We start Monday morning in Salt Lake City again, this time with a quick stop at The Rose Establishment where I wolf down a galette and a cappuccino. If your schedule permits, save time for their relaxed brunch— but we have a chocolate and cheese tasting lined up around the corner at Caputo's Market & Deli. At Caputo’s, we sample locally produced chocolates and learn that Utah is the craft chocolate capital of the United States. Then, at the cheese counter, we are greeted by the adjacent cheese cave’s pleasant funk and we taste a dozen wildly different cheeses — a soft-ripened, pungent Harbison and the sweet, crystallized, house-aged cheddar top the list.
As we leave Salt Lake and traverse the stark white and gray beauty of a wintertime Parley’s Canyon towards Park City, I feel buzzed from all the chocolate and drunk from all the cheese. Ask a cheesemonger — “cheese-drunk” is a real thing. To avoid opening weekend traffic, we hail a ride to be dropped off at the Eccles Center theater, where we join a large crowd. This was no regular screening, but a world premiere called “Patty Cake$,” so we stand in the overflow line and collect quarter-sized snowflakes on our shoulders. The film had the packed house rocking with genuine laughter and gasping with anticipation. I left the theater feeling hopeful for the future of well-crafted, heartfelt film.
After the film my associates go to Canyons Village at Park City Mountain to check in at the Waldorf Astoria so I decide to wander Historic Main Street in pursuit of a little virtual reality.
I find the New Frontier building (Sundance’s center for the interactive convergence of film, multimedia and technology) and quickly become lost in a labyrinth of full-room installations and performance art pieces. I find a couple virtual reality (VR) stations and soon I’m flying through space, steering my invisible body with a turn of my head, blasting alien robots with lasers. It’s one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had, and I tell my companions about it over beers when we meet up at the No Name Saloon. While I was getting lost and flying through space, they were watching a film at the Egyptian Theatre a stone’s throw away. The town is legitimately buzzing with activity, combining the great films that Sundance is known for and the multi-faceted Park City attractions — things I regret overlooking on my previous visits.
Reconvened and hungry, we roast marshmallows for complimentary s’mores in front of the Waldorf Astoria, where we also have plans for a four-course dinner. The meal is thoughtful and delicious. It’s as good as the film we saw earlier today — we’re convinced that the film will win one of the festival’s top awards.
Tuesday is sort of a free-for-all as far as my companions and I are concerned. Some of us spent the morning trying to cross-country ski, but we split up afterward and now I’m heading back to Park City’s Main Street knowing I’ll find even more Park City attractions and things to do at Sundance. I spot a sidewalk sign, dwarfed by a four-foot-tall mound of last night’s freshly plowed snow. The sign reads “COFFEE” and points into a clothing boutique. I follow the path upstairs and enter the tiny Pink Elephant Coffee. It’s a week into the film festival, but the dogged baristas still serve up a cortado that hits the spot. I look up the schedules for nearby screenings in my Sundance pamphlet — I’m too stubborn to download the Sundance Film Festival app but many visitors will appreciate its convenience — and see that an animated short film collection is playing at the Park City Library’s theater in an hour. I decide to risk it and get on the waitlist in-person instead of hopping on the app’s eWaitlist. Turns out I’m in luck: There are only about a dozen people waiting around for the screening.
The sun is setting when I walk out of the library and head back up Park Avenue to meet the group for dinner at Tupelo on Main Street. I’m the first one at the restaurant. The navy blue sky is clear and it’s not too cold, so I wait outside and take in my surroundings. The festival’s frantic opening weekend crowd has since flown back to their respective coasts and the remaining passersby, lit from above by multicolored string lights crisscrossing the narrow street, seem calmly festive in the twilight. I’m determined not to look like a tourist, but I’m compelled to snap a few photos of the scene with my phone anyway. Inside Tupelo, I see a $30 Manhattan, available only during Sundance, on the cocktail menu. I order it just so that I can say I drank a $30 Manhattan, and it is exquisite — so is the Utah trout, which follows.