Yosemite summons to the mind images of soaring precipices in ancient cliffs; surging streams pouring into voids from mountain meadows that transform themselves to misted clouds on weathered stone.

It is a banquet set and served to human eyes that gaze in awe and exaltation. Beauty fills the eyes to satiation. However, other human appetites remain. Perhaps, this is why the restaurants of Yosemite have historically provided an amazing range of taste experience.

In its most distant human habitation, the Miwok, the American Indians native to the Valley, gathered acorns for grinding and more recent inhabitants and visitors have eaten viands produced in the Valley and served along with a buffet of history, activity and legend that encapsulates our history as a nation.

Susan B. Anthony ate here with her good friend and fellow worker for suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1871. The two stayed at Hutching's Hotel in the Valley. Susan B. returned to Yosemite in 1895 and was photographed on mule back. She was then 75 years old.

Wawona, a hotel that hosted many visitors to Yosemite, during the early years served choice trout caught in the backcountry of Yosemite.

Camp Curry, a destination of note featuring the Fire fall from 1900 on, served three meals daily. The menu was published each morning to whet the hungry minds of its campers.

Today, the food of Yosemite encompasses its own range of delights from the four star Epicurean deluxe to the simple satiety of the body's needs. Two places, both serving wonderful food in very different settings, define this range of excellence in the environs of the Park.

The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite serves its breakfast to dinner menu in a dining room that visually flows into a mountain meadow through windows that glaze the two-story ceiling. . Diners at the dinner service must dress; suits and fancy dresses are indicated. The ambiance is a smooth blend of yesterday and today. Menus are formally presented and the diner is hard pressed to choose from selections that range from interesting and complex compositions to the simplest dish, perfectly prepared. Course after course follows to repletion. That is the one reason why San Francisco Vintners meet in Yosemite in January of every year. The price: high, but well worth it. The place: perfect.

On the other end of the spectrum, the eastern traveler to Yosemite, coming or going over the Tioga Pass, can find an astonishing presentation of deliciously huge platters of food at the Mobil station. In a corner of this pedestrian structure amid the confusion of trinkets and camping necessities, the hopeful diner will find the lunch counter of Tioga Matt Toomey. There are just a few tables right now, but they are well filled and the selections on the menu both astonish and entice. These range from his Legendary Lobster Taquitos at$9.95 to Ragin Cajun Chicken Jambalaya at $7.50. Matt promises to enlarge the scope of his menu but also promises to keep it personal.

Yosemite. Its many facets and flavors cannot fail to please.

© Melt Magazine 2001