By Ann Shepphird of GardenstoTables.com
Fresh Picks and Catches is a regular column by Ann Shepphird. Ann keeps our readers posted on restaurants around the world that are at the forefront of bringing the best local, seasonal and environmentally sustainable agriculture, meat and seafood to the table.
The natural wonders of the Lake Tahoe area are endless, ranging from the Sierra Nevada peaks that provide some of the best downhill skiing in the U.S. to the lake itself, which runs 22 miles in length (and 1,645 feet in depth) and is bisected by the border between Nevada and California. While South Lake Tahoe is home to the high-rise casino-hotels, the north side of the lake is dotted with mountain towns offering an abundance of options for the farm-to-table foodie. In the summer, many of the restaurants are able to take advantage of the weekly farmers markets filled with wares from the nearby Sierra Foothill communities and, just beyond, the vast San Joaquin Valley. Others bring the farm-to-table experience to life year-round through partnerships with local farmers and ranchers. Here are a few of the best:
Moody’s Bistro & Lounge
A North Tahoe institution, Moody’s Bistro & Lounge in Truckee is known both for its jazz offerings and for its emphasis on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Executive Chef Mark Estee and Chef de Cuisine Guy Frenette have cultivated relationships with local ranchers and farms such as Shaw Family Farm, Webber Farm and Griffin Farm. Each summer, they bring guests even closer to the farm with their Dinner in a Barn series. Last year, they partnered with Gary Romano of Sierra Family Farms to provide a series of four-course meals using fresh organic vegetables that were picked that day and paired with appropriate wines and live music. This year’s series is still being put together but details will be on the website as soon as they are available.
Located in one of the oldest ski lodges in the U.S. (hand built from salvaged railroad ties in 1928) and overlooking the town of Truckee, the Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar offers the quintessential mountain experience -- along with a passion for sustainable seafood, local organic produce and grass-fed meat. Executive Chef David Smith partners with local farms that include Sierra Valley Farms (for greens and root vegetables) and Del Rio Organics (for everything from figs to braising greens). According to Smith, coming soon is a spring favorite: June flame peaches from Twin Peaks Orchards in Newcastle, California, which he uses in the fresh salsa on his fish dishes.
The theme for the Tahoe City kitchen of Wolfdale’s is “fresh food, simply prepared.” In the summer months, chef/owner Douglas Dale finds inspiration in the local farmers market held in Tahoe City each Thursday (with its lakeside location, it is considered one of the most beautiful farmers markets in the country). The rest of the year, Dale partners with Dan & Rachel McClure of Sierra Edibles, who have created a greenhouse system using natural and sustainable methods that not only allows them to grow crops year-round in the foothills of the Sierras but has a very small carbon footprint. The McClures provide Wolfdale’s with everything from nasturtium flowers to tomatoes. Even better, they’re encouraged to plant new, interesting and rare varieties to help inspire the restaurant’s “cuisine unique” -- and thus creating a true partnership between chef and grower.
Photo Credits: Top right dish is courtesy of Chef Guy Frenette at Moody's Bistro. It is roasted chicken with purple potatoes, Gary Romano's arugula and spring garlic jus. The photo of the tomatoes was taken by Ann Shepphird at Tahoe City Farmers Market.