Chef Matthew Harris wants to share some of his favorite southern dishes he grew up eating, so he came up with the idea for the Wild Ember BBQ pop-up.
The new offering opened a few weeks ago for curbside and catering services at the Snow Park Residences at St. Regis Deer Valley, and although there is no dining room or seating available at this time, there are future plans for a brick-and-mortar location, according to Harris.
Wild Ember features a menu that includes pulled Berkshire pork, smoked chicken, beef shoulder, pimento cheddar mac and cheese, passion fruit baked beans, collard greens and Brussels sprout apple slaw.
Guests can choose from an array of options for individual meals, family picnics and catering, he said.
“I wanted to do something here in Park City that would bring in a lot of food and culture that I grew up with,” said Harris, a long-time practitioner of slow food and farm-to-table cuisine. “Like everyone who grew up in the South, I ate a lot of barbecue, and I wanted to bring that out west and do my own interpretation of it.”
The meats and sides are available by the portion, and paired with Harris’ own signature sauces such as cherry ancho and whiskey peach, he said.
In addition, Wild Embers offers desserts — triple chocolate brownies, Rice Krispie cookies and Wasatch Creamery ice cream.
While Wild Ember is described as “upscale smokehouse,” Harris wanted to keep things casual and approachable for everyone.
“It’s priced accordingly, and the menu is full of things that people can just come and grab for dinner,” he said.
Like Harris’ other restaurants that include Tupelo Park City — which will reopen later this fall — RIME Raw Bar, and RIME Seafood & Steak and The St. Regis Bar at The St. Regis Deer Valley, the restaurateur is working with as many local producers as he can for the vegetables and side dishes.
“We want to stay with the ranches that are in Utah and southern Idaho,” he said.
As Harris mulled around the idea of what to put on Wild Emer’s menu, he knew he wanted to not only offer the meats, but also vegetarian and vegan options as well.
“It’s not a barbecue house where everything has bacon or smoked pork in it,” he said. “That was a big focus when we went out and started to develop a lot of these recipes. We wanted to make them approachable to everyone, not just those who have dietary concerns, because I know there are people who just don’t want pork in everything.”
Harris pointed to the passionfruit baked beans as an example.
“The baked beans we make with heirloom beans that have been produced in the South for centuries, but it goes as far as to be made from all natural products,” he said. “Many people make baked beans with a lot of ketchup, mustard and high-fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients,” he said. “We, on the other hand, can replicate that flavor with things like passion fruit puree and dates, which does very well.”
In keeping with that philosophy, the collard greens are made with vegan friendly seasonings.
“We really are trying to make the ingredients the main focus of each dish,” Harris said.
Harris kept the idea to create a southern barbecue restaurant in Park City on his radar for a few years.
“I’ve made my restaurants in Park City with things I want to eat all the time, and those menus have been inspired by the places I’ve lived that included New England,” he said. “So, when it was time for us to do some southern barbecue, I knew it was time.”
The idea to keep things more affordable was inspired by local residents.
“It means everything to me to have our community’s support,” he said. “As a local myself, we’re here all year round and we have to have local support if we are going to make everything go around. Of course, tourism is important, but we didn’t just want to do another high-dollar restaurant. It’s about delivering something that is approachable for everybody everyday and not just for special occasions.”