Holiday Dining -- Get Christmas off to a Good Start
Sierra Lodestar 11/26/12

Foothill Flavors

Getting Christmas Present off to a good start

I’m betting there’s a little Scrooge in all of us. It’s the part that bah humbugs other peoples’ fantasies or gives less when we could give more.

Fortunately, even old Ebenezer was capable of reformation. Not only was he born again but with total recall. Credit a confrontation with the ghosts of Christmas Past for his transformation.

Again, I’m betting that anyone past twenty entertains ghosts of a similar sort. They come to haunt us every year around this time. I remember Bill, a hunky 16-year-old. We went head to head under the mistletoe as often as possible, held hands, sat by the fire, and took long walks.

For Christmas, he gave me a teddy bear. I gave him a bird book. Years later my mother ran into Bill on the street. “Tell Toni I still have that bird book,” he urged, adding, “I’m a game warden now.”

Did I shape Bill’s career path? Not likely, but I still have his teddy bear.

My ghosts of Christmas past center around holiday dances, slinky dresses, charm bracelets and friendship rings. Maybe you cherish memories of a first Christmas as a newly wed, a son’s shiny red tricycle, a daughter singing in the choir.

Admit it, we all entertain such bittersweet companions come holiday season. Fortunately, Scrooge set us a good example. An evocative glimpse of the past and a warning peek at future possibilities was all it took to rouse the realist in him.

The only Christmas that we can do anything about is this one. Scrooge was quick to jump on that. He got the Fa la la la number down pat, setting an example that’s lasted for more than 150 years.

Time now to gather friends and family around us, go out, see, be seen, and create new memories.

Jackson’s National Hotel

launches the season with a tree lighting ceremony Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. Expect carolers, cookies, sleigh rides down Main Street, even Santa himself. More adult pleasures include glasses of mulled wine or National Nog by the fire. The National’s Christmas calendar lists five “Believe Luncheons” and three Sugar Plum Teas, but their most exciting holiday offering is Christmas dinner.

For starters, guests may choose between Stilton cheese soup or cranberry spinach salad, with candied walnuts, crumbled walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and blood orange vinaigrette, then progress to goose with cranberry walnut dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, pan roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and sweet potato casserole.

The dessert options include eggnog cheesecake, figgy pudding or English trifle. The price is $35 for adults, $30 for seniors and $25 for children under 12. For reservations, call 223-0500.

I don’t know how many times Charles and I have enjoyed Christmas dinner at Murphys Hotel. It’s become a tradition for us. Whether with friends or just each other, we always have a wonderful time. No shopping, no cooking and, best of all, no dishes. Yippppppy!

Another advantage is variety. Everyone has exactly what they want. Dinners include a choice of soup or salad and desserts, but in between there were many other choices.

Charles likes the slow roasted prime rib for $32.95. I prefer lamb t-bone topped with caramelized onion, dried cherry and aged cheddar compote drizzled with mint demi glaze, $28.95.

There’s also bone in ham steak with pineapple maple glaze ($32.95) and filet mignon topped with Dungeness crab and béarnaise sauce ($39.95), even house-made smoked salmon raviolis tossed in roasted garlic and butternut squash cream sauce ($31.95). You see, something for everyone.


Hotel opened in 1856 as a stopping point along the stagecoach route to Big Trees. Today it’s thought to be the oldest operating wooden hotel in California. No wonder Murphys has that Charles Dickens “God Bless us everyone” feel to it.

Dorian Faught recently sold the place, but the new guys—they really are guys, each in his early thirties—Brian Goss, Kevin Clerico and Joel Lacitignola promise to hold to the old Ho! Ho! Ho! tradition. Call 728 -3444 for reservations.

If luck’s a lady to you, this could be a green Christmas. Green as in money not holly leaves. The Lone Wolf in the Jackson Rancheria is a worldly alternative to the traditional groaning board.

A stroll through the casino makes for a rather adult Christmas but, happily, the noble wolf den upstairs is far from the madding crowd. You won’t hear a single slot machine and can breath easy because there’s no smoking. Plus, unlike the casino downstairs, you’re allowed wine and cocktails. (That wolf pours a mean martini.)

The restaurant is inviting with a massive fireplace, well spaced mahogany tables and snug, intimate booths for couples.

Though primarily a steak house—every cut you can think of priced from $21 to $42—the bistro serves herb crusted lamb chops $24) fettuccini primavera ($14) and even broiled Australian lobster tail ($48).

The Lone Wolf is owned by the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, a sovereign government. That translates down to no tax. When the menu says, $21 or $48, that’s exactly what you pay. Now, isn’t that a nice treat to tuck into your Christmas stocking? For reservations, call 223- 8680.

Inevitably Christmas 2012 will join the other ghosts. Ensure that it’s a happy one by making holiday plans early. Only a handful of local restaurants will be open. To ensure a cool Yule, reserve now.