Vegetarian shepherd's pie: Turnips, brown mushrooms, pearl onions, and ausparagus in a sundried tomato sauce with a parsnip and potato crust. Photo/Aleksandra Gajewski
I usually dislike surprises.
Unless of course the surprise involves food. Then I welcome them with open arms.
Or should I say, open taste buds.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s Director of Communications Joani Lynch invited me and George Shirk to have lunch at the Yodler with her this week.
In fact, it was on Valentine’s Day. Someone must have told her about my insatiable love affair with food.
What can I say? I love to eat.
What I expected to be a typical lunch date turned out to be something far more grandiose: a full taste testing to the Yodler’s brand, spanking new menu.
Talk about a fantastic surprise.
Lynch introduced Shirk and me to the man behind the new menu, Executive Chef Marc Mora. This guy knows his stuff.
We took a seat at a table and Mora explained his vision. After the restaurant pursued several different dining directions, Mora decided to bring the Yodler back to its roots: Bavarian cuisine.
In order to do it, he wiped the old menu clean and started fresh.
“I’m a fan of hearty, comfort food,” Mora said. His goal was to provide a unique array of options, yet provide meals the public was familiar with as well.
Let the sampling begin
What we sampled: Belgian fries (blue cheese, bacon, leek sauce); Hunters platter; fennel sausage, potato and Manchego flatbread (fresh out of the wood burning oven); potato leek soup (Mora’s grandmother’s recipe); black kale “Caesar” salad; the chicken schnitzel sandwich; the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich; the Fulton farms chicken breast; vegetarians shepherd’s pie; black forest lasagna; and the sausage trio sampler.
The Belgian fries came out to our table after our soups and it was a challenge to keep from devouring the entire plate. Since I’ve moved here, I’ve been on a mission to find the restaurant that serves the best fries.
I think I just found it.
The fries with bacon would have been wonderfully paired with one of the 25 beers the Yodler offers, but unfortunately I was on the clock (boo).
I have a confession: I’m not a fan of spicy food. My mouth is a wimp and mustard can be too much for me at times (I know—I’m pathetic). I hesitated to try the chicken schnitzel sandwich since the word jalapeño was listed in its description, but when Lynch kept commenting on how delicious it was, I had to try it (besides, I am slightly obsessed with schnitzels).
For someone who normally can’t stand the burning sensation in and around the mouth, the jalapeño aioli didn’t overpower the rest of the meal and I was left pleasantly surprised (again with the surprises!).
The homemade mustard sauce that accompanied the Hunters platter was also approved by my taste buds. The mustard had a bite to it, but it didn’t leave my mouth numb (oh and the bread that comes with the platter is impeccable—a must try).
Out of the entrées sampled, the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich impressed me the most. After I took the first bite, I started to laugh.
“I love it when people laugh after they taste something they like,” Mora said.
I never order a grilled cheese sandwich when I dine out since the meal, in my opinion, is so simple, why would I spend money on something I can make myself?
But this is no ordinary grilled cheese. Appropriately named, the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich comes with Gruyere, Gouda, and cheddar cheeses layered with smoked ham and warm tomato and onion marmalade. It’s finished with an egg over easy and crispy Tabasco onions on top.
You can’t have a Bavarian themed restaurant without sausage, and the sausage trio sampler will be the first meal I eat in its entirely when I visit the Yodler again (this weekend). The entrée included three different sausages (bockwurst, Whiskey Fennel, and bratwurst) on a pretzel roll surrounded by a German potato salad and spicy mustard.
“Our sausages are made in Carson City,” Mora said. “They make a unique sausage, the Whiskey Fennel, specifically for this restaurant. You can’t get this sausage anywhere else.”
The meal also comes with homemade sauerkraut, which is worth trying, even if you don’t typically like sauerkraut. Trust me.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Mora had us try every dessert the Yodler now offers: Bavarian cream puff, a skillet black forest cookie, the root beer snow (made with Mammoth Brewing Company’s root beer), baked Alaska, and the apple tart that comes with house-made salted caramel ice cream.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the options, but I happened to enjoy the Bavarian cream puff the best (must be the eastern European in me).
Catering the menu to all
Mora feels the vegetarian and gluten-free community often receive the raw end of the deal when it comes to dining and thus, in picking and choosing meals for the menu, went out of his way to make sure they also enjoy a wide array of options.
“Ninety percent of our meals can be made vegetarian by taking out one ingredient,” Mora said.
The menu is littered with GFs or Vs behind certain items to denote if the meal is gluten free or vegetarian, respectively.
As a carnivore, I usually order meals that include meat. After tasting the vegetarian shepherd’s pie (turnips, brown mushrooms, pearl onions, and asparagus in a sundried tomato sauce and a parsnip and potato crust), I might have to make an exception. I don’t remember the last time I ate parsnip and clearly forgot how yummy it tastes.
Since Mammoth Lakes is family oriented, Mora didn’t forget to include a kids menu.
To top off an entire menu full of meals that’ll get your taste buds to fist pump in your mouth—whether you’re a vegetarian or a carnivore, an adult or a child—everything is well priced.
“We kept the prices at restaurant prices as opposed to resort prices,” Mora said.
After a full day of skiing on the mountain, what more can you ask for?
The Yodler is hosting a grand reopening celebration this weekend with live music by Raving Polka from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Après Ski Bar and Bavarian cuisine restaurant opens daily at 11 a.m.
and closes at 8:30 p.m. Happy hour runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Yodler is located across from Main Lodge. Call (760) 934-0636 for more information.