Mammoth Food and Wine Experience 2016

Another year, another Mammoth Food and Wine Experience in the books. 

Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake

I look forward to this event each year. The Experience benefits the Mammoth Lakes Foundation. From their website:

Mammoth Lakes Foundation is dedicated to supporting higher education and cultural enrichment in the Eastern Sierra. Successes include:

  • Supporting the establishment of Cerro Coso Community College/Mammoth Campus
  • Owning and operating a state-of-the-art student apartment facility
  • Owning and operating a 100-seat performing arts theatre and providing a season of live theatre productions and cultural programming
  • Providing 600+ college scholarships for Cerro Coso College to date to local students since 2000
  • The Foundation holds 40 acres of land for future community benefit in the desirable South Gateway corridor of town
  • Future plans include creating a culinary school and cultural center on the Mammoth Campus
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A look back at McGee Creek this Summer

Without any break in the schedule, I went from cooking in McGee Creek at Crowley Lake to Healdsburg over the course of a weekend to begin harvest. So, it's time to catch up on one incredible summer on the East Side.

First, I want to thank Elizabeth, Scott and the kids, without Elizabeth's invite to be in McGee (and the leap of faith in me that I can pull it all off), none of this unique experience happens. Elizabeth allowed me to have tremendous freedom in her kitchen, that level of trust is a rare thing indeed, and for that I am grateful. Thank you Elizabeth for the opportunity and your trust in me. To the kids, Owen and Esha (June won't be far behind), who call me "David Scheidt", not Dave or David, but "Dave Scheidt" thanks for making me laugh each time I hear it (cause it is funny). Scott, thanks for being there when I really wanted to use a Star Wars or superhero reference and Elizabeth would have no idea what I was talking about. Joking aside Scott, I appreciate the help at the wine dinners and crunch times during the season; we needed all hands on deck and those extra hands made each night run that much more smoothly.

To the locals at McGee: Walkers, Slaters, and Meadway (plus Floyd and Dre), I appreciate each of you opening your homes, sharing meals, and bonfires; those are some of my best memories of summer. I got to know many people from the communities of Mammoth, Crowley, McGee, Paradise, Mono, June, and Bishop throughout the summer. Many came in week after week for fresh pasta Friday, some slow-cooked goodness on Saturday or the Sunday Sandwich. I, in turn, got to visit those communities and the people in them. To each of you, THANK YOU. 

I wanted to share a note attached to a beer given to me by one of the guys I worked with, Kyle. He uses the formal title on the note "Chef" rather than David which is a big deal. It speaks to the thoughtfulness and genuine nature of many of the people that I have come to know on the East Side. "A little taste of home" as he put it to me when he gave me the beer and the note. Thanks Kyle.

Taste of Home

Lastly the food. I've put a small collection of photos together of some of the food I cooked this summer. Gluten-free...been there, done that. I crafted a different gluten-free (and vegan in many cases) bowl every single weekend this summer, without a repeat and every one from scratch. 

To balance out the number of gluten-free bowls I cooked, I cooked pounds and pounds of pasta. Pasta with red sauce, primavera, tomato cream and alfredo were all featured. But the runaway favorite was arugula pesto. I put arugula pesto on everything from sandwiches to vegetables. The runaway pasta shape, cannelloni, without question.

For every gluten-free bowl I made, I made two bowls of bread pudding. Vanilla, Chocolate, Mixed Berry, and Vanilla-Cinnamon were my regular offerings. People love bread pudding...don't fight it.

Again, thank you to everyone that came to McGee Creek this summer. I had a remarkable experience with wonderful people. 

Brunch, Lunch and a Wine Dinner

It's been just over two weeks since I've settled into McGee Creek and the East Side (a.k.a. Mammoth Lakes) and my summertime cooking gig.

I've visited an organic farm, Apple Hill Ranch near Bishop, got invited to a BBQ in Paradise, made an apricot dressing for the first time, co-hosted a wine dinner and cooked several meals at McGee Creek (and poured a lot of wine).

Savory scone, with country gravy and a runny egg

Savory scone, with country gravy and a runny egg

Bowl of Chicken Pho

Bowl of Chicken Pho

Winemaker David Scheidt snacking on eggplant parmigiano scraps

Winemaker David Scheidt snacking on eggplant parmigiano scraps

Chicken and eggplant parmigiano over polenta

Chicken and eggplant parmigiano over polenta

83 Dishes means...someone has to do dishes before we serve dessert

83 Dishes means...someone has to do dishes before we serve dessert

Sunday Funday in June Lake

The combined Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend on the East Side was a great couple days away.

After the all-day prep session and cooking marathon for a full house of guests on Saturday night, Sunday started slowly but not without a plan. I did have an objective: Find the Ohanas395 food truck and drink some beer. Fortunately, both could be accomplished in June Lake.

I'd eaten from Ohanas395 before, during Burger Battle 2014 at the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience. The Ohanas395 burger incorporated exactly what they set themselves out as, Hawaiian inspired cuisine, not a standard ketchup, lettuce, mayo, mustard profile. Personally, I loved the burger. It reminded me of Burger Battle 2013, when Chef Bruce Kalman used pork belly and Kim-Chee on his burger.  

Ohanas395 burger at the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience 2014

Ohanas395 burger at the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience 2014

However, since Burger Battle, I haven't been at the right place, right time to catch Ohanas395, until now.

I drove over to the June Lake Brewery where Ohanas395 is parked for the winter season. The Ohanas trailer is easily spotted, painted orange and all alone in the parking lot. Some would argue that ordering one of the specials, the ahi poke salad with rice, would have been a risk so far away from the ocean. Not so. The ahi had great color, looking to be center cut and of high quality. June Lake Brewery allows Ohanas395 patrons to bring their food inside and order up some beer; the Alpers Trout Pale Ale seemed the natural pairing with my ahi poke.

For dessert, there was only one thing to get. Doughnut holes. Fantastic. An absolutely great piece of fried bread (and some great beer).

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Fried goodness from Ohanas395

Fried goodness from Ohanas395

Relaxed after the weekend festivities, I headed out the following morning for Healdsburg. See you again soon, East Side.

Valentine's Dinner and Sunday Funday

It's been at least a month, so I must be traveling to Mammoth Lakes and the East Side (and then back up to Healdsburg...deja vu all over again)

Valentine's Dinner is usually one of the busiest nights in the restaurant trade and the East Side is no exception. The wrinkle is that the crowd at Crowley Lake is not just couples coming for dinner, rather, whole families are coming in for dinner and listening to bluegrass. 

The dinner menu at the McGee Creek Lodge Valentine's Day:

Starter
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Wedge Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing with bacon and croutons
Main
Roasted Chicken with Quinoa salad of yams, dried apricots and dates in a Meyers lemon vinaigrette
Pot Roast, Potato and Root Vegetables with pan gravy
Dessert
Chocolate Mousse
Bread Pudding

Prep for dinner started on Friday night when I arrived, trimming and seasoning my chicken and pot roast. The pot roast needed to be perfectly fork tender, so an early morning start in the oven was essential. Seasoning was basic, salt, pepper, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf, water and Cabernet Sauvignon

Pot Roast is the perfect pairing for Cabernet Sauvignon

Pot Roast is the perfect pairing for Cabernet Sauvignon

As much as I'm a fan of meaty proteins and plenty of gluten, not everyone else shares my enthusiasm. Therefore, I often create at least one dish that is vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten free. Taking a page out of a recent trip to Santa Barbara, I reinvented my quinoa and butternut squash dish and used it as both a side to my roasted chicken entree and as a stand-alone meal for any vegans that walked in.

Quinoa with yams, dried apricots, dates and chives in a Meyers lemon vinagrette

Quinoa with yams, dried apricots, dates and chives in a Meyers lemon vinagrette

Finishing the evening were a couple desserts, Chocolate Mousse and Bread Pudding. I used sourdough bread as my base for the bread pudding. Just good old fashioned sourdough bread. Then I soaked it in cream, eggs, vanilla, sugar and maple syrup before I baked it in the oven.

Bread Pudding and Chocolate Mousse for dessert

Bread Pudding and Chocolate Mousse for dessert

Part two of the blog post title, Sunday Funday is up next. I check out Ohanas Food Truck in June Lake at the June Lake Brewery.

2015 Starts at the Beach then heads to the Mountains

After driving just around 40,000 road miles in the state of California in 2014 (unfortunately there is no 1K Club for driving), I've already started logging the miles in 2015; ringing in the New Year in Santa Barbara and then heading to the East Side and Mammoth Lakes to round out my first weekend in 2015.

New Years Eve Menu 2014...Tuna / Twice Baked Potato / Whole Loin of Beef

New Years Eve Menu 2014...Tuna / Twice Baked Potato / Whole Loin of Beef

A totally relaxed evening with friends over dinner and Cards Against Humanity for NYE. A real pleasure to drink several wines that night reinforcing a wine can taste great, age gracefully and use AMERICAN oak...Silver Oak Napa Valley 1997 and 2004 both tasted spot on (there's a reason Silver Oak is the #1 selling wine in American steak houses and it's a lesson learned).

And yes, I drink every wine I come across, not just mine. We also had a terrific Blair Fox Syrah (Los Olivos) and Stoller Pinot Noir (Oregon).

The East Side

It was off to Mammoth Lakes and the East Side to cook and take in the final performance of the Winter Wonderettes at The Edison Theatre...and maybe, just maybe catch some snow (not ice).

Had a full house for Saturday night dinner at the East Side Bake Shop, knocking out one El Super Burrito after another. As usual, the Saturday Night Bluegrass Jam was in full effect, with a solid group of players, elements of Bodie 601 and Sweetwater String Band and lots of familiar faces I'm getting to know.

More music on Sunday, with the final show of the season of The Winter Wonderettes at The Edison Theater. Friends from Bluegrass Night and the Mammoth Lakes Foundation (Juliana and Shira I'm talking about you!!!) kept encouraging me to take a front row seat for the performance, which made me slightly suspicious. I admit, I'm happy to take a great seat, but the coaxing led me to believe something was up.

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Sure enough, Wonderette Missy (a.k.a. Kristin Reese from Bodie 601) points to me in the crowd as "Bill...her husband" and we did a short dance number in Act 1. 

However, Act 2 of the performance required "Bill" to step up on stage, wear a Santa hat and sit in The Big Chair (think Santa and The Big Chair). The Wonderette's surround me and sing a rather entertaining "Santa Baby"...but wait there's more! The Wonderettes then wheel the chair under the mistletoe...and well...

Welcome to 2015! 

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East Side Produce

Why I keep going back to the East Side...because it's fun

Another trip to the East Side of California, a.k.a. Mammoth Lakes.

McGee Creek Garden, Crowley Lake, CA

McGee Creek Garden, Crowley Lake, CA

The last time I was in Mammoth, the garden that McGee Creek Lodge caretaker (and guitarist for the Sweetwater String Band and Bodie 601) Jeff Meadway planted was just starting to show signs of growth. When I returned last weekend, the raised bed garden had exploded to life with lettuce, onions, tomato, squash, mint and even some corn.

McGee Creek Garden Lettuce

McGee Creek Garden Lettuce

With the addition of Sierra Bounty Produce CSA, I had plenty of produce to use for our East Side Dinners (and a special staff lunch salad).

Shishito Peppers from Sierra Bounty Produce

Shishito Peppers from Sierra Bounty Produce

Dinners took the theme of Mexican food, with lots of tacos and chile verde (although side projects of kid friendly Mac N'Cheese and adult friendly seared shishito peppers are encouraged). The Mexican-American El Super Burrito made it's way on to the East Side Bake Shop menu as well, packed with meat, meat, meat...starch, starch, starch...and cheese, cheese, cheese.

Lettuce from the Garden at McGee Creek Lodge

Lettuce from the Garden at McGee Creek Lodge

Bodie 601 played on Friday night, while Fiddlin' Pete played on Saturday night for a group of dinner guests dining on the patio.

Jeff plans on expanding the garden for the 2015 growing season, basically more of everything he planted this season, with the addition of an herb garden.

McGree Creek Lodge Garden 2014

McGree Creek Lodge Garden 2014

As always, I look forward to another trip to the East Side just after the 2014 wine grape harvest.

Sunday Dinner at Lake Mary, Mammoth Lakes

Cooking for two people is fun and easy. Cooking for 12 people is a challenge. Cooking for 40+ people and then transporting the food to a remote location is like running a mini-restaurant for the night.

On the last evening of the 2014 Mammoth Food and Wine Experience, T.L., Brother John and I cooked for 40 people at the Pokonobe Resort on Lake Mary.

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For our last night in Mammoth, we went with our strength...Italian food...which translates into Pizza, Pasta and Grilled Veggies.

John cooked his specialty, a Spring/Summer fusilli pasta dish complete with pancetta, finely minced and slowly cooked in butter garlic, onion, and red peppers and finished with fine herbs. In addition, my brother really enjoyed his new toy, the flat top grill.

T.L. who has worked several dinners with me before, cooked nearly 20 pounds of pasta that night, roasted about 30 pounds of vegetables, and was our utility player for the day working different prep and finishing stations.

I worked on the various sauces, doughs, pizza, dessert, seasonings and final tasting, along with logistics with our culinary liason, Dan Molnar from the Mammoth Lakes Foundation. A special thanks to Dan for his help in coordinating the evening with the Foundation and Marci Satterfield of the Pokonobe Resort at Lake Mary.

In addition to the cooking that T.L., my brother John and I did that evening, I asked a couple other locals to lend their creative talents, baking talents specifically, to the evening. Elizabeth McGuire of The East Side Bake Shop (who I cook with regularly) and duo from Mountain Cakery, Cora Coleman and Lauren Jenks. Thanks to all of you for your help in adding a sweet finishing touch to the evening.