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Restaurant Review: Sierra Restaurant at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Posted Oct 02 2008 3:16pm
Over the last five years I've developed a new creative muse: food.

I'm a writer. When I have writer's block, I head for the kitchen. When I need a little inspiration, I twirl my spice rack. When I'm ready to paint, I take out a plate. My blank canvas. Ericlee and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We headed for Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite where we were married on a snowy April Sunday. We celebrated by eating at the Sierra Restaurant and recounting our last five years together. The evening was romantic. The food was dynamic. It was one of those experiences I'd like to taste again and again.

Our meal commenced with the Mulligatawny soup made with madras curry, root vegetables and coconut milk. The Indian flavors melded into a surprisingly smooth, yet complexly flavored stew. This was comfort food with a twist. Ericlee said he wanted to whole meal to be soup.

Sierra has a "culinary credo" printed in their menu. Chef Frederick Clabaugh uses locally grown sustainable products whenever possible as a "commitment to the land and the sea and our environment." Pretty impressive and right in line with our family's quest to find healthy, fabulous-tasting foods. (We happen to think the two are not mutually exclusive.)

Ericlee ordered the Special - a Roasted Mahi Mahi with an artful display of vegetables served on a bed of plump Israeli Couscous. This is the kind of dish that wows me with colors and textures and even aromas. My husband, however, was still talking about the soup.

I ordered the Line Caught Pacific Halibut with a Macadamian nut crust, tropical salsa and vanilla bean butter served on a bed of coconut risotto. This was, indeed, the show-stopper. The salmon looked better - more bursts of colors perhaps - but the halibut was a fireworks show of flavors in my mouth.

Please understand: I don't usually order fish in restaurants. I'm not a seafood lover. I make lots of dishes with mahi mahi at home or grill up a nice filet of salmon for my brother when he's in town, but I don't *choose* fish. It's rarely appealing to me. I have a new appreciation for fish after this Sierra meal.

The halibut was tender - perfectly coupled with the tropical salsa made with tiny cubed melon and mango. The coconut risotto was a creative twist to complete this meal. Risotto-making is an art. One has to keep a close eye on the rice in the pan and add just the right amount of liquid. My compliments to the chef who mixed this one up just right. This fusion approach adding coconut milk (often used in Asian cuisine) to the traditional Italian rice was ingenious.

We ordered our dessert to go so we could enjoy it in our room at the Apple Tree Inn (next door) sitting by the fire. Ericlee picked out an oversized chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top. They even packaged up whipped cream, chocolate and caramel for us to add. A great American finisher.

Let's just say this meal was definitely worth the moolah. We are not ones to spend big money on dinner out. My hubby would rather enjoy one of my creative concoctions at home if he had the choice. As for me, I welcomed the chance to watch another food artist throw paint on a blank canvas.
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