YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — It may have been a challenging few months for this glorious national park, what with an outbreak of norovirus and the Ahwahnee Hotel’s loss of one star, dropping it to a AAA three-diamond rating instead. But I’m happy to report that all seemed well when I was there last week as moderator for the last two sessions of the 2020 Chefs’ Holidays event.
This popular winter-time extravaganza, which consists of fun chef demos and grand gala dinners, celebrated its 36th year this January.
There might not have been any snow on the valley floor this time around, but there was plenty of sunshine, as well as more than enough action on the demo stage to keep everyone entertained.
Husband-and-wife chefs John Stewart and Duskie Estes got things rolling first, recounting the devastating loss of their Zazu restaurant in Sebastopol after last winter’s deluge flooded their place, and how local high school students kayaked in with a generator to help them pump out the water.
Stewart and Estes may not have a restaurant at the moment. But they continue to do catering, as well as sell products from their farm, including their magnificent Black Pig Meat Co. bacon.
Spring asparagus with an unusual potato salad at Commonwealth.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a chef mention this restaurant as the place they most like to eat on their day off or as the establishment they’d most like theirs to emulate, I’d be doing very well indeed.
The Michelin-starred restaurant opened in 2010 in an old donut shop in San Francisco. In fact, the Mission District restaurant not only sports the old donut mural on the side of the building, but possesses something truly rare in San Francisco — its own parking lot. It is a fairly small lot, though, so you still have to be lucky to snag a space.
Chef-Owner Jason Fox oversees the open kitchen in the compact dining room, which means it is worthwhile to make a reservation. My husband and I, who were invited to dine as guests of the restaurant on a recent Saturday night, saw a few walk-ins turned away because the restaurant just gets that booked.
Located in a former donut shop.
Some bubbly to accompany the first couple of courses.
While there is an a la carte menu, what really makes Commonwealth stand out is its tasting menu. In the Bay Area, where many tasting menus have prompted ire for their stratospheric prices that now reach well beyond $300 per person, Commonwealth’s is all of $85 per person ($140 total per person with wine pairings) for about seven courses. Even the “chef’s extended menu” is a relatively moderate $125 per person ($195 total per person with wine pairings) for about 14 courses, which is the option we went for.