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Food makeover for the masses
Growing up, I was taught that math equations have one answer; that when you add two things together, you get a definite, reliable outcome. So when I saw the addition of renowned chef Michael Mina to the latest Four Seasons project here in Teton Village, I expected the sum to equal fancy.
Mina owns award-winning fine dining restaurants all over the country, and the Four Seasons’ five-star reputation is world-renowned, so an upscale, hoity-toity eatery was well within the scope of probability. Well, you can put away those flashcards now, because this pairing has given us an outcome that, at first glance, doesn’t quite add up.
The Handle Bar is a contemporary American beer hall that has approachable prices and an accessible location right off Teewinot lift. But while the ambiance might suggest an informal attitude, the food is anything but casual. Not to say that it’s fussy, because even the raddest bro can appreciate a “What You Talking ‘bout Willett” cocktail out of a moose head-shaped glass every once in a while, but in true Mina style, you can find touches of high-style culinary prowess throughout the menu.
For example, the après-style part of the menu features dishes like melt-in-your mouth Swedish meatballs, which are surrounded by “magic mushrooms” and dripping with a sweet and sticky lingonberry jam. These hand-formed little morsels are a moist and meaty blend of pork and veal, making them a perfect shared dish over a flight of lagers and talk of deep snow.
If a piping bowl of soul-warming soup is more up your alley after a cold day riding lifts, The Handle Bar has a wide variety, including a fairly traditional elk-meat version that will thaw your bones. The stand-out in the spoon-required section, though, has got to be the Heritage Pork Green Chili. Something about this chili keeps you coming back for more, and my money’s on the trotters. That’s right, Mina’s team isn’t just serving up any ole’ pork for this chili verde; they are employing the highly-flavorful foot meat alongside shredded pork shank meat to give the soup lots of body and savory goodness.
The Handle Bar also has an impressive lineup of burgers, and each seems to be more delicious than the last. The Classic Prime Steak Burger may seem like just any other double cheeseburger, but what you might not get from the menu is that the cheese on this bad boy is the stuff dreams are made of. Carefully scalded on the flattop before being draped over the towering patties, the cheddar has the same alluring crunch as the cheese that hardens on the sides of a French onion soup ramekin or that spills out of a grilled cheese sandwich and bubbles up on the griddle. Combine that with a sweet, darkly caramelized “secret sauce?” Perfection.
Also in the sandwich lineup is the Falafel Burger. Mina really left a personal touch with this one, as the recipe is straight from his mother’s kitchen. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, doused in tangy tahini sauce, and squished between two pieces of perfectly toasted bread, The Handle Bar’s falafel rivals any New York City deli.
To close out the meal, Mina’s menu also boasts some luscious desserts. In particular, the foamy root beer float, served with a warm chocolate chip cookie, and the dense, moist, five-layer chocolate cake with peanut butter crème are the perfect way to end your day.
So whether you’re looking for an après snack, a dinner with friends, a quick drink to warm up from the cold mountain air, or even a simple breakfast, The Handle Bar has something imaginative and enticing for everyone from the most jaded local to the picky vacationer. And on second thought, maybe that adds up just right.
The Handle Bar, located in Four Seasons Teton Village, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11p.m. 732-5000.
Photo: Heritage Pork Green Chili from The Handle Bar. Courtesy Four Seasons