Raising our wassail cups

December 24, 2010

So there we were, 300 of us, dressed to the nines in the wilderness {ok, so it’s a national park}, at Bracebridge Hall {ok, so it’s really the Ahwahnee Hotel dining room}.

Ansel Adams was a founder of the Bracebridge Dinner, a seven-course dinner party based around a fictional squire (Squire Bainbridge), who has invited everyone for a holiday dinner at his home.

We sat at tables of eight, men in the tuxedos, women in their evening attire. No cameras allowed, a rule ironically started by photographer par excellence, Adams. And it’s hard to find photos that depict the acting company, other than the one above. A shame.

Some 36 servers and 10 wine stewards served us Peacock Pie (it was really quail), Beef Tenderloin (delicious), Smoked Salmon and Dungeness Crab Timbale (yum) and Plum Pudding {among other dishes}. The service was as attentive as some we’ve had a Michelin restaurants. The quality of the meal, quite good.

Meanwhile, a company of actors with incredible singing voices in sumptuous medieval costumes sang intricate madrigals and festive carols as they performed a thin story line. The tale jumped the shark a few times but never more so than when the squire invited two dozen dirty, snot-nosed “people of the forest” into the hall to join the lords and ladies for dinner. {Umm, probably not.}

The star of the show was the jester.

At one point, incongruously, he played Bolero on the tuba while he walked across the hall on people’s chairs, getting them up from their tables one at a time, as he made his way across the room.

You had to be there, but all the funnier since this was supposed to be an 18th century setting.)

The best part: the costumes and the music. And the food. We had convivial table companions and the night passed quickly.

Finally, it was time to raise our wassail cups (awful) for the final toast and savor what for us had been a once-in-a-lifetime way to celebrate the holiday.

For us, it was a chance to see the awesome Yosemite National Park in its winter attire. The snow made it feel like Christmas for us native northeasterners and, well, there’s only one Yosemite. Stunning. It was the first time I’d seen the park without crowds of people, so it was a whole different sense of it. Quiet. Peaceful. Still.

The Ahwahnee goes back almost 100 years. It’s more a rustic-feeling lodge with three-star rooms, but it’s in keeping with its setting. The rooms are hella-expensive, but what we really paid for was the setting, a bargain at any price.

We’ll come back to the park again, for sure, but the Bracebridge dinner was a once-in-a-lifetime event. We recommend!

There are eight dinners each December, but they sell out quickly. We booked as soon as tickets became available last February, and still couldn’t get Christmas or Christmas Eve. The 124 rooms at the Ahwahnee go quickly, but you can also stay at Yosemite Lodge or the Wawona. Book early.

For more, see www.bracebridgedinner.com.

One comment on “Raising our wassail cups
  1. A group of us at church one year put on a dinner like this. The performers were all local but Excellent. We cooked period food drinks and everyone dressed up. It was a *really* good time.

    I’d like to go to the Bracebridge dinner once.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Raising our wassail cups"
  1. I miss snow and cold weather says:

    […] December nights at Yosemite to attend the Bracebridge Dinner (highly recommend, I blogged about it HERE)  No snow at sea level, of course. We started to see snow as we climbed in elevation and pretty […]

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