Jackson Hole's Divine Dining

By Dina MishevWhen the winter snow begins to melt in Jackson, I have to find a new sport. Taking a broad view of exactly what constitutes a sport, I came up with eating.Wine Bar photo by David AgnelloJackson Hole is known for its extreme skiing — and, more recently its family-friendly slopes and luxury base-area lodging  — its proximity to Grand Teton National Park, its elk-antler-arched Town Square, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the National Elk Refuge. But food? Nothing, with the exception of tasty, tasty cows, grows in Jackson. Yet, I’m quick to argue that Jackson is a worthy destination for foodies. Jackson certainly doesn’t have the number of eateries a big city does, but those that we do have are, for lack of more refined words, totally freaking awesome.Since I’ve taken to my new activity as I do most things I enjoy — fast, furiously and, some would say, compulsively — I’ve eaten out more in the past few weeks than I did during the entire first half of the first decade of the third millennium following the birth of Christ.I’ve done Betty Rock’s Thursday all-you-can-eat pizza. My old buddy Kyle is the executive chef there and sends all sorts of amazing goodness atop my idea of a perfect crust — not too thin, but not bready — out of Betty Rock’s kitchen.Over at The Kitchen, which I think is currently the best restaurant in the valley, I found a favorite cocktail — a coconut ginger martini — and coffee-rubbed pork that melted in my mouth. (You can read more about The Kitchen in my column in the JHWeekly.)Most recently I took a little staycation out in Teton Village: a night at the green-doesn’t-equal-mean Hotel Terra and a full-on feast at Il Vilagio Osteria. Make that a Feast with a capital “F.” Osteria’s braised pork shank isn’t quite as visually arresting as the Tetons, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s not much smaller than the Grand Teton either. It had to have weighed several pounds. Thankfully it was just as good the next day as at Osteria.The pan-roasted skate I ordered — it was my venturesome dining companion that stepped up to challenge the pork shank — wasn’t at all what I expected. I had mainly ordered it because: 1) I had never before had skate and was somewhat curious; and 2) it came with lobster mashed potatoes. I’m not the biggest fan of lobster by itself, but put hunks of it in potatoes or macaroni and cheese and it’s as good as the nectar of life. And then I really ended up liking the skate. Photo by Liz GibbsHaving grown up on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, I’m more than familiar with skates. My brother and I would watch with equal parts terror and fascination as hundreds migrated into the bay every year. The water in front of my parents’ house would roil with whatever it is they do as part of their mating dance. I mistakenly thought a skate would be similar to calamari in texture and consistency. It’s not. It’s much more like fish, flaking off beneath my fork, which, of course, was already piled high with lobster mashed potatoes.The appetizer menu includes two kids of olives: woodstone fired olives and sausage stuffed (the sausage is house-made, naturally) fried olives on a small sea of spicy tomato sauce. Unable to easily pick a favorite between them, I ate way too many of both. Yum though. Big yum.Photo by Liz GibbsAnd then my favorite course: dessert. I’m not the biggest hot chocolate fan, but loved the interactive-ness of Osteria’s hot chocolate. It comes in three parts with a homemade ice cream sandwich cookie as a side. There’s vanilla infused warm milk, a hunk of chocolate ganache, and house-made whipped cream spotted with sprinkles. Drop the ganache into the milk, stir until it melts, pour it into your mug, and then top with the whipped cream.Being Italian, Osteria had tiramisu on the menu too. And it was yummy. Especially when washed down with hot chocolate. Something tells me that when it finally does snow, I’m going to have to do some serious skiing to make up for the ill-effects caused by all this eating. It’ll totally be worth it though.Read more about Jackson Hole’s food scene — and Osteria’s make-your-own hot chocolate —in the new bi-annual magazine Dishing. Better yet, come and try it out for yourself.A 14-year resident of Jackson, Dina Mishev is the author of Total Tetons, an app available in the iTunes store. She is also a host of the Wyoming PBS show Wyoming Chronicle and is always looking for interesting people to interview. Email her if you've got any suggestions.