One of our most memorable moments during our recent Yosemite National Park trip was a dinner at the ever so exquisite Elderberry House Restaurant, located in the Yosemite park area. If luxury is your thing but you’re also a fan of nature, all things organic and European style architecture, then you’ll want to stay here as well. The attached Chateau du Sureau has earned the coveted Forbes Travel Guide award, AAA Five Diamond award and a Relais and Châteaux distinction.
What makes it so unique, so special, so memorable? Founded by an Austrian couple, this stunning nine-acre sanctuary blends the best of France‘s Provencal region with central California’s verdant landscape. The architecture is stunning, the gardens picturesque and the property has both an intimate and exclusive feel about it.
This charming property amidst natural beauty offers ten-bedrooms, theirSpa du Sureau, and the private two-bedroom Villa Sureau. Let’s explore, shall we?
The chefs here use the finest local, seasonal, and organic ingredients that they source from nearby Central Valley farms. Let’s start with my favorite….yup, they had foie gras on the menu.
The organic ingredients were so fresh, for a moment, we thought we were in Europe, not a small town in eastern California. In addition to a Calvisius Caviar Service on their Premium Supplemental Menu, they offer Foie Gras from La Belle Farms. OMG – it was heavenly. Served with strawberry compote, pain d’epices, argula and aged balsamic, it was then topped with a l’il foie gras powder as well. Can you say exquisite?
Anthony couldn’t let the Corn Bisque go without a taste. A long time soup fan, he always enjoys specialty soups, especially those in season and Fall is his favorite one of the four. Can you see the roasted pumpkin seeds and drizzled organic olive oil?
Those of you who have been reading our food reviews for awhile now know that I can’t have a meal without a salad regardless of what’s on the menu or what type of cuisine is being offered. If there’s a salad/greens concoction available, I must order it.
Here, they offered a Mission Fig Tartlet with arugula, blue cheese, black pepper pecans and a confit local egg as one choice. The other option was a much lighter Autumn Pear Salad and who doesn’t love pears? The chef served it with a goat cheese mousse, cranberries, almond crumble and it was tossed in a champagne vinegar.
Before we move onto mains, I have to mention one starter we didn’t try but if we return –– which we hope to do one day — we’ll go for the Black Truffle and Shrimp Arancini, which is served with pesto aioli, pickled cherry tomatoes, arugula and winter flora. Sounds scrumptious right?
The mains were equally interesting and diverse, from Filet Mignon with winter greens and Seared Maine Diver Scallops to Atlantic Salmon and a free range Lamb Rack. Anthony opted for the salmon whereas I couldn’t resist the Mint Encrusted Free Range Lamb Rack, which they serve with Anson Mills Polenta, Red Cabbage (this was so so tender), winter squash and bell peppers.
Below, get ready to feast your eyes on the Mint Encrusted Free Range Lamb Rack.
With so much deliciousness, we were surprised that we still had room for dessert since a good cup of Joe or mint tea would have sufficed. That was before we saw pumpkin cheesecake on the menu — who can resist anything with pumpkin especially in season? Besides, the waitress talked us into it.
Not only was their Garcia Farm’s Pumpkin cheesecake egging us on, but they served it with chocolate mousse, sea salt caramel and local almonds to boot. What can I say? We’re still thinking of the impact on our palettes over a week later.
We also ordered their Seasonal Chocolate Truffles — think coconut, sea salt caramel and snickerdoodle. It was a perfect treat with an evening cup of coffee to wind down the evening.
The Courtyard Ambiance
Let’s talk about the other reason not to miss Elderberry House on your visit to the area — the ambiance (both inside and out). Because of Covid, dining was only available outdoors but the tables were spread out and they had heat lamps available.
Unlike some of the other restaurants in the area, the place had great energy and vibes. And, the manager and the wait staff were so hospitable, professional and friendly, that it left an impression on us that is hard to forget.
They treated us like valued customers which goes a long way, especially when you‘re traveling amidst a pandemic, a stressful time for all those away from home and in a public place. Not all managers get the value of courteous behavior and most importantly, respect and it doesn’t just have to do with the fact that Elderberry House is an upscale restaurant and part of the Relais & Chateaux luxury hotels either.
We’ve experienced the same from casual eateries over the years in many pockets around the world but when service is a stand-out, you remember and it’s worth calling out. Two thumbs up for this gem of a find.
The Inside Ambiance
The inside ambiance was no less remarkable. From a wine cellar to an authentic European style bar with quaint tables scattered about, to a more formal dining room, it’s a place oozing with so much ambiance that you simply don’t want to leave.
This dream of a place is owned by chef, restaurateur and hotelier Austria-born Erna Kubin-Clanin. In the painting below, Erna is shown in the foreground, whereas the woman to her left holding up the wine glass is her daughter, who’s apparently a sommelier in San Francisco.
They also have an incredible wine menu, which you’d expect from such an elegant restaurant. They offered a number of California favorites, from Napa Valley and Paso Robles (for whites), as well as locals from Madera County such as their Karine from Laurie’s Vineyard, a Malvasia Bianca.
Reds included Pinot Noir from Rita Hills, Zinfandel from Sonoma, the Dalla Valle Cab from Napa and a unique red by the glass I should have tried: the Coquelicot Estate Vineyards red blend of Bordeaux, Malbec, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Cabernet. What a combo right? And, in typical European style, they offered a Sparkling Sureau as an apertif, which is sparkling wine with Elderberry Nectar (available with or without alcohol).
Aside from our experience amidst natural beauty inside Yosemite National Park, this dining experience was top on our list. For more information on Elderberry House and Chateau du Sureau, including how to book, visit their website.
Erna’s Elderberry House
48688 Victoria Lane
Oakhurst, CA 93644
Note: we were hosted but all opinions expressed are entirely our own. Two thumbs up!