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PARK CITY The question is inevitable. “Can we go to Park City?” my out of town friends ask. Be they from New York City, Seattle, London or Cheyenne, they all share a desire to amble down Main Street with its plethora of jewelers and art galleries.

Never mind if the film festival is even taking place. They dig the fact that they’re treading the same earth Paris Hilton and Holly Hunter did in fur trimmed Uggs. The celebrity veneer is powerful. As a good host, I take them.

Usually all of us in the group are into food to some nerdy degree: ambitious home cooks, food science buffs, restaurant veterans and Food Network addicts. And Main Street has no shortage of places to eat. We happened onto Zoom during one visit, enticed by promises of a good American wine menu and “sophisticated American continental cuisine.” My celebrity hungry friends immediately fixated on the black and white photos of Robert Redford and friends lining one wall, while the architect in the group remarked on the sleek lines of the main wall, rooted with a fireplace, separating the dining rooms.

Yes, Zoom plays up the Sundance/Redford connection and the stargazing allure in a big way. So much so that a few minutes passed before we realized we had yet to be greeted by our server. But it didn’t work well enough for us to enjoy that one visit or others I’ve subsequently had to Zoom.

It isn’t that the food, heavily inflected with Mexican and American influences, is necessarily bad. It’s simply unremarkable.

The shrimp in the Thai shrimp salad ($12) were few in number and puny in size. Apart from the name, they had no flavor to distinguish them as Southeast Asian inspired. The spinach salad with a smoked cantaloupe vinaigrette ($7) was a familiar jumble of baby leaves, crumbled cheese and chopped nuts feta and walnuts in this case. And though it read beautifully on the menu, praline cheesecake with whipped crme frache ($7) evoked only a shrug and an “it’s OK” from the dessert fanatic when it finally made an appearance at the table.

“It’s OK” is one thing. “It’s OK” at Main Street Park City prices is entirely another.

Though Zoom touts itself as a casual eatery, you’ll still pay a premium to dine here entrees range from $18 to $36 for dinner, and lunch for two with sides and drinks can easily top $50. For such prices, there should be little room for carelessness.

But carelessness was abundant in an overcooked and underwhelming halibut special ($28), and also plagued the refrigerator cold cornbread that flanked decent Double R Ranch ribs ($18 half rack; $28 full rack). And it lingered with us to the after dinner coffee ($2) that tasted as if the pot had been sitting on the burner all day.

A few items, billed as show stoppers on the menu, were disappointing flops on the table.

The title of seasonal farmers’ market fruit cobbler (whic we ate during an autumn visit $7) would have been appropriate had the season been early summer and Utah farmers were producing strawberries and blueberries to sell at the market. As a cobbler lover and conscious food consumer, my suggestion would be to avoid the green washing zeitgeist all together and simply call it fruit cobbler when the locally grown market goods aren’t around.

One friend from Long Island had to break out his best Linda Richman impersonation when I asked how his risotto was. “This saffron scented creamy risotto is neither saffron scented nor creamy,” he declared. “Discuss.”

The same risotto with its vegetable accoutrements and reduced balsamic garnish was startlingly abrasive on another visit. The entire mound sat in a moat of straight industrial balsamic vinegar, a far cry from the aged variety listed on the menu. The bite literally left me verklempt.

The server hardly noticed I’d barely touched my plate. In fact, he noticed little and was indifferent at best. He lit up only once to declare that the spicy buffalo onion rings ($7) were a favorite of Rachael Ray, who featured the item on her “$40 a Day” show. The Food Network fan in the group perked up immediately and ordered them. They arrived piping hot with a blue cheese dip and had the heft of bagels when we held them. They were appropriately spicy. But with each bite, a bit of grease juiced from the dense network of batter.

The Food Network fan put her ring down. She thought for a moment and turned to me. “Can we go back to Salt Lake now?”
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