Getting to know Shirin Spangenberg
Atransplanted Southern Californian who has been a Park City resident for 25 years, Shirin Spangenberg is one of Main Street’s most enthusiastic promoters. She and her husband Dirk own and operate Park City Food Tours (www.parkcityfoodtours.com), a culinary amble along Main Street that combines food, history, and art. A more recent project is an escape room with a distinct local flavor, themed around a collapsed silver mine (www.escaperoomparkcity.com).
Q: If you wanted to become a professional chef, who in Park City would you like as your mentor?
A: This is a hard one; there are so many great chefs in Park City. My favorites are the inventive chefs that actively seek new or fresh ingredients and make dishes around them. For example, Chef Ryan Williams of Riverhorse made several different dishes using a pepper he hadn’t worked with before, and each was a beautiful plate of food that was delicious. Chef Matt Nelson from Handle Restaurant picked elderberries from his backyard and made a salad with the berry as the star of the dish. The plate was gorgeous, with bright berries and a soft cream sauce, fresh micro greens, and tangy dressing. I love just thinking about it. When you speak with either of these chefs about food, their enthusiasm and creativity for the ingredients is so inspiring that it would be an honor to have them as a mentor.
Q: What quality do you most admire in Park City visitors?
A: I just love that they are here to enjoy themselves and be entertained. Rarely do you get a grumpy visitor, everyone is just so happy to be here and they want to have a good time. This is why the food tours are so much fun. I say it all the time: Participants of the food tour make the tours enjoyable.
Q: What is one cliché about Park City you’d like to clear up for visitors?
A: This is more of a Utah thing, but the “unavailability of alcohol” is just not true. The specialty cocktails in this town are amazing. Take the restaurant Tupelo, for example. They are making many of their own mixers, including bitters. The taste of the cocktail complements the meal and the entire experience. I also think that the Restaurant Association’s cocktail contest helps everyone to stay fresh with their concoctions.
Q: What is your favorite part of each morning?
A: I love waking up to the birds chirping. It just makes me happy.
Q: In the 25 years you have lived in Park City, what is the greatest challenge you have seen it overcome?
A: For sure, the building. We are starting to feel less and less like a small town that says hello to each other and more like a larger city. In order to overcome this we have a pretty tight-knit group on Main Street. It’s fun knowing who’s getting married, who’s having a baby, and just feeling like we are really all part of a village.
Q: What is your favorite bit of Park City trivia from the mining days?
A: I love thinking about what Main Street was like back then. It was a hard life and good times were hard to come by. I love thinking about the miners coming to Main Street for supplies and being able to talk with people outside the mines. What would they have talked about? What would be the interesting gossip of the day? What would they do to entertain themselves? How would they blow off steam?
Q: Your food tours incorporate culture, art, and history, and you’ve been a docent. Are you most at home in a restaurant, art gallery,
A: I actually think I’m most at home on Main Street itself. It’s such a dynamic street with so many colors, sounds, and just plain old memories. I love to think of the street as it went through its rough mining past, to the Victorian age, then onto the art deco stage, followed by some rough times after silver profits dried up, the dilapidated buildings, the beautification project of the 1970’s, then the resurgence of Main Street as a vibrant avenue with the Olympics, and now the fun, busy street that is today.
Q: You are allowed only one kitchen accessory. What would it be?
A: A chef!
Q: Having been born in Southern California but living in Park City for 25 years, do you feel your happiest friends are skiers or surfers?
A: That’s a toughie. I think that anyone who is passionate about a sport is happiest when they are doing that sport. I’ve been lucky enough to live at both the beach and the mountains and both places attract very similar personalities: outdoor enthusiasts who live for the sport. When I was growing up the excitement in the air when the waves were big is the same excitement here in Park City when it’s a powder day. I really think it’s a tie.
Q: Do you know anyone in Park City whose favorite walk along Main Street is uphill?
A: I have to say my favorite walk is uphill after a tour. After finishing a tour I love to either power walk to the top of the street, or meander and see all of the people from all over the world chatting, laughing and just enjoying themselves.
Q: When you imagine Utah,
what is the first color that pops into your head?
A: Vibrant red. This town is so dynamic and fun; it’s the first color to pop into my head.
Q: In ten words or less, what
motto that hasn’t been used before would you like to see on a Utah license plate?
A: A beautiful place to visit. Now go home. 🙂