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Story and images by Yvette Cardozo

High on Adventure, March 2019

People come here to Mammoth Lakes, home of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, to play. They ski in winter. They hike, bike, boat, fish and whatnot in summer.

And, yes, they eat.

So this is not about the play. It’s about the chewing, the slurping, the swallowing, the blissful enjoying.

Black Velvet coffee at Mammoth Resort
  Lemon rosemary bread at Mammoth's Bleu Handcrafted Foods  
Design stays intact to bottom of cup at Black Velvet
Lemon rosemary breat at Bleu Handcrafted Foods

Black Velvet

This place has killer coffee. Not only did it taste great but the design on my cappuccino stayed intact all the way to the bottom of the cup.

Owner Matt Hammer handles his beans, his roasting and his brewing with the kind of intense care a parent lavishes on that first baby. The beans he buys are hand picked and sorted. Brewing is done for each cup. Nothing sits around his shop except, interestingly, the roasted beans themselves.

“Good coffee has to de-gas four or five days after roasting,” he said. “Over these days, the flavor will develop.”

As far as Hammer is concerned, dealing with coffee is “a lot more complicated than wine. With wine, you crush, the juice ferments and that’s it.”

For coffee, he said, it has to be the right beans, picked at the right time, sorted the right way.

Then you have to roast and there are many variables ranging from how much air, to how fast the drum spins. He calls it an art, like being a painter but with flavors.

But from here, there’s the brewing and, Hammer said, how the barista handles the process determines 85 percent of the taste. “A barista can make it good or destroy it. Too much coffee, the wrong pressure, the wrong temperature.”

Ok, a few surprising things I learned:

* The freezer is the worst place to store coffee. Room temperature is best.

* Grinding is one of the most important things...every ground has to be the same size.

* The difference in price between, say Guatamalan coffee and Hawaiian coffee, he says, isn’t a matter of quality but of labor costs...$2 a day in Guatamala, $13 an hour in Hawaii.

* Each roast has its own brewing profile...how much water, how much coffee, how hot the water should be, how finely the coffee should be ground.

* Cold brew coffee can be made with a constant flow or soaking. Constant flow coffee is more acidic, more complex in flavor; soaked cold brew has a creamier, rounder taste.

* Coffee is the second highest traded product in the world. Yes, oil is first.

Altitude warning sign at Mammoth Brewing Company
Altitude warning sign at Mammoth Brewing Company

Bleu Handcrafted Foods

This place is way more than a bakery, though the bread is what got our attention first.

I sat down with a group of friends to a loaf of freshly baked rosemary lemon bread with a chewy crust on top. The two flavors blended into something more than each on its own. Yes, I bought a loaf and hand-carried it to my son in Los Angeles. Uh, we finished it in minutes. At midnight.

Owners Brandon and Theresa Brocia carry almost a grocery store of goodies ranging from half a dozen artisan breads through home made jams, local vinegars, regional cheeses, boutique wines, a bewildering assortment of rice, even some interesting things like bags of potato chips made from “ugly” potatoes.

But instead of a grocery store feel, there’s somewhat of a farmer’s market vibe to Bleu.

And beyond the displays, there’s the work. They butcher the meat themselves and their array includes in-house dry aged beef and some intriguing sausages, including wild boar with cranberry and red wine, venison with pork and blueberries and, also, black truffle salami.

“Curing your own meats is like taking care of 24 newborn babies,” Brandon explained. “There’s a lot of tedious work. You’ve got a sealed room with high moisture. The temperature has to be just right and you are constantly wiping it down.”

Oh, wait - I didn’t mention the cafe.

“We like to call ourselves a food hall,” said Brandon. “You can buy anything and sit down and eat it...the cheese, the bread, something from our salad bar, our carving bar, our soups.”

The result is that it’s not only locals who shop here. Half of the customers are out-of-towners on vacation.

Black Doubt Brewing Co.

Owner Drew Wallace calls his place a “nano-brewery.” You are “micro” up to 15,000 barrels a year. Wallace said last year he produced 120.

“We don’t sell kegs. We don’t distribute. You won’t find ours in the grocery.”

What he does do is produce some exceedingly unique beers.

  Mammoth Resort Black Doubt Brewery owner Drew Wallace   Mammoth Resort Black Doubt brewery unique beers  
Black Doubt owner Drew Wallace
Black Doubt unique beers

One of his (and my) favs? Peanut Butter Imperial Stout.

The first thing that hits is the aroma...pure peanut butter. And indeed, it does taste like a meal in a glass...peanutty, creamy, solid.

“Some people come in constantly and say, ‘Do you have the peanut butter?’ And if we don’t have it, they turn and walk out.”

Murky Sticky Opaque (yes, that’s its name) has a distinct grapefruit taste and a hint of carbonation. Flanders Road is a real tongue curler - it’s a “sour” with all that this hints. Think sour fruit candy but unsweetened. No, I didn’t like it. At all. But it turns out sour beer is one of those acquired tastes, Wallace swears.

I did love the Toasted Coconut American Style Brown Ale. You can really taste the coconut.

And, a lot of folks do just want beer. Wallace says the favorite (just before peanut butter) is his El Denali IPA.

  Shelter Distilling

Mammoth Resort Shelter Distilling whiskey

This place was a treat and if I had ANY room in my suitcase, there are a few bottles I would have taken home.

Shelter Distilling is owned and run by Matt Hammer (the coffee shop guy), who appears to have more energy than most anyone else I know.

This place has just about everything...beer, cider, gin, whiskey, vodka, rum and this interesting orange coffee liquor.

Two things caught my eye (um, tongue).

Hammer calls his Whisky Rose “good for non-whiskey drinkers.”

I can attest to that. Whiskey is NOT my favorite drink but I really would drink, and enjoy, a nip of Whiskey Rose.

“We start with the best ingredients,” he said, listing, among other things, high-end malt and 25-year-old whiskey barrels for aging.


Great whiskey at Shelter Distilling


The whiskey itself is a touch sweet, which, he said, comes from rose hips.

And there was the gin, which I do love. For a martini, you use something traditional like, say, Tanqueray. But for sipping, I like to taste the botanical...the herbs and whatever else has been added. It’s become a bit of a quest for me. But, always, all I usually taste is gin, sometimes truly awful gin for a ridiculous price.

Hammer makes something he calls Gin The Third. The 20 herbs and fruits include cucumber, rose hips and petals, fennel, finger root, elder berries, vanilla beans, orange peel, anise.

I COULD taste them. All of them, melding into a fruity, herbal something behind a good gin taste. And this was at 9,000 feet (Mammoth Lake’s elevation). Imagine what this would taste like with ALL of my taste buds engaged at sea level (people lose 30 percent of their ability to taste at high altitude, which is why airplane food is over-salted).

“We maturate the juniper and rose hips for 18 hours in the vat, then pull it out and add the other botanicals, all in one basket,” Hammer said. “The vapor comes down and goes through the basket with the botanicals. This is 12 hours, then it goes into the condenser and it becomes liquid again.”

The Sweet Stuff

We hit Dessert’D where owner Mimi Council plied us with her incredible chocolate chip cookies.

Oh, you could taste that butter.

“If it’s not vegan, it’s butter. We like butter a LOT,” Council said as I snuck a third cookie.


And we went to Mammoth Fun Shop where owner Camille Miller makes an endless assortment of ice cream creations. The apple pie milk shake had chunks of crust and apple in vanilla ice cream and the Baked Gorilla is a vertical banana split that has it all...the bananas, fruit, hot fudge, ice cream, all topped with whipped cream, peanuts, the ubiquitous cherry and a chocolate cookie.

But front and center here are the toys...juggling stuff, stilts, fire hats, slack lines and way, way more.

Mammoth Resort hot fudge sundae at Fun Shop

Vertical hot fudge sundae at Fun Shop


One night, a bunch of us went to Mammoth Tavern where, after stuffing ourselves with the usual salads, bread, tuna, salmon and whatnot, the group shared a blueberry peach pie with ice cream. Evil, evil, evil. We ate every morsel.

Next time in town, if it’s summer, I plan to try the biking, the kayaking and maybe that new climbing course, the Via Ferrata. The Mega Zip that drops 2,000 feet, sometimes at 60 mph? Er, maybe not.

  Mammoth Twin Lakes boats on shore   Mountain biking at Mammoth Resort  
Boats on the shore of Twin Lakes
Mountain biking at Mammoth Resort



In addition to winter skiing, Mammoth Mountain definitely has a summer season where you can do endless outdoor activities. It usually runs early June through late September.


Town of Mammoth Lakes - https://www.visitmammoth.com/

Mammoth Mountain - https://www.mammothmountain.com/

Black Velvet Coffee - https://www.blackvelvetcoffee.com/

Bleu Handcrafter Foods - https://bleufoods.com/

Black Doubt Brewing Co. - http://blackdoubtbrewing.com/

Shelter Distilling - http://shelterdistilling.com/distillery

Dessert‘D - https://www.dessertd.com/

Mammoth Fun Shop - http://mammothfunshop.com/

Photographing Convict Lake
Photographing Convict Lake

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