd with some special menus at three parks that it operates in. Here's a look at those offerings:

Mesa Verde National Park

For foodies looking to explore the best of the southwest, Mesa Verde’s critically acclaimed Metate Room may be just the place to indulge in southwestern cuisine while taking in the panoramic views of the park. Executive Chef Brian Puett was recently honored by the American Culinary Federation with the 2010 Culinary Excellence Award and is known for featuring contemporary interpretations of heritage foods from the original Mesa Verde inhabitants.

For guests looking for an intimate foodie experience, Mesa Verde’s Verde Vintner Dinners* include an overnight stay for two at the Far View Lodge, a three-course gourmet dinner with paired wines, wine tasting with local vintner from Guy Drew Vineyards, and an opportunity to meet the chef. Guests will also receive breakfast for two and a Colorado recipe book. Starting at $299 plus tax for the lodging and dinner package and $149 plus tax for dinner only, the Verde Vintner dinners are offered on May 21, July 9 and 23, and August 13 and 27, 2010. Guests must book by May 14 by visiting the website or calling 866-292-8295. Promo code: VVD2010.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah’s Skyland Resort turns a regular meal into a culinary experience with their own Vintner Dinners, an elegant four-course meal that includes select wine pairings from a featured Virginia Winery and insight from a local vintner. For a more hands-on learning experience, guests will enjoy the Executive Chef & Guest Chef Dinners’, which are a new twist on Shenandoah’s popular ‘Shenandoah Seasoning’s’ culinary workshops. Executive Chef Peter Bizon and guest chefs will lead participants through a delectable four-course menu of mouth-watering items paired with wines.

Priced at $295 for doubles, both dinner packages include Friday night lodging, dinner for two, etched wine glasses and a Shenandoah Seasonings recipe book. The Vintner dinners are available for booking May 14, June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10 and November 12 at Skyland Resort. Guests can book the Executive Chef dinners April 23, May 28, June 25, July 23, August 27, September 24 and November 26 at Skyland Resort.

When the trails are damp, consider taking the Rainy Day Cook Demo, featuring Executive Chef Peter Bizon as he prepares one of Shenandoah’s famous regional dishes. Guests can enjoy samples and take home the recipe at the conclusion of the demo. For dates, visit the website or call 800-778-2872.

Olympic National Park

Lake Quinault Lodge in Washington’s Olympic National Forest is the home of some of the most unique culinary wonders in the Pacific Northwest. From May 21-22, the lodge’s Executive Chef Patrick Norris will host its popular Quinault Quintessentials*, a culinary weekend event featuring local flavors and wineries. Weekend lodging packages start at $499. For more information, visit the website or call 866-297-7367.


Was just at Shenandoah's Skyland two weeks ago. Just had the standard menu dinners and the food was excellent!

I'm glad to see Mesa Verde mentioned. Of course, I was born and raised in Colorado, so I'm biased. But I like the direction that parks are taking.

So glad to see that they are pairing up some of the best scenic beauty with tasty top quality's only natural!

NOT SO FAST! you can put a pink silk dress on a pig and its still a pig! Most of our Parks cuisine is swill for the masses at classes pricing. And dont use that logistics crap with me when one can dine in Hawaii where 94% of their food is imported, where St Mary Lodge has excellent food, where Flagg Ranch ranks up there with some San Francisco spots, where the Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel in the middle of nowhere Winslow AZ continues to set and raise the bar for excellent food and service. The problem is with the NPS granting concessionaires license to operate the food service. Keep that portion of their contract OUT and put to bid the food service operations. The new vendor at Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley and Muir Woods is a family run business out of Santa Fe, NM raising the bar the minute they took over. Aramark is a linen company, Delaware North started at Eastern race tracks (gimme a break. good food at the races? Not) , Xaneterra should be put to sleep ever so gently since they run under the guise of being the new Fred Harvey, Not!, Forever Resorts is a pyramid cosmetic scam run out of AirheadZona with deplorable food at the North Rim Grand Canyon. End of rant.

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