Hayden’s Post Restaurant, since its recent renovation, is leading the way as a Renaissance restaurant, experiencing its own re-birth of vision and purpose, as well as pushing ahead into uncharted territory, much as 15th century voyagers became discoverers of the New World.
Popular among locals and out-of-town guests, Hayden’s Post (honoring the name of a Yellowstone surveyor who passed through the Jackson Hole area circa 1870), is both restaurant and bar, but it’s the restaurant that is our focus here. Haydens (spelled with and without the apostrophe, depending on where you see it) opened in the summer of 2013 and will cater to guests year-round. We caught the place heading toward its zenith, rising quickly like a Phoenix, soaring freely with new-found freedom, leaving behind the stultifying, predictable matrix of past offerings in a bed of ashes. It’s amazing to see what a change in ownership, vision and staffing can bring to a resort long established in a community that may have been taken for granted for too long.
Refreshing not only for its new digs, the Post showcases an enthusiastic staff, starting with Patrick Lowe, Food and Beverage Director, whose disciplined autonomy and exuberance to procure wines, fresh produce, and unique, sustainable food items, is only rivaled by the creative energy found in Executive Chef Scott Blackerby and his assistant chef, Benjamin Perkins. Chefs with similar Southern roots (Blackerby from Florida, Perkins from Louisiana) but creative differences, there appears to be a formidable synergy unfolding as time passes. One example: The generous portion of sensational “red eye” bacon we found on our BLT and Blue Salad was a recent creation the chefs made up while drinking coffee during some “down time” while awaiting the recent renovation. After partly cooking the bacon, the chefs added a certain combination of spices like coriander and cumin, then rubbed the bacon with coffee, imparting a unique flavor unrivaled in bacondom. They serve this creation with a wedge of Bibb lettuce, Crumbled Sierra Nevada Bleu Cheese, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes (large slices of green, orange and yellow tomatoes accompanied by heirloom cherry tomatoes), and house Green Goddess dressing. Served chilled, this astounding salad course exceeded not only our expectations, but every other salad we’d sampled in this town. Other choices of salad offered here, (and not to be disparaged by the hyperbole of the above remarks) include the Post Salad (local greens, toasted pumpkin seeds, sun-dried huckleberries, and Champagne herb vinaigrette), Market Chopped Salad (spring greens, arugula, butternut squash, fennel, grape tomatoes, peppers, roasted beets, and faro), and Haydens Kale Caesar (baby mixed kale, Golden Bear Aged Jack Cheese, cage-free egg, and garlic).
Prior to the salad, our sensational server and three-year veteran of Haydens Post, Henry from Yarmouth, ME, brought us an Artisanal Cheese Board. Had we arrived for lunch and only saw this one item on the menu, this particular selection of cheese, fruit and crackers would have satisfied two hungry persons completely. Four different cheeses highlighted the display, including a generous hunk of Bleu Cheese, a medium red-wine cheese and a mild, sage-flavored cheese. A fourth cheese held a distinctive espresso flavor and would have been sufficient in and of itself to carry the day. Two kinds of crackers helped us scoop up the cheese slices while a display of nuts and dried fruits beckoned to be sampled. Raisins soaked in a flavorful marinade re-hydrated the dried grapes into something akin to the plump original fruit, yet with more complexity. Dried pears were organic, tasty and softly sweet in their unsweetened natural state. Red seedless grapes and slices of fresh apple were joined by an incredible sweet pickled trio of walnut-size onions that fooled me into thinking they were some kind of Asian fruit. Needless to say, in spite of our server’s kind and periodic request to remove this loaded cheeseboard to help make room for forthcoming dishes, we resisted his every attempt to abscond with it, pleading with him to leave the cornucopia of delights just a few moments longer.
Knowing that a substantial entrée, side dishes, and dessert were still ahead of us, we bypassed five starter options that, nevertheless, tempted us. The five offerings included Smoked Local Trout Spread served with avocado cream, pickled onions, and toast points, Goat Cheese and Squash Fritters, with local honey drizzle and tomato jam; Kettle Mac and Cheese, with gemelli pasta, smoked bacon, Utah cheddar cheese and herb crust; Grilled Three-Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Bisque; and Wild Mushroom and Cheese Parcels, served with mushrooms, Teton cheese, and onion jam. Had there been more guests around our table, it would have been fun to see how these dishes were presented, and take a sample of each.
Entrée items include five choices called “off the grill,” and six choices considered “medium plates.” I chose the Coffee Rubbed Elk with huckleberry juniper jus and fingerling-cauliflower purée. Two generous and thick portions of meat were cooked to a medium temperature with a slight bit of pink color, tasting lean, flavorful and hearty. The portion was substantial and made it easy to share with a companion wishing to take a sample. This is the kind of fare you long remember and will bring back locals again and again. My wife ordered the Steak and Fries, a surprise in that it is not at all the kind of pedestrian sounding dish that bears an ordinary, unspectacular name. Quite to the contrary, the grilled Angus steak was covered in a buttery sauce and the truffle parmesan fries out-performed any French Fries we had ever tasted. If you had this recipe in your own kitchen next to a deep fryer, you might become a French Fry addict. The colorful pile of arugula leaves garnished the plate well, but she had ordered the arugula salad beforehand, so the side dish went untouched. Nevertheless, the cut of Angus beef was so generous and so tender that the portions of meat and fries alone were filling without any other accompaniment. Someday we’ll return to sample the bison Ribeye, Heritage Pork Tenderloin, Free-Range Chicket Breast, or Cast Iron Skillet Trout. Since only one return trip would not suffice, we’d probably have to return multiple times to make sure we tried the Dutch Oven Bison Brisket, Rustic Vegetable Pot Pie, Duck Confit, or even the Post Burger. If the selections we did not sample were even half as good as the ones we ordered, we’d be back for dinner every night, but alas, home is not near these parts. A return trip is not out of the question, however, and we’d definitely make a beeline for Haydens Post in a heartbeat.
The wines we enjoyed were chosen for the evening by the afore-mentioned Mr. Patrick Lowe, who, it seems, is incapable of making a bad choice when it comes to selecting the perfect wine. The glasses were poured away from the table, but I can report that I had a fantastic Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap in Napa Valley, while my wife enjoyed a fabulous merlot from Sterling Vineyards, also bearing the Napa Valley appellation.
As a grand finale, a huge dessert of berry shortcake was brought out by our server who proclaimed that this was indeed his favorite. It was easy to see why. The flaky shortcake was filled with a tangy lemon custard and vanilla whipped cream while, scattered along the large, rectangular serving dish were gooseberries, herb-flavored strawberries, and large blackberries. It was a fitting end to an evening full of pleasant surprises.
The new restaurant holds a prominent place in the $16 million hotel renovation that Benchmark Resorts and Hotels wisely invested in. Thankfully, the restaurant staff has been given the go-ahead to make their menu a centerpiece within this sparkling showcase, where dining tables now perch on the upper floor, beside huge picture windows overlooking Snow King Mountain. There could not be a lovelier sight to behold, a more romantic setting near a crackling fireplace, nor a more delectable set of dining options than what you’ll discover at Haydens Post Restaurant at the Snow King Resort.
Hayden’s Post Restaurant
Located at Snow King Resort
400 E. Snow King Ave
PO Box 3250
Jackson, Wyoming 83001
Phone: (307) 733-5200