Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farm to Fork: Dining at the Ahwahnee

YOSEMITE, CA -- The first meal I ever ate in Yosemite National Park was lentil soup cooked on a wood burning stove by my college roommate Elida, a seasonal employee in the summer of 1983. The earthy, heart-warming concoction was divine after a full-day’s hike near Yosemite’s iconic Half-Dome. Yet we still dreamed of a time when our cash flow would allow us a full-course meal at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. Twenty-five years later, we dined on halibut, hand-harvested scallops and organic greens in the jewelry box-like dining room, framed by Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point with head of the restaurant Chef Percy. (l to r: Ingrid, Elida and Chef Percy)

The element of surprise in this long-awaited dining experience is that almost all menu items come from within a 150 mile radius of Yosemite National Park: call it the “farm-to-fork” concept. “Sustainable agriculture is cornerstone to the slow food movement,” said Executive Chef Percy Whatley, a 20-year cooking veteran of Yosemite. “We live near the San Joaquin Valley, California’s breadbasket. We are committed to local resources for organic produce, free-range chickens, and grains. In Yosemite, it’s easier to think about the environment. We are on the cutting edge of this movement.”