YOSEMITE — The hottest dinner reservation in the 209 is now available at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley — the seven course Bracebridge Dinner.
Keep in mind this will make your mother’s Thanksgiving meal that the American Farm Bureau Federation expects her to spend more than $51 preparing this year to feed 10 people seem downright routine regardless of how dressed up you might be. The main course isn’t turkey. While the 2019 offering has yet to be posted, last year’s menu consisted of smoked filet sturgeon garnished with sweet poached shrimp, watercress, and pickled Fresno pepper.
And you won’t be called to a table with a hearty “dinner’s ready” but to the sound of trumpets.
The meal that includes seven courses will set you Back $252 for Tiny Tim assuming he’s 12 and under. Everyone else it’s $320 a pop unless you want the photo package that bumps the price up to $373. The prices include gratuities but not taxes.
If you haven’t figured out by now the Bracebridge Dinner is neither legendary or the most priciest meal in the 209 simply because of the seven course meal even those that have partaken in the cuisine say it’s well worth it.
The Bracebridge Dinner is a Christmas pageant worthy of the granite cathedrals towering over Yosemite Valley. It is a delight for all of the senses — sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
The Bracebridge Dinner was born in 1927 as a Yuletide celebration in the grand dining room to mark the completion of the original Ahwahnee Hotel.
It was fashioned loosely on “A Christmas at Bracebridge Hall” at Yorkshire in England in the 18th century as envisioned in a sketchbook authored by Washington Irving in 1820.
With a cast of nearly 100 it features opulent settings with costumes to match with music, song, and mirth.
Today’s dinner script stays fairly true to what was created when a part-time Yosemite Valley resident who played the role of The Lord of Misrule for the first two years was called upon due to his musical knowledge to direct the production in 1929. That part-time valley resident was legendary photographer Ansel Adams.
Adams within several years took over the role of Major Domo to rule over Squire Bracebridge’s household to lead the presentation of the larger-than-life replicas of each course of food down the aisle for the Squire’s approval as the chorus sang. Adams was part of the pageantry until 1973.
Originally designed as one performance on Christmas Day, a second Dec. 25 dinner was added in 1956 and then the third performance on Christmas Eve in 1978.
Today there are six performances: Dec. 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, and 21.
The Bracebridge Dinner over the years became the proverbial global hot ticket leading to the need to enter a lottery a year in advance to secure a seat.
The craziness to secure a seat for the dinner as bookings are now a thing of the past as the lottery has been replaced by an online reservation system.
The appeal is still there especially if you score an evening in the stately dining hall with soaring ceilings when a light snow is falling outside the imposing cathedral-style windows.
This is not a come-as-you are affair, meaning hiking apparel won’t do. At a minimum you need to wear a dark suit or a cocktail dress although given this is a world-class musical pageant with cuisine to match, many men opt for tuxedos and women often dress in formal gowns.
Unless you are going to drive up and back in the same day which may be a bit of a stretch given the length of the dinner that starts at 6 p.m. and the wine pairings that go with it, you might want to book a room at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel as pitching a tent doesn’t quite fit the bill. The cost is $946 to $972 a night. If that’s a tad high you can spend $591 a night at the Yosemite Lodge.
Details can be found at travelyosemite.com.