Friday, July 20, 2012

Lake Tahoe Restaurants

You didn't really think I was going to talk about one of my favorite places without mentioning food did you?  As laid back as Tahoe can be, there are actually a surprising amount of very good and inventive restaurants in the area.

Spindleshanks has been a family favorite for over a decade.  It's always nice to sit out on the patio and enjoy dinner.  If it gets too cold, there are heat lamps, as well as a working fireplace, which I may not recommend sitting too close to unless you're up in the winter and have been on the slopes for about 72 hours straight.  That fire kicks off some serious heat.

They have a very nice wine selection and offer flights when you're feeling non committal or in need of appreciating more wines than one.  The oysters bienzo are a gooey mound of cheese, sausage, crab and spinach, but mostly cheese, mounded on top of an oyster for a great way to start off any meal, or new exercise regime.

The calamari is more like deep fried batter balls that are really just a mechanism for dipping into the creamy sauces.  The item we come back for every time is the butternut squash ravioli in a brown sage sauce with candied pecans.  It dropped off the menu at one point, but we were always still able to get it, but now it looks to have found its permanent place on the menu, and all is right with the world.

While the service is beyond Parisian slow, the servers are friendly, and I suppose friendliness takes time.

The Drunken Monkey is a relative newcomer in a recently constructed area just outside of Truckee.

They offer some unique sushi combinations with some interesting options to mix up flavors like the garlic chili zest edamame.  My sister in law even had a martini with similar flavors.  That'll definitely get your taste buds to stand at attention.

Other good menu items include shaking beef and the Singapore street noodles.  The taste of the miso marinated eggplant was good, but there was way too much syrupy sauce.

Austin's is always a favorite stop on our lunch circuit.  You can sit outside on a wooden bench under an umbrella and choose from a good variety of big leafy salads.

My go-to is the taco salad, and why yes, those are nacho cheese chips in the bowl.  They add a nice crunch, but for those eating more virtuous greens, you have to order some of the buttermilk fries, or you can even get cheese and chili on them if you want to go all in.

For breakfast, brunch or lunch, the Blue Onion has always been a crown pleaser for my family.

Situated on the Brockway Golf Course, you can sit outside and watch people miss putts on the practice green, or simply concentrate on lifting the enormous huevo rancheros into your mouth.

Or enjoy one of the many savory or sweet crepes.  Guess which one the kids went for?

 Another must eat place on any Tahoe trip is Dragonfly in Truckee.

They offer a great mix of Thai, Japanese, and Malaysian fare.  No meal is complete without the sweet and sour eggplant with won ton chips.  We've asked for the recipe before, but somehow it never compares to the real deal in the real place, and no, this picture does not do it justice.

Another favorite is the curried flatbread with the cooling yogurt mint raita bringing a taste of India to the lake.  For lunch there's great salads like the new curry chicken, which I split with my sister in law, and love that they brought out on separate plates before our turkey pesto sandwich.  Everything on the menu is really tasty and served with a smile.


The chef of Dragonfly came from Wolfdale's, an institution in Tahoe City since 1978.  We always see Tahoe City as a little longer drive, so we don't eat there than often, but our paths took us to Wolfdale's this trip, and we'll be making a point of it again soon.  The location on the back deck is beautiful with lake views and heaters to keep you warm at night.


The menu has an Asian flair with items like Hawaiian ahi poke cones, smoked trout, pork belly and the spiced beets that my dad liked so much, he got an extra order.  All of the "teasers" are a hit, and you can never go wrong with truffle fries.


I had a green thai seafood stew that was wonderful with its sweet spices surrounding shrimp, scallops, spinach, wild rice and cod.

Continuing with the Wolfdale's theme, we went to a great food and wine dinner at the Thunderbird Lodge at the end of our 4th of July week.  The food was prepared by Chef Douglas Dale of Wolfdale's fame, and the wine was provided by Napa Valley's Cliff Lede.

The Thunderbird Lodge is full of salacious stories.  It was originally the home of eccentric playboy George Whittell, Jr.  He enjoyed collecting everything from fast women, cars, boats and even wild animals.  He had a lion that lived with him for a summer, as well as an elephant, Mingo. Things quickly went awry as you could imagine and the animals didn't stay long.

The house is an interesting look into Whittell's mind with its 600' of underground passageways.  He even had a secret back door through a shower in the bathroom of his poker room in case things weren't going his way on game night.  There was also a multi colored light system that served as a communication system for friends at the casino across the lake.  You didn't need a text plan for this kind of talk.  Green light - party is on, bring the show girls.  Red light - wife is home, all quiet.

The grounds are lovely and they're always hosting a fundraiser to keep them so, but luckily many of us are more than willing to eat and drink for a good cause.  Chef Dale treated us to a summer twist on gazpacho by not using any tomatoes, but rather using fresh peaches for the base and topping it with chunks of king crab and spicy micro greens.  I could eat that all summer long.

The chef and wine maker took turns talking about their flavors and why they chose the pairing.  The creamy Sauvignon Blanc was a nice partner to the soup, and the Cliff Lede Cab duo we had with our main was a big toss up to decide which one we liked better between the 08 and 09.


The main was a perfectly cooked lamb chop with a petit filet mignon, served with a chimichurri sauce and truffle potatoes.  It was as good as it sounds.  I'm always amazed when food can taste that good and be served at the same time for 100 people.  That's a talent.

The good food didn't stop at dessert, which was a rich, chocolate souffle cake with salted caramel ice cream.  The only thing I struggled with a bit was the wine pairing of another Cab.

I had port or dessert wine in my head, so I found the Cab competing with the flavors of the dessert instead of complimenting, but overall, it was really hard to find fault in much.  It was a lovely evening in a beautiful place, and a fitting end to a nice week of great food in a wonderful setting with family and friends.

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