One of my activities during the recent hiatus from my blog was a child-sitting assignment in Yosemite National Park. (A rough chore, I admit.) Our daughter and son-in-law had accepted an invitation to participate in the Ahwahnee Hotel’s annual Chefs’ Holiday. They did a cooking demonstration of two of their most popular dishes and then cooked a sit-down dinner for around 150 enthusiastic diners.

Of course, everyone knows about the magic of Yosemite National Park. The scenery is so gorgeous that you cannot avoid a gasp when you first see it. The crashing cascades, still water, towering monoliths, and beautiful meadows are spectacular.  Ansel Adams’s  black and white images are classics that less talented photographers like me try to imitate.

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The Ahwahnee Hotel is less well-known although it has been there since the 1920s. The story goes that an aristocrat from England came around the turn of the twentieth century to take in the beauty of the Valley, and there was no lodging up to her standards or expectation. Thus, plans were developed to build a hotel that would suit the most discriminating visitor.  The hotel was built in a secluded meadow with a singular view of Half Dome; it was built of redwood-stained concrete so as to avoid the fires that had destroyed so many of the classic national park lodges of the time. There were lots of amenities, too, with a large staff, beautiful dining room, and comfortable guest rooms. Over the years, the hotel has been well maintained and remains the place where park visitors go when they want to feel a little pampered.

Our first night arrival was late, so we ordered drinks and bar food in the handsome Ahwahnee Bar. The food was good, but inexplicably the chili (in the western United States) was served Cincinnati-style with lots of cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. OK, but not my favorite.

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During the tourist season, Yosemite is well known to be a crowded place, but in the winter there are many fewer visitors. This makes it wonderful to see and photograph the various sights, and it also affords the hotel the opportunity to sponsor some special events. The oldest is the Bracebridge Dinner which is held during the Christmas season and features an English banquet along with costumed players and singers. The Vintners’ Holiday highlights some of the most famous California vineyards and wines. The Chefs’ Holiday attracts well-known chefs and food experts from all over the country for cooking classes and unique dinners in the beautiful dining room.

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Sarah and Evan demonstrated two of the most popular dishes at their San Francisco restaurant, Rich Table: porcini-dusted donuts with a fluffy raclette sauce and sardine chips accompanied by horseradish sauce. Then with the help of the kitchen staff rom the hotel, they prepared a several-course dinner and wine-pairing for 150 people.

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While Sarah and Evan were working, Grandma and Grandpa were obliged to take care of the three-year-old. That meant walks to landmarks, playing in the fresh snow, and observing a herd of beautiful – and tame – deer. It was a most enjoyable task in a beautiful place with few tourists.



Filed under Food, Photography, Travel


  1. This meal looks outstanding. I wish we had a grandma and grandpa to babysit our kids for trips. You and your wife rock. 🙂

  2. Those pics reminds me a lot of The Shining. Yosemite gets a surprising amount of press over here – about how it’s going to blow any 100,000 years or so – We don’t have much in the way of potential natural disasters to think about over here obviously (except floods but we are all flooded out I think)

  3. What a lovely place to be a babysitter…I can’t think of a better couple for the job. 🙂

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