Chef Robert Snyder III prepares a dish for Restaurant Month at The Elderberry House Restaurant. Photo courtesy Visit California Madera County.
It’s restaurant month for Visit California, and in Madera County, restaurants are getting together to bring people out in an otherwise slow tourist month.
Visit California developed the Restaurant Month campaign nine years ago to make a destination for locals and people throughout the state.
Restaurants in tourism areas offer special meals or discounts.
For restaurateurs, that may mean traffic during a slow time of year, according to Therese Williams, director of public relations and sales for Visit Yosemite Madera County. The promotion allows local restaurants to benefit from some global marketing.
People may know Visit California from its advertising and celebrity endorsements. Some names include actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, skateboarder Tony Hawk, as well as model and mogul Tyra Banks, to name a few.
Participating restaurants include The Elderberry House at Chateau du Sureau and South Gate Brewing/ Idle Hour Winery in Oakhurst. In Bass Lake, Ducey’s on the Lake has specials as well as The Vineyard Restaurant and Bar in Madera.
For Elderberry House — formerly Erna’s Elderberry House — this is the first year participating in Visit California’s Restaurant Month.
Normally, Elderberry House takes a holiday break for the first few weeks in January, letting staff go home to be with family following what is usually a busy holiday season, said general manager Carina Stephens.
Stephens said it could be hectic serving guests during a period it would otherwise be closed. But considering the impact that Visit California has, it can be a boon to take part, considering the reach Visit California has globally.
“They work with visitor’s bureaus and put back in the local economy,” Stephens said. “We want to participate and do our part as a tourism attraction.”
The five-star restaurant is taking reservations for their three-course menu that changes nightly.
What’s more is the cost of the offering is a bit more accessible for a five-star restaurant, said Williams at Visit California. It goes for $48 per person, opposed to $75, the regular price.
“It’s an opportunity for people to go to restaurants where they couldn’t otherwise go and experience it during restaurant month,” Williams said.
And it gives the area a chance to showcase some of its hidden treasures.
“There are only a few five-star restaurants in California and we have one in our backyard,” said Williams.
Meals begin with a pomegranate krambambuli, which is a drink compliments of the chef to “warm up the palate” prior to eating, Stephens said.
It is then followed by a soup or salad, an entree and a dessert.
A few miles up the road, in Bass Lake, Ducey’s on the Lake at the Pines Resort is also participating in Restaurant Month.
Chefs at Ducey’s are serving a three-course meal alongside their usual offerings. It starts with a house salad and then a six-ounce filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and a dessert of chef’s choice. The meal costs $30 and comes with a house wine.
Like most other destinations in the area, Bass Lake is not immune to the January slump.
“Our resort is very seasonal and after the holidays, it drops significantly,” said Amanda Brouillette, front-of-house supervisor at the restaurant. “With the cooler weather and the snow and people back to work, we’ll be slow for a couple months.”
And while the number of guests who come in because of Restaurant Month may be modest, Brouillette said, attaching a business’ name to the Visit California campaign can have long-term benefits.
“It’s a good opportunity to reach out to different people on the back of the Visit California name,” she said.
Back in Oakhurst, South Gate Brewing and Idle Hour Winery have come together for a four-course meal as well as a new beer brewed specially for the event.
Down in the Valley in the middle of Madera’s wine country, The Vineyard Restaurant is preparing a three-course meal of made-in-house pasta, including a signature lasagna, ravioli, chicken carbonara or vegetable pasta prepared by Chef Ian Cookson.
And amidst the government shutdown, the Mountain Room at Yosemite Valley Lodge is offering a three-course meal including a “shrimp-toni cocktail,” with a chipotle aioli, tortilla strips and pico de gallo, a “new twist on a classic,” according to a press release from Visit California Madera County.
“California’s ever-evolving food culture and innovative culinary offerings makes it the perfect destination during our ninth annual California Restaurant Month,” said Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta in the press release.
“Communities across the state will showcase their dining highlights, serving up the best dishes and celebrations from Mendocino to San Diego.”