Hearth and Hill’s annual Astronomy Dinner aims to bring ‘something fresh’ to ‘eating in a field’.
Last year, Jordan Harvey hatched an idea for an outdoor astronomy dinner “for selfish reasons,” he said. “I was curious about telescopes.”
So Harvey, executive chef at Park City’s Hill’s Kitchen, contacted astronomer Paul Ricketts, the director of the South Physics Observatory at the University of Utah.
“I just randomly reached out and said, ‘I have an idea for a dinner. Is that something you guys would do yourself?'” Harvey said. “And he was totally on board with it.”
Last year’s Astronomy Dinner was so successful that Harvey is doing it again this year, Friday, August 5, on the grounds of the Avalanche Ranch in Oakley. The property has an on-site yurt that will become a kitchen for the night, where Harvey will prepare ingredients sourced from Ranui Gardens, one of Utah’s first organic farms, in nearby Dog Hollow.
“There’s a big tree and it casts a nice shade, so we don’t want to bake out in a field and wait for the sun to go down,” Harvey said. “Then we’ll have this amazing meal and turn into this interactive experience, a laser-guided tour of our place in the Milky Way in the universe. Then we’ll have a couple of big telescopes.”
At last year’s dinner, Harvey said, “we saw Jupiter and five of its moons, and we had a very clear view of Saturn and its rings and the Oort cloud.”
In the yurt, Harvey will cook with only Bunsen burners, Dutch ovens and a fire pit. The meal will be served family-style with a menu that includes roast bread, cheese straws, summer greens and stone fruit, farmer’s cheese, fennel and herb-stuffed trout, stuffed peppers and roasted summer vegetables with za’atar seasoning and labneh.
Harvey will also be doing some down-to-earth entrees, including fire-roasted bison ribs to evoke a summer cookout experience, but with an upscale twist. The desserts, Harvey said, are definitely celestially inspired, including one based on astronaut ice cream.
“We’re making a liquid nitrogen ice that has this cool and dramatic effect that you would imagine if a spaceship would open a door, you know, the cold smoke coming out of it,” Harvey said. “Our pastry chef, Jesse Ray, is bringing out a whole ice cream buffet with toppings like Saturn ring dust and cosmic debris, black hole donuts and all kinds of fun space-themed things to go and round it out before we go for a sky tour .”
When guests arrive, they can sip space-themed cocktails — Harvey said he still makes them — and try appetizers like cauliflower grits with preserved lemon, pastrami-burnt pie and ratatouille dolmas while listening to indie rock duo Zallie.
Harvey noted that these days outdoor farmhouse dinners can feel stale and done to death.
“It just feels like a chore to do, rather than something fresh and new and fun,” he said. “So we were looking for something else that felt a little more rounded as an experience, rather than just eating in a field.”
After last year’s dinner, he said, he was contacted by several people who were disappointed to have missed it.
“Because space is fascinating,” Harvey said. “There are so many unknowns about it. It definitely holds your attention and makes you wonder what’s out there.”
Hearth and Hill’s Astronomy Dinner is 6:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, August 5 at Avalanche Ranch, 4147 N. 1000 East, Oakley, Utah. Tickets are $200 per adult and $100 for children under 12, plus a 20% gratuity. Reservations are available by calling Hill’s Kitchen, 434-200-8840; the dinner is limited to 100 people, so it is recommended to book as early as possible.