By Marlene Greer Correspondent
As a friend and I sat on the sundeck of Mammoth Mountain’s Mill Cafe, we pondered how far dining on the mountain has come. He obviously enjoyed his pulled pork, while I sampled a heaping tuna salad wrap with a side of carrots.
The days of dry burgers or warmed over hotdogs are long gone. Today’s on-mountain dining is healthy, plentiful and delicious.
The menus at Mammoth’s four base areas and mid-mountain McCoy Station are very impressive. From artisan sandwiches and organic greens to fresh baked goods and fruit salad, skiers may choose from many healthy selections.
“We’re not a complete organic food service, but we’re trying to have as much fresh food as we can,” explained Bill Cockroft, a senior vice president at Mammoth Mountain.
And this year, the fresh food will come to you. The Roving Mammoth, a snowcat with a kitchen mounted on the back, travels the mountain trails to feed hungry snowboarders looking for a quick bite. In this case, beef, chicken, breakfast or vegetarian burritos..
The “burrito cat” crawled onto the snowy slopes the last week in December. Another snowcat will begin cooking calzones in the spring.
At the other end of the scale, fine dining may be found at the upscale Parallax restaurant. Located inside McCoy Station at 9,630 feet, Parallax has been completely renovated.
It reopened in November 2010 with a new look, menu and chef. While open to members only for lunch, the classy restaurant offers a snowcat dinner to the public on Fridays and Saturdays. It also offers winemaker dinners once a month.
The special dinners cost $89 for adults and $49 for children 12 and younger.
The dinner begins with a champagne reception at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. Guests then ride up the mountain in a luxurious snowcat.
Once at Parallax, head chef Laura Henshall treats guests to a menu flavored with fresh, locally grown, in-season ingredients. One recent menu featured wild arugula salad with Sonoma goat cheese, lobster bisque with ginger lemongrass crme and black peppercorn crusted duck breast.
But it was her roasted Brussels sprout salad with Parmesan cheese and Italian pork that had one guest, who didn’t even like the vegetable, going back for seconds.
The 25-year-old chef credits her father, “a phenomenal home cook,” with the recipe.
“When I was growing up, I hated Brussels sprouts,” explained Henshall, who was born in England, but moved to Oregon when she was only 9 years old.
“When I was in high school, he created this dish and I loved it. That’s one of the challenges. How do you convince people to eat Brussels sprouts? Add some pork and cheese on them and who doesn’t love it!”
For the winemaker dinner in January, Henshall and sous chef Hugo Monterosa spent hours tasting wines and bouncing around menu ideas. They decided on such exotic fare as Tomales Bay oysters on the half-shell, goat cheese with. kumquat marmalade and venison Wellington.
The winemaker dinners cost $125 a person. The next will be held on Feb. 18.
The young chef finds creating a menu for the wine dinners to be the most challenging. And the most fun.
“It’s really playing around,” said the head chef, who came to Mammoth on an internship from the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. “I get to come up with extravagant foods that I would never get away with at lunch. It’s really over the top.”
Marlene Greer is a La Verne freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org