The Elderberry House is one of those restaurants that leaves a footprint on your foodie soul.
While staying at the Chateau du Sureau we took the opportunity to truly dine at the Elderberry House. The experience was unexpected excellence. Despite all of the rave reviews, it is located in the small community of Oakhurst California and you just don’t expect this level of dining right outside of Yosemite National Park.
Erna opened the restaurant quite a few years ago in the park and she built a loyal following. But, in 1987ish the park awarded a new company the concession contract and they did not renew Erna’s lease. What a shame, since the building she was in stands weathered and abandoned in the park. It is good news for Oakhurst, as Erna built her new restaurant in this great little town.
Interesting story about the restaurant. A man had a reservation years ago and got lost finding the place. He called and apologized for being late, but said he would be there. Erna left the kitchen open and graciously greeted and served this man an amazing dinner. When he left, he returned to work in New York and wrote a raving review of Erna, the Elderberry House and the incredible food she and her staff were creating. This man it turns out was Craig Claiborne, the food writer and critic for the New York Times. This really did put Erna and the Elderberry House on the culinary map.
Since we were staying at her Chateau, we had to give it a try. From the moment we were seated on the beautiful patio, watching the sunset and listening to the water and feeling a mist breeze past us from the water fountain, we knew this was special.
Our server immediately greeted us and handed us our menu. Upon opening them we noticed they were personalized on the inside with our names, this is just first class service at its best.
Looking over the extensive wine list, we decide on a beautiful, rustic, rich in color bottle of Meritage from the Warwick Estate winery in So. Africa.
The menu is written in a 5 course format. You have the option of pairing wines with each course, choosing a 3 course option or simply choosing the dishes you would like. The staff is very accommodating and helpful.
The reviews are spot on as is Craig Claiborne’s review of this place. The food is amazing. I start with the Chilled Red Butte Plum soup, perfect for a warm summer evening. Full of freshness, the soup is a deep plum color, seasoned with a delicate shaved fennel, crispy shallots which give the soup a bit of a crunch. Topped with a soft lemon creme and port bubbles. I can still taste it, the dish was incredible.
Mr. Bee opts for the Sauteed Alaskan Halibut. It was cooked beautifully. The piece of fish sat atop a Grilled Yukon Gold Potato, a Espelette Spiced Sweet Corn and Broccoli and then topped with tender Mache and Marin Oysters in a Bernaise sauce. Just a beautiful and delicious dish.
Out come the main dishes. A grilled chicken breast, served over a cucumber and couscous medley with a creamy Cilantro Yogurt Sauce, Morel Mushrooms scattered about the plate and a Turmeric Jus. The other dish was a Rib-Eye served with the same couscous medley, mushrooms and Jus. The flavors on both dishes blended beautifully and was a burst of Mediterranean flavors with every bite. The chicken was cooked perfectly, juicy and tender. The Rib-Eye was like one I had never tasted. It had a rich flavor and like butter melted in your mouth.
As we were dining and enjoying our wonderful bottle of wine, Erna went table to table, greeting her guests, checking on their satisfaction and engaging in conversation. What a lovely lady.
Thinking we couldn’t eat another bite, we manage. Dessert for the evening was a Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding. Does it get any better? Chocolate and Bread Pudding, I think not. The bread pudding was soft and melted in your mouth. Rich in flavor it wasn’t overly sweet and I loved that. Served with a Strawberry Essence, a Roasted Pistacho Gelato that was addictive, can you say More Please??? The Caramel Tuile just added that bit of a crunch sweetness to compliment the dish.
Are you hungry yet?
It was a night of relaxed dining. We got to talking to the Wine Director who gave us some of his favorite wineries in Paso Robles, California to try as we are headed there next. Check back in the next week or so and I will share a couple of them with you for your next trip.
If you are going to head to Oakhurst and eat at the Elderberry House, here are a few tips. The restaurant is beautiful, relaxed and comfortable for a very special dinner. The patio is also a beautiful spot. It is a fine dining atmosphere and perfect for a celebration dinner. The attire is dressy, or resort casual. I don’t recommend jeans and a t-shirt. There were women in nice sundresses, slacks and beaded gowns. The men, were in slacks and a collared shirt, some had jackets. The service is impeccable, the wine list extensive and the pairings option for each course is fabulous. Reservations are recommended.
While the cost of dinner will set you back a few bucks, splurge and go for it, you will not regret the decision.
Lastly, if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions they are gracious about accommodating, you just need to let them know ahead of time.
For the foodies, they offer a 3 day cooking school a few times a year and you can find them on their website, http://www.chateausureau.com/restaurant.html