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Amazing New Ski-Country Food

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Last month, I took a few days off to snowboard at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California (now easier than ever to reach with Horizon Air’s new hour-long flights out of LAX.) I don’t have high expectations when it comes to on-mountain dining, but I was completely blown away when we stopped for lunch at McCoy Station’s food court–style marketplace. The enormous salad bar was loaded with superfresh local produce and homemade hummus. Killer burgers were grilled to order and made from all-natural Niman Ranch beef, freshly ground onsite. And they have a great selection of microbrews, including Mammoth Brewing Company’s IPA 395.

The new focus on local and organic is the result of a recent partnership between Mammoth Mountain and chef Joachim Splichal’s Patina Restaurant Group. Splichal has overhauled all of the resort’s F&B, from the food courts to the fine dining. The classic après ski hangout across from Main Lodge, the Yodler, received a complete makeover (with the exception of the bathrooms, which remain an eerie electric blue). Renamed Cervinia, after the ski resort in northwest Italy, the new menu is predominantly Italian and absolutely delicious. We feasted on thin-crust pizzas from the wood-burning oven, a plate of cured meats (La Quercia organic prosciutto, San Danielle prosciutto, Fra Mani sopresatta) a ridiculously indulgent pappardelle with Texas boar sugo. And the bread was out of this world, with just the right chewiness and perfect crispy crust. I couldn’t stop talking about it and finally found out that Patina installed a new bakeshop in Main Lodge, where they bake all of Cervinia’s excellent bread.

The bar for on-mountain dining has definitely been raised. My only complaint is that I was boarding with a fully belly the whole trip!

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.