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Elegant Festivities in Yosemite

Written by
in Travel
Elegant Festivities in Yosemite

The fabled Ahwahnee resort offers elegant events to showcase the holidays

By Bob Page

The idea of spending a few days in Yosemite in the middle of an ice-cold winter would most likely appeal only to the hardy few, but the fabled Ahwahnee resort might convince you otherwise.
As autumn turns to winter, the Ahwahnee presents three incredibly elegant events to showcase the holidays.
We chose to attend the 28th annual Yosemite’s Chef’s Holidays, an annual event which runs throughout January. There are eight sessions from which to choose, each one running over three days and featuring some of California’s most noted chefs.
The Ahwahnee’s winter festivities begin in November by celebrating winemakers’ fall harvests. Winemakers from throughout Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast attend, conduct wine tastings and seminars and wrap it up with a divine five-course gala dinner.

In December, the Bracebridge Dinner transforms the Ahwahnee into a 17th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. The inspiration for this yuletide ceremony was Washington Irving’s Sketch Book that described Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of the period.
The Bracebridge Dinner is an elegant and artistic four-hour pageant of classic carols, Renaissance rituals and entertainment of the Middle Ages. More than 100 players create the roles of the Squire and his family, their sevvants, the Lord of Misrule, minstrels and other performers. The centerpiece of this revered event is a seven-course banquet of rich and wondrous dishes prepared by the Ahwahnee’s world-class culinary staff.

The first of the eight Bracebridge Dinners scheduled for this December start on Friday, the 13th, concluding with the last dinner on Christmas evening. Five Christmas concerts are also scheduled over the same dates.
But as the new year descends, the Ahwahnee turns January into the chef’s holidays.
We were treated to watching three of Northern California’s top chefs, Douglas Keane of Cyrus in Healdsburg, Victor Scargle of Lucy in Yountville and Peter Armellino of Plumed Horse in Saratoga work their culinary wonders in the temporary kitchen workshop with the Ahwahnee had set up for them in the hotel’s lobby.

Keane, who closed the award-winning Cyrus last fall, recently turned guest chef at Jardiniere in San Francisco, which is where he launched his career. In the meantime, he says he is spending more time with family and the dog rescue mission which he founded.
At the Ahwahnee, Keane’s creation was a lobster salad with daikon and ponzu.
Scargle has been an integral player in the kitchens of Go Fish, Julia’s Kitchen at Copia, Jardiniere and Aqua, all in San Francisco with the exception of Copia, the wine, food and art museum in Napa which sadly didn’t pencil out for its owners.
Scargle’s Lucy restaurant and bar, which is at the Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville, prepared bagels for those in attendance.
Armellino’s cavatelli pasta with wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles and black trumpets) was a great hit. Armellino, like Keane and Scargle, trained under Traci des Jardins after launching his career at the Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar & Grill in New York.
Our three days concluded with a gala dinner in which the three visiting chefs, plus the Ahwahnee’s chef and staff, worked their culinary wonders. The five courses were complimented with wines from Cakebread, Treanna, Alexander Valley and Bridlewood.
It’s never too late to book for the Chef’s Holidays in January 2014. This is an experience not to be missed.
In the meantime, the National Park Service, which oversees Yosemite, has released plans to add campsites, improve the river ecosystem, upgrade roadways and parking by balancing the visitor experience while protecting the environment at the same time.

The Ahwahnee
Yosemite National Park, CA, 95389
(801) 559-5000
Rates: $350 + (depending on dates)
The Ahwahnee
Yosemite National Park, CA, 95389
(801) 559-5000
Rates: $350 + (depending on dates)

The Lodge at Yosemite Falls
9006 Yosemite Lodge Drive
Yosemite Village, CA, 95389
(801) 559-4884
Rates: $150 + (depending on dates)

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