Wine at the Ahwahnee

When I saw the headline “Ahwahnee Behind-the-Scenes” in the Sacramento Bee’s Food section, I knew I was in for a treat.  Have you heard of the Ahwahnee?  It’s an amazing hotel located in California’s Yosemite National Park, on the floor of the Yosemite Valley.  Just thinking of it brings a wistful feeling….and, on a less wistful note, it’s also where much of The Shining was filmed.  Just looking at the elevator there makes my stomach turn a little.

The Bee’s Janet Fullwood got a behind the scenes look at how the famous restaurant at the Ahwahnee operates.  The hotel is hosting a gala dinner for a series of Vintners’ Holidays: “The five-course repast with wine pairings costs $149 per person, and expectations are high.”  Percy Whatley (pictured), the 37-year old executive chef at the Ahwahnee Hotel, oversees the plating of the food, which he says is the hardest part of the evening:

Unlike the procedure for most banquet meals, tonight’s courses will not be preplated and kept in warmers until time to load them on the servers’ trays.

“We’re plating up-to-the-minute, which can be pretty frightening,” the chef says, describing a system by which 286 plates — times five courses — are slid down a long table and loaded in succession, assembly-line style, before being handed off directly to the servers.

The idea of the Vintners’ Holidays is to “feature dishes crafted to go with the wines, rather than wines chosen to go with the food. Each of four invited wineries — usually a big-name producer and three of lesser fame — presents an afternoon tasting and seminar in the days leading up to the gala dinner.”

On the menu when Fullwood was there: a Hog Island Kumamoto oyster dish with Schramsberg blanc de blancs 2000, crab cakes with Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer produced in Monterey County, Niman Ranch pork shoulder with a William Selyem pinot noir from the Russian River Valley and a rosemary-roasted rack of lamb with Rosenblum Cellars Napa Lyons Reserve Zinfandel.

To learn more about the Vintner’s Holidays and the Ahwahnee Hotel, check out the full article here.

[Photos from Yosemite National Park]

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