Does this new restaurant which plans to operate out of the old Coco’s Locos location promise a.) to make chinese food with finesse, or b.) to offer a chinese menu with a swedish influence? (Photo: Lunch)
Posted on 30 July 2012.
Does this new restaurant which plans to operate out of the old Coco’s Locos location promise a.) to make chinese food with finesse, or b.) to offer a chinese menu with a swedish influence? (Photo: Lunch)
Posted on 25 May 2012.
By Monica Prelle
Before you get all teary-eyed about the closing of Restaurant Skadi, pop a bottle of your favorite bubbly and raise your glass — this is a story worth celebrating.
Restaurant Skadi opened its doors for business on Dec. 21, 1995. It was the winter solstice, and the beginning of a dream. It is the restaurant many locals consider the best in town and when Skadi closes on Saturday, May 26, it will have been open for a celebrated 16 1/2 years.
What sets Skadi apart from other restaurants is the man in the kitchen. Wearing a proverbial toque and clad in crisp chef whites, Chef Ian Algerøen leads the culinary team from his post at the sauté station. He’s diligent and methodical in his work and passionate about theater of dining.
At 5 p.m. Chef Ian gathers the staff for a champagne toast. This isn’t a ritual that happens every night at Skadi, but a good one that happens from time to time.
Named for the Viking Goddess of Skiing and Hunting, Skadi draws its inspiration from the mountains that surround it. The Scandinavian and Alpine influenced cuisine lures food-savvy locals and in-the-know tourists just about every night of the week. The food is a substantial part of the restaurant’s appeal.
An old Chair 9 hangs in the foyer at Skadi, while the Norse God Ullr welcomes guests inside. The second floor Old Mammoth location’s panoramic views, intimate 60-seat dining room, ski memorabilia, and mellow vibe create an unparalleled locale for fine food and wine.
There isn’t a better dinner table in Mammoth.
Each plate at Skadi is delicately assembled with fresh seasonal ingredients. And many of those ingredients come from the Walking Beam Ranch in Santa Paula where Rancher Peter Busch, Chef Ian’s former business partner and lifelong friend, oversees the daily operations. The ranch exclusively supplies Skadi with venison, macadamia nuts, avocado, citrus, and herbs.
Inspired by the success of deer farming in New Zealand, Busch’s parents, decided to farm venison. The family has owned and operated the Walking Beam Ranch since 1978.
Menu highlights include a Walking Beam Ranch venison sausage served on fresh corn pancakes, savory mushroom crepes, salmon gravlax and a duck leg confit served with spätzli and lingonberries. There’s even a kids menu, a vegetarian menu and a very popular Sunday night burger menu.
The success of the restaurant is a direct result of Chef Ian’s passion and dedication to the culinary arts. He began his career at the age of 13, working as a cook and bus person at the Big Green House, “Chicken, Steak and Chocolate Cake—all you can eat,” in Ventura. He went on to study at the California Culinary Academy (CCA), receiving a Professional Chef diploma in 1984.
Algerøen has worked as a pastry cook during the game season in Switzerland as Chef Tournant at the Hotel Biberenbad and Chef De Cuisine of the Blue Fox in San Francisco. And he was the Executive Sous Chef at the CCA from 1989-1993.
Eventually Algerøen settled in Mammoth and he was hired as Chef De Cuisine at Nevados (formerly Roget’s).
“I moved back to my wonderful home nine times and haven’t left in 20 years,” Ian said. “Mammoth is my home. I’m here for good.”
After two years working for Tim Dawson at Nevados, Ian and Pete opened Restaurant Skadi.
There have been many intelligent hard working individuals to pass through the back door at Skadi. If one wanted to be a successful Skadi employee he/she only needed to follow two rules: 1. The Chef is always right, and 2. Please refer to rule number one.
After working at Skadi for a short time, one would quickly learn that the Chef actually is crazy. Seriously. It even said so on the menu.
A quick phone call to let Chef know that I was going to be late for work (because I was about to drop into epic powder on the Sherwins) was not reprimanded. Rather, Ian ran to the office to grab a pair of binoculars so he could watch.
The Skadi ski tune room was open to current and former employees and a few select friends. There were many late night tuning sessions where limited bottles from Chef’s private cellar were consumed while the snow accumulated outside.
Chef quizzed his employees about the best rock and roll band to ever live (Led Zeppelin) and taught the staff about cuts of meat by demonstrating on his own body. He cooked lobster and eggs for the cleaning parties and taught us that that the Caesar salad was invented by an Italian chef in Tijuana. At Skadi we did not drink—we tasted because it was part of our education.
But all good things must come to end.
“It is very difficult running a small fine dining restaurant in a resort town,” Ian said. “Ever since the economic collapse in 2008 things just changed. It’s tough economic times.”
The closing of Skadi is bittersweet for me. I moved on five years ago to eventually become the Wine Director at the Westin Monache Resort. Now that Chef Ian is moving up the hill to take the Executive Chef position at the Westin, once again, I get to work with the chef that taught me everything I know about food and inspired me to learn about wine, but the restaurant where I feel most at home is closing.
And I’m not the only one who’s sad. For the final week of business the restaurant has been packed with locals enjoying a last supper.
“The Eastern Sierra is losing one of its best, if not the best, restaurant in the region,” said John Rogitz, a loyal customer and good friend. “Skadi’s bill of fare fit well into anyone’s gastronomic preferences, and some of the best bottles of wine this side of Bordeaux were regularly uncorked there.
“The Westin, in luring Ian with the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse, has added new luster to its dining room and raised the bar for other fine dining establishments in Mammoth. “
Part of what made Skadi so successful was the quality of the guests and the intimate size of the dining room. Chef Ian made regular laps throughout dinner service. Longtime customers became friends and new customers were genuinely welcomed.
“There have been so many great customers,” Ian said. “In 18 years I’ve watched children turn into adults and couples get married and start families.”
On snowy nights as dinner service slowed down, Chef Ian would gear up and dig cars out of the snow. He never asked a server or a dishwasher to shovel; he did it himself.
Chef Ian plans to bring some of the classic Skadi dishes with him to the Westin, but will most likely leave the snow shoveling and car service to the hotel’s valet team.
“One of the greatest things about my new job is I get to focus on food, food, food,” Ian said. “People want the duck and they love the crepes. We’ll continue to get venison, macadamia nuts, and citrus from the ranch, and I will continue to deal with small farmers.”
He also wants to integrate Mexican and Japanese inspired dishes, drawing influence from the California culture in which he grew up, and there is a good possibility of a “Skadi Burger” making its way to the menu.
With moving to a much larger restaurant Chef Ian will be managing a bigger culinary team and cooking three meals a day, but he wants to offer the same personal dining experience that his guests at Skadi came to know and love.
“My new kitchen is an exposition kitchen, so I will be in contact with the guests just as much,” he said. “I just have to walk a bigger lap.”
Up the hill at the Westin, the current staff is buzzing with excitement and anticipation. For Ian and those close to the restaurant, it is an emotional beginning of another chapter.
“Skadi is my baby, my everything,” Ian said. “She will not die, though. A mere mortal cannot kill a goddess!”
Posted on 05 August 2011.
Dave Kirk, one of the area’s newer artists, only moved to the Owens Valley in 2001, but by that time, the Eastern Sierra and its spectacular scenery had already made a lasting impression on him. Primarily a self-taught painter, Kirk studied Art at The Ohio State University. “In 1990, I moved out west, spending most of that year hiking around the Eastern Sierra,” he recalled on his website. “During that period, two things became obvious to me: One was that I wanted to do some kind of work involving the outdoors. The other was that I wanted to begin painting the unbelievable landscapes unfolding before me, and eventually develop my art to a degree where I could earn an income from it. I wasn’t entirely sure how I should go about doing either!”
At Ohio State, Kirk said he studied basic structure, along with pencil drawing and sculpture. “We had also been exploring other mediums. I submitted some watercolors and my professor encouraged me to pursue it, he seemed to think I had an affinity for it. I just kind of took to it.”
He later took up formal study of watercolor painting at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore. “Between 1995 until 2001, I was living on Mt. Hood and worked as a caretaker of Silcox Hut, a National Historic Monument.” Kirk said he’s also held a variety of jobs, including telemark ski instructor, mountain guide, and even as a location scout for movies. It was at about this time that he began to publicly show and sell his artwork.
“In some of my first attempts, I was kind of overwhelmed with detail,” he told The Sheet. “I later learned how to determine what detail was important, and there are certain strokes and techniques you can use … the viewer’s mind can fill in the rest of the details.”
Kirk works in other media, but prefers watercolors. “I’ve done some larger scale works and murals where I’ve used acrylics and so on, but what I like about watercolor is it’s very portable and very clean … no nasty solvents or chemicals.”
Because watercolor is basically just pigment and water, Kirk said it has a “capricious quality to it,” often creating its own patterns and colors once it’s applied to the canvas, and influencing the direction and tonality of the work.
“Studying the modern masters from the Impressionist through the Cubist eras and beyond, has given me insight in how to interpret the landscape in my own way,” Kirk said.
“From the mid-19th century to present, art has played a remarkable role in the movement to protect landscapes and the living things that reside therein,” he related. “One of my favorite quotes is by the great preservationist Aldo Leopold: ‘Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values yet not captured by language.’” By day, Kirk works as an Inyo National Forest Wilderness Ranger, and also assists Lone Pine and the Bureau of Land Management with stewardship of the Alabama Hills. “I’m fortunate to be able to do my small part to protect the landscapes I work in.”
Happy to be part of the region’s burgeoning arts community, he also draws inspiration from the Eastern Sierra’s painters, photographers, sculptors and artists in other mediums.
Kirk is the featured artist for August and September at Thai Thai Restaurant in Bishop (inside the Airport building). The public is invited to a show opening reception on Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 5:30-7 p.m. In addition to Kirk’s artwork, guests can enjoy music, appetizers and refreshments. For more on Kirk and his art, visit www.dkirksworks.com.
Posted on 15 July 2011.
Bishop’s Thai restaurant beats the odds
It was the third of September.
That day I’ll always remember, yes I will.
‘Cause that was the day that my daddy died.
The infamous opening lines of The Temptations “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” were penned by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.
While the third of September may have been marked by death in their timeless ditty, if they’d written a song about the fourth of September, and they’d known the history of Weng-Cheong Lim and Alisa Khongnok, the theme might have been rebirth.
Lim, owner of Thai Thai Restaurant (located at Bishop Airport) and Khongnok, his chef, both incredibly immigrated to the United States on the same day – September 4, 1988.
Lim arrived in New York City that day from his native Malaysia.
Khongnok landed in Honolulu from her native Thailand.
Lim, escaping a stifling political environment that thwarted opportunity, arrived in the U.S. on a work visa.
Khongnok arrived as a result of marriage to an American who had been traveling in Thailand.
Both are entrepreneurs. Both quickly founded their own businesses in the United States. Both have reinvented themselves and started over again in new places on multiple occasions. Both ultimately met on a golf course in Hilo, Hawaii. Lim was playing in the group ahead and struck up a conversation with Khongnok’s partner at the time.
“They were both talkers,” said Khongnok with a little grin.
By that time, in the late ‘90s, Lim owned a bed-and-breakfast. Khongnok had a Thai restaurant. She had grown up in an agrarian household and had cooked for her family as a young girl, so going into the restaurant business hadn’t been a stretch.
The 9/11 attack on New York City drove Lim back to the mainland first, as the tourism industry in Hawaii was devastated.
A relationship gone sour brought Khongnok to the continental 48 a few years later.
A new relationship brought her to Bishop.
Khongnok was visiting friends in Bishop and helping out at the old Western Kitchen waiting tables when she served a man named Al Gabbard.
She soon decided to move to Bishop and marry him.
Lim had moved to Seattle from Hawaii, where “I worked four jobs seven days a week.” He then borrowed some money from relatives to open a Chinese restaurant in the German-themed, central Washington town of Leavenworth.
Why a Chinese restaurant in a German-themed town in the middle of the sticks? Well, it’s exactly this type of beautiful contradiction which is a cornerstone of Lim’s. The man is an eternal optimist.
He eventually sold the restaurant and decided to move to the Phoenix, Ariz. area. He didn’t want to own his own place anymore – didn’t want the responsibility. So he applied for a bunch of jobs. This was in 2008. Lim was nearly 65. Employers politely declined. They wouldn’t say it but Lim knew the reason; they thought he was too old.
So he took a trip. And visited his old friend Alisa in Bishop. And decided that he might like it. He asked her to partner in a restaurant. She told him she didn’t want to partner, but she’d cook for him.
Thai Thai opened in April 2009.
As Lim recalls, before he opened, he was introduced to Whiskey Creek’s Greg Alexander, who advised him to really think about some of the obstacles – that he was new to town, and that it requires some time to break in to a small town, that his restaurant location was off the beaten path, and that the country was in the depths of a recession. Was this such a bright idea?
Did it matter? Lim does what Lim does. And Lim does it successfully.
He is quite proud of the entertainment (there is live music three nights a week – check the Sheet calendar section) and the art shows he features in his restaurant, and it’s easy to see that he is grateful for Khongnok’s presence (and talent. The food’s great, if spicy. Lunch’s recommendation: order one level less spicy than you’d normally order).
“We get along 85% of the time,” he said with a twinkle. “In my previous restaurant, it was more like 70% [with the last chef].”
Sheet: Describe your typical customer.
Lim: 95% local and 5% lost tourists.
Lim knows his bread-and-butter are the locals and he is eager to participate in the community. He is starting an art and photography competition in cooperation with the local schools next year and will display local students’ work in the restaurant.
Alisa, meanwhile, likes the small town quiet. And she particularly likes the climate. Thailand, as well as Hawaii, she says, are “too wet and too hot.”
Posted on 28 March 2011.
Participants in the Wounded Warriors Project were in Mammoth last week and over the weekend in order to take part in the 2011 Mammoth Winter Biathlon. On Sunday, March 27, the group headed out of the Eastern Sierra. They were picked up from the Bishop Airport by a C-130 full of other officers.
The men grabbed some lunch from the Thai Thai restaurant before boarding their ride. All claimed they had a great time during their visit and hoped to be back. The only downer had been that due to weather, they were unable to shoot during their portion of the biathlon; the part of the competition where they had expected to excel.
Posted on 28 December 2009.
Revamped restaurant ready for business
Kid in a candy store may not be apropos in describing Jim Demetriades’s excitement at reopening Rafters restaurant this week.
Kid in a walk-in freezer might be a better description.
There was Demetriades, preparing dinner in the kitchen for family and friends as I walked in the door looking for putative chef Kerry Mechler.
“He’s gone home for the night … but would you mind giving me a hand with this cheese wheel?” asked Demetriades as I entered the labyrinthian kitchen.
“Would you like to stay for dinner?
“My wife’s expecting me.”
“She’s invited, too.”
Note to Mammoth: Talk about media relations!
The curtain on the new Rafters (next to the Sierra Nevada Lodge on Old Mammoth Rd.) was lifted on Tuesday, liquor license be damned. (Issuance of that license is expected any day now). The Sheet sat down with Kerry Mechler recently to figure out what to expect once he wrests control of the kitchen.
“He [Jim] originally wanted to do an Italian restaurant … but I convinced him to do a “New American” restaurant with Italian influences.
What is new American?
Deb Pierrel (a consultant for Jim Demetriades), who just happened to be in on the conversation, chimed in, “It’s a blend of Mediterranean/European cuisine with the comfort of classic American.”
What is new American? repeated The Sheet.
Think baked pastas and veal osso bucco, she said, at which point I moved on because I didn’t know what osso bucco means.
What I did gather is that Mechler will just be doing much of what he’s already been doing at Petra’s Bistro, Meaning there’s a good chance you’ll be able to order his famous house rolled potato gnocchi at Rafters.
“My food’s my food … and I’m going to be creating new stuff here as we develop.”
Mechler also promises daily menu changes and seasonal foods.
Mechler’s #2 will be sous chef Karl Dawson, who has past experience working at the Westin Monache and Restaurant Skadi.
How did Mechler end up at Rafters? General Manager Don Catalano, whom Mechler managed for once upon a time at the Charthouse, called him for advice about opening a restaurant. “I became the advice,” said Kerry.
Prior to landing the Rafters gig, Mechler had tried to negotiate for the former Restaurant LuLu location in the Village, but the deal fell through when investors backed out at the last minute.
Posted on 15 November 2009.
Salsa’s not closed, but a recent news story almost shut them down
Salsa’s owners Alex and Carlene Millan may have the business up for sale, but for some reason, the perception on the street is that it’s closed. That could be the result of a recent Mammoth Times story (Sept. 25) on the taqueria, which, while not actually saying it was shut down, may have cast a darker cloud over the popular Old Mammoth Road eatery than the Millans’ would have liked.
And they’re a bit caliente about it. “It’s never been this slow,” Alex said. “Lots of people think we’re closed,” Alex said.
“I’d be at Vons and people would come up to me and say, ‘I’m so sorry you’re closed,’” Carlene added. “ She said the Times article was originally intended as a human interest story, but something apparently happened between when it was written and when it was published.
“It was changed,” Carlene said, upon hearing the original draft read to her by the writer, who also was perplexed as to how the final version appeared in print. In fairness, the Times did publish something of a correction, but Alex and Carlene were disappointed that it only appeared in a rather obscure location. “I don’t think it was in placed where it could do much to correct how the story may have been perceived by readers,” Alex said.
The Millans’ don’t dispute the article’s accuracy per se, but take issue with the tone. “It’s for sale,” Alex said. “We just curbed our hours to stay alive.” Carlene indicated that the story’s headline (“Salsa’s originator gives up … “) even made her think they’d closed their own business.
The main point in any case Alex wants to make is that they’re NOT closing. “We hope the new owners are successful with it and don’t change too much, but until it’s sold, we’ll still be up and running, serving the same food our locals and visitors have enjoyed for the past three years,” he said. By Thanksgiving, the store plans to expand its hours, then pull back for a while and be back up to “full speed” by the time the town is packed for Christmas and beyond.
Of course, these days a certain amount of any decline in business can no doubt be attributed to the effects of the current economic downturn. Still, no news would have been better news.
“It was a huge setback,” she stated. “What I said was that after 3.5 years in business, it was taking all of my time.” Talk to any restaurant owner and they’ll tell you that and operating one is a time-consuming venture, and Carlene said that, coupled with the demands of twop medical careers, forced them to make a choice.
Alex, who also works in the Operating Room at Mammoth Hospital, said he wants to focus more on his medical career, as does Carlene, who also works as an Emergency Medical Technician at the hospital.
Salsa’s went up for sale in September. Buyers are interested and the Millans hope to have it sold by January, but said they plan to keep it open, even it takes a year to close a deal.
Until then, however, look for Carlene and daughter Sabrina behind the counter and manning the kitchen. Salsa’s is open … still.