Autumn Squash Soup from The Ahwahnee


Executive Chef Percy Whatley shared the following recipe on Sacramento’s Fox 40 Morning Show on November 26, 2013.

Autumn Squash Soup with Cardamom & Ginger
Recipe By: Percy Whatley, The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park
Chef’s Notes: Any Autumn squash can be used in this recipe, but keep in mind that there are different carbohydrate contents to different varieties of squashes. A Kobocha squash, for instance is much more starchy than Butternut, therefore it is always a good idea to have extra vegetable stock on hand to adjust the consistency when finishing the soup.
Yield: 6-8 Servings
1 each 2-3lb Autumn Squash, peeled, seeded, diced
1 medium baking (Russet) potato, peeled, diced
2 Tblsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
6-9 cups vegetable stock, depending on squash quantity and variety
1 Tblsp Ginger, minced fine
½ tsp Cardamom, ground
Pinch Thyme leaves, fresh

To Finish Soup:
2 Tblsp unsalted butter
½ cup Heavy Cream
To taste Kosher Salt
To taste Black Pepper, finely ground

To Garnish Soup:
6 tsp, as needed Sour Cream
Pinch Chives, fresh, minced

1. In an 6 Quart sauce pan, melt 2 Tblsp butter over medium heat. Sweat diced onions until translucent. Add cardamom and ginger and stir in to release aroma.
2. Add squash, potatoes, 6 cups of stock, and thyme leaves, bring to simmer for 30 minutes.
3. After squash and potatoes are very tender, remove from heat and add cream, season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Blend until smooth adding the other 2 Tblsp butter. Adjust thickness/consistency with more stock if necessary. Readjust seasoning as necessary.
5. Serve with a dollup of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chives.

Chef Percy on FOX 40

All Dressed Up: Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite

bracebridge_costume_bodiceBracebridge Dinner at Yosemite is a venerable tradition that celebrates the winter holiday season with a seven course meal and colorful musical pageant that transforms The Ahwahnee into an 18th century English manor hall. Started at the hotel in 1927, the dinner and performance provide an opportunity to dress formally in a place where visitors almost never pack fancy duds in their suitcases. And if you think visitors are putting on the Ritz as guests at Bracebridge Dinner, wait until you see the costumes worn by the performers!


bracebridge_orange_dressAll Bracebridge costumes are designed by Melissa Wortman, an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area designer and costumer who has also worked with the American Conservatory Theater and Lucasfilm. Dresses like the ones you see in the photos often require anywhere from 20 to 60 yards of fabric, and 10 to 60 yards of trim from suppliers in Los Angeles, New York and locally in San Francisco. Melissa designed her first Bracebridge costume in 2005 and since then has created over 70 costumes for this Yosemite production. After 80 to 250 hours of sewing, pattern drafting & draping, fittings and millinery work, a work of art is created in the form of a shimmering jewel-tone costume fit for an 18th century manor lord or lady. bracebridge_mens


bracebridge_pink_dressAll photos courtesy of Melissa Wortman.

The Ahwahnee China: Dining with History

AW_China_DetailIf you have had the pleasure of enjoying a meal in The Ahwahnee Dining Room at Yosemite National Park, you may have noticed the distinctive china pattern adorning the dishes used to serve the guests. The Ahwahnee China pattern is based on the logo created for the hotel by Jeannette Dyer-Spencer and used on the dishware since opening day in 1927. Though unique china may not seem unusual for a luxury hotel, the idea for the china originated with railroad dining cars in the late 1800s. With the expansion of the railroad to the states west of the Mississippi River, more Americans began traveling to the exotic national park locations they had only read about in newspapers or had seen photographs and paintings of in their hometowns. For the railroad owners, providing certain travel luxuries attracted more travelers. One of the most important luxuries was the option to take your meals in the dining car. Soon each railroad had spruced up their dining cars to include distinctive china that evoked the destination. Not long after that, the practice extended to the national park lodges that many of these travelers were visiting.
yosemitegifts_ahwahnee_chinaThe china created for The Ahwahnee is a customized version of the Ye Olde Ivory Buffalo China originally made by Buffalo China Company in New York for the hotel and restaurant industry. Developed by Mary Curry Tresidder of the original park concession, Yosemite Park and Curry Company, the pattern incorporates The Ahwahnee’s logo based on a California Indian basket pattern known as “Three-Legged Indian” representing three earth elements: earth, rain and fire. In 1938 Buffalo China was purchased by Sterling China of Wellsville, Ohio. When Sterling China went out of business in 2004, Delaware North at Yosemite had the opportunity to purchase the original china molds and decals to ensure that reproductions of this historic pattern will continue to be manufactured.

Today, in addition to service in the Ahwahnee Dining Room and Bar, Ahwahnee China serves as the perfect backdrop for the culinary creations of Yosemite’s food & wine events, including Vintners’ Holidays in the fall, Bracebridge Dinner in December and Chefs’ Holidays in the winter. Whether you have been a guest at The Ahwahnee or not, you can buy a full Buffalo China service with the distinctive Ahwahnee pattern at the hotel gift shop or shop online at Each year, new styles are added since the original service did not include a pitcher, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls and trays, or a butter dish. Just in time for the holidays, an over-sized mug will be available in December – perfect for steaming coffee or tea on a cold winter’s day!

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Benson Lake

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Benson Lake in Yosemite’s backcountry is a favorite spot of Harry Vanderburg, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. “Benson Lake in northern Yosemite is my favorite backpacking destination north of Tioga Pass.  It’s sandy beach is the largest in Yosemite and at an elevation of 7,600 ft the warmer temperatures make it perfect for swimming or a layover day lounging on the sand.  Twin Lakes, just east of Bridgeport and outside of the park boundary, is the closest trail head.  It’s 18.7 miles to Benson Lake but most backpackers do a 40 mile loop, spending the first night at Peeler Lake and passing through Matterhorn Canyon on the return trip.  Fishing is good for Brook and Rainbow Trout.  I was lucky enough to see a couple of White Pelicans taking advantage of the good fishing!”

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

Photo by Harry Vanderburg

Benson Lake is located at 7580 feet in the northern wilderness of Yosemite National Park and is known as ‘The Riviera of the Sierra’ due to its wide sandy beach. The lake – filled with rainbow and brook trout – was named after Harry Coupland Benson, an army officer stationed in Sequoia and Yellowstone National Parks in addition to acting as superintendent in Yosemite from 1905 to 1908.