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Entries in Sports (9)


The Lakefront Restaurant, Mammoth Lakes

As many of you know, I’ve been coming to Mammoth Lakes for many years, but have never dined at Tamarack. A well regarded establishment and rooted in classical cuisine, I’ve heard from backpacker and seasoned diner alike, this is probably the best place in town. In the winter, the cross-country ski area at Mammoth is located next to the lodge.

It was my first night in Mammoth, so I generally don’t drink alcohol due to the elevation, so I had Sauvignon Blanc with dinner.

I started with the duck confit salad in a truffled dressing, with foie gras medallion and toasted bread. The duck was picked off the bone with no skin and served on the side on the salad. The duck was moist and seasoned. The lettuce mix was simple mixed greens with frisee and matchstick cut pear or apple (I didn’t ask). The bread was a little over grilled and awfully dry, but it didn’t affect the salad’s overall taste. I prefer having the whole duck leg with the skin to pick at when I order confit, but I’ll be honest, it was a good salad.


My main course was a cold smoked salmon, finished in the pan to form a crust before service. The salmon was accompanied by a medley of starch and vegetables, polenta cake with peppers, grilled bok choy, creamy potato, roasted beet root, and snap peas. While I have a personal preference for a simple unadulterated polenta cake, each and every garnish was done right. I don’t have a single issue with anything and it’s tough to bat 1000. Each garnish was seasoned, cooked properly, and presented with precision.


The salmon was a well-crafted piece of protein. The salmon was quickly cured, then cold smoked briefly to impart the flavor of smoke but not to cook. The salmon was then finished in a sauté pan until the top was golden and crispy. The salmon was well seasoned, hinted of smoke, moist and just plain good. Good use of technique from curing, to smoking, to sauté in order to achieve the finished product. Well done, very well done.

Service was pleasant and relaxed, despite a full dining room. I noticed proper wine service and wine glasses to go with it. Servers smiled, moved around the room hustling, and all the service staff touched my table throughout the evening.  

Lakefront Restaurant - Tamarack Lodge on Urbanspoon

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Live Free or Die

"Live Free or Die"

New Hampshire is a new state for The Cured Ham, so it only seemed reasonable to hike a mountain in The Granite State. Mt. Jackson at 4,052 feet is part of series of mountains in the Presidential Range and one of the 4000's in the state.

As a native Californian, it was cute to hike a 4,000 FOOT peak as opposed to a 4,000 METER peak like Mt. Tyndall (the trail alone climbs higher than 4,000 feet to Shepherd's Pass!) But a hike nonetheless. In all fairness, the trail up and down Mt. Jackson was uneven and often steep terrain, full of exposed and slick tree roots. One slip and good-bye ankle. It took about as much time, 2.5 hours to hike up as it did to hike down. The summit of Mt. Jackson offers 360 degree views of the range and surrounding area.

It was a real pleasure to hike here and lots of fun to visit the great state of New Hampshire. I think the best state slogan of all 50 States. Certainly beats "Eureka!"

I'll be posting a few things from my trip as I get around to them.

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California Alpine Guides

California Alpine Guides

To conclude my week long series on the delights of US 395, I focus on two experts of The East Side of California, David Miller and Lyra Pierotti. Dave and Lyra are fellow foodies and world travelers. They delivered the inspiration necessary to focus my efforts on this lonely stretch of highway. Dave and Lyra were kind enough to ask me to join them one evening in Mammoth for drinks at the Clocktower Cellar, another jewel just off 395.


Dave and I have been climbing together for about 10 years. Dave is a friend, climbing companion, un-official ambassador of the Eastern Sierra and all-around good guy. When you spend time on the rock, in a tent, or in a cabin you better hope you have something in common with the people you're with or the climbing trip could go sour. Luckily, my conversations with Dave cover a wide variety of topics but always seem to gravitate back towards food and wine. Our most recent mountain outing was in Northern Italy, specifically Finale Ligure, one of Italy's legendary sport climbing areas. Dave is a UIAGM/IFMGA Internationally Certified Mountain Guide and AMGA certified alpine guide, rock guide & ski mountaineering guide. Suffice it to say, Dave can climb.

Lyra is also a guide, climber, mountaineer, and fellow blogger Lyra has some interesting perspectives on the 'life and times' of a career climber on her blog and some good pictures of the experience.

This is one of those rare times when I'm actually mentioning full names. Why? Miller has a business to run and deserves the press. Lyra works as a guide through CAG. So if you have the desire to climb Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta, backpack in Yosemite, or ski in Europe check out Dave's website or give him a call.

Another little tid-bit about Dave, he's got global about a winery in Mexico and a premier winery at that; Adobe Guadalupe Winery. Luckily, Dave had a bottle with him. After drinks at the Clocktower, The Cured Ham cooked that evening for Dave and Lyra and the wine went well with our meal. Don't scoff at Mexican wine. Adobe Guadalupe has been featured at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago and has had numerous features in a variety of food and wine magazines. 

Dave and Lyra have forgotten more about US 395 than many of us will ever know. Imagine spending 10 summers traveling back and forth over the Tioga Road? Or climbing lap after lap of 2-day Mt. Shasta summit trips? Or the same beginner crag over and over again? Or the annual migration to warmer climbing spots in Joshua Tree? This is the life of the professional guide and the freedom of the hills.  

But are all those miles and laps worth the experience, the journey? Or are they just points on the map; another summit, an end point? I would argue that a climbers life is worth every experience, every back road, every dusty trail. I'm thankful I have spent time in the wilderness and my experience is brief, when compared to Dave and Lyra.

Enough philosophical ranting. What does the career climber find hunting for crags and gathering miles? The Gourmet Gas Station, Rock Creek Homemade Pies, Hot Springs, and Big Breakfasts!

I've eaten at the Gourmet Gas Station since it opened, turned on to it by Dave and another climbing buddy, Scotty Brown (co-founder of California Alpine Guides). I would have never thought to stop at the Gourmet Gas Station on Tioga Road except to get gas. The Gas Station serves better food than 90% of the restaurants in your town, believe me.

Want a homemade pie? Try driving to the end of Rock Creek Road, you'll find it there in summer. Need a soak in a hot tub? Don't stay at The Comfort Inn for a dirty soak, try a natural hot springs that Dave can lead you to near Mammoth. The Ranch House Cafe in Olancha, thank Miller for that recommendation. The diner at Tom's Place? Been there, done that...thanks to Dave and Scott. Bridgeport, Lee Vining, June Lake, Gardnerville, Alturas, Big Pine, Independence, Bishop, Goose Lake...all towns on 395 and I know who to ask for the best food in town. Do you?

But what happens at the end of the road, literally. No gas station. No diner. No mini-mart. Dinty Moore Beef Stew? Top Ramen? Hell no. How about New York Steak and green beans. As I mentioned before, Dave is no stranger to fine dining and fine wine.  Cabernet is our only choice when Dave fires up New York Steak in a green peppercorn sauce complete with green beans. That's Dave's creation pictured above.

It's the experiences on the road that make us who were are. It forces us to try new things, to be adventurous and not be complacent. I'm happy to have featured some of the great places and people located on Central California's stretch of US 395. I will continue my search, with the help of locals like Dave and Lyra, for the eclectic, the classic, and the end-of-the-road places on US 395.

My thanks again to Dave and Lyra for a couple great nights in Mammoth and for the inspiration to write this continuing feature. I look forward to our next meal.

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Looney Bean, Mammoth Lakes

The Looney Bean in Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, have been a regular stops for The Cured Ham for over 10 years. The logo and the location may have changed, but the Black Diamond coffee hasn't (they're even in other states!)

I remember when The Bean was located across the street, next to the Chevron gas station, now home to a local competitor (better than a Starbuck's moving in). It was more of a local's place, a Sierra Nevada nomad hangout. The climbing nomad moves between JTree, Owens Valley, Mammoth, and Yosemite with the change of the seasons looking for good climbing weather and no crowds.

The Bean is always my first stop in town for a pound of Black Diamond whole bean coffee and a free cup of whatever the darker roast is. Come to think of it, the Sumatra is good too. After driving anywhere between 4 and 6 hours, I'm jonesing for some caffeine. 

Looney Bean Logo

Even though I buy the beans for brewing at the campground or the condo, I still end up here after a day on the trail, the crag, or the slopes. I can grab one of the many baked goods for a little sugar fix, sit at a table and plug in for some free wi-fi to check the weather report. Another perfect afternoon at The Bean. I've had breakfast here too. Medium extra-shot mocha and a berry scone usually do the trick for me. It helps fight off the haze of higher altitude my first morning after coming up from sea level.

So whether you like your coffee black, room-for-cream, or froo-froo, The Looney Bean has got your fix ready seven days a week at 8,000 feet.

Looney Bean on Urbanspoon

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Mammoth Brewing Company

Mammoth Brewing Company

When The Cured Ham has the opportunity to drink locally, he does. The Mammoth Brewing Company in Mammoth Lakes, CA has been brewing quality craft beer since 1995. 

I remember making a loop around the Sierra's almost 15 years ago in my Chevy S-10 truck with Crazy Eric. Our first night, we camped on the roadside near Saddlebag Lake. We were rousted out by the ranger around 7am, only to drive down the road a little further to make breakfast on the tailgate of the truck. Eric booted most of his expertly crafted omelet off the side of the truck that morning. The day started off rocky, but finished wonderfully.

We rolled into Mammoth Lakes later that day and set up camp near Lake Mary. As we passed by the last stop light on the way to the lake, we noticed a tented area and the sign "Beer Garden" across the street from Whiskey Creek. Sure enough, my first experience with Mammoth Brewing was either in their first or second year of operation at Bluesapalozza. We had a good time that night, drank some beer, told some stories, sat around a late camp fire. And drank some more beer.

Over the years, I've tended to drink Golden Trout Pilsner, Paranoids Pale Ale, Double Nut Brown, and 395 IPA. Out of the group, the 395 IPA has a variety of unique flavors and smells unlike any other IPA I've tried. Try it with something spicy, I think you'll like it. The Pilsner and Pale Ale pair well with burgers, BBQ, sausage. Or just have a cold one after a long day. The Double Nut Brown is more of an after dinner libation, suitably paired with a fire (campfire or choose).

Mammoth Brewing Company can be purchased in stores around town. But in order to sample the full line of brew, head to the tasting room at 94 Berner, right across from The Village parking lot. You won't be disappointed. The link at the top refers to their Facebook fan page as the regular webpage is not totally up and running yet. And remember, drink responsibly.

Eric and I continued south the next day and ventured up to Whitney Portal to see the road to Mt. Whitney. Little did we know, we would return only a few years later, with my brother, to that very spot on the Portal road to end our journey climbing Mt. Whitney from Cottonwood Pass. Another great memory.

My first round trip of the Sierra's was a blast. I'm still making the trip and still drinking the beer.

Mammoth Brewpub on Urbanspoon

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