Forwarding another great email from our friends Mark and Kathie.
Greetings all foodies!A few weeks ago we went on a road trip to beautiful Lake Tahoe, with a side trip to Murphy’s, a small town located in the Sierra foothills about an hour north of Yosemite.
The report begins in Murphy’s:
We arrived late Saturday afternoon and it started to rain just as we arrived. It is always so much fun to unload lots and lots of luggage in the rain, especially with the only available parking space being 100 feet away. After settling in at the Victorian Inn, a small intimate hotel on Main street, we fixed our traditional Tanqueray and tonic to celebrate our arrival and then perused the menu for the restaurant “V” located downstairs.The dinner turned out to be quite good. We are always shocked (and frustrated) when a town the size of Murphy’s (population 2000) has better restaurants than Camarillo, population 62,000. Anyway, Kathie started with a Caesar salad lightly covered in a creamy garlic-lemon dressing, served in “bowl” made from deep-fried shredded parmesan cheese. It was very good. I had a thick polenta cake covered with a fresh basil-tomato coulis and topped with a grilled portabella mushroom. The cake and the sauce were great, but the mushroom was a bit dry. For the entrée, Kathie had sautéed scallops with a lobster and lemon beurre blanc and chopped pistachios served over garlic mashed potatoes. It was top notch! I had a unique coffee and cumin crusted rib-eye served with roasted Yukon gold potatoes and sweet snap peas. It also was excellent.Our wine was the 2005 Foxen “Sea Smoke” Pinot Noir. As often with Pinots, it was a bit reticent at first, but by the last glass it was awesome. We must start remembering to decant our Pinot’s at restaurants!The next day we had a great breakfast at Grounds, another excellent restaurant just a few steps from our hotel. Fortified, we went wine tasting along Main street where about 10 different wineries have their tasting rooms. It’s nice to be able to walk from room to room. What was not so nice was the quality of the wines, a mixed bag at best. The worst was the Black Sheep Winery. We knew it was a bad sign when they were pouring their “current” release wines – all from 2002! Bad sign #2: their Shiraz at now at half price (reg. $18 now for $9). We tried it. It sure wasn’t Shiraz—it wasn’t like anything I’ve ever had. No…maybe like Kool Aid. On the other hand, the wines at Hatcher were pretty good. We ended up buying a bottle of their Syrah, a good value at $26. For more winery info and a map, go to www.calaveraswines.org The town was fun, and we wanted to stay a bit longer, but we had to make the dash to Lake Tahoe before it got dark. A big snow storm had just passed through, and we knew it would be a bit dicey driving the ice covered roads at night.
Sunday, Feb. 3: Our first dinner was at Kalani’s, a Pacific Rim / Hawaiian restaurant in South Lake Tahoe (SLT). It’s always somewhat of an odd experience to eat here: soothing Hawaiian music is playing in the background while we snack on our tasty Pupu’s. Yet you look out the window and there is 3 feet of snow and its 24 degrees outside. We’ve been here many times before, and usually they do a great job, but tonight they were off their game (though it was Super Bowl Sunday, so maybe the main chef took the night off).We started with a shrimp satay served with a nondescript peanut-chili sauce. Not very good. Next we had a spicy Hamachi tuna roll with cucumber. It also was just OK.For my entrée, I almost ordered the bone-in pork chop with polenta and a smoked shitake mushroom demi, but instead I got the crab crusted Onaga (long tail snapper) served with a ginger butter sauce, along with sautéed matchstick veggies and a Sambal chili mashed potatoes. Now were talking! This was very tasty. Kathie had the caramelized sea bass in a miso-yaki glaze plus a ponzu beurre blanc. It was served with Thai basil mash and balsamic Kula greens. Pretty good, but not too exciting.
Our wine was the Krupp Brothers 2005 Black Bart’s Bride. It is a very complex white wine (a mostly Rhone blend of Marsanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay), but it need just a little more fruit. We actually prefer their 100% Marsanne, and it’s a better value too at $36. vs. $50.
Monday, Feb. 4: Our reservations were at the Blue Water Bistro, a tiny two story restaurant located on a small pier in SLT. It has an unimpeded view of the lake and snow covered mountains, so it’s a great spot for lunch or happy hour. This time of year the sun sets too early to fully enjoy the view at dinner. This was our first time here, and while not excellent, it will definitely be worth checking out again. I started with Asian chicken skewers that were perfectly grilled then brushed with a hoisin based BBQ glaze, and then quickly grilled again. They were quite good, and the portion was large. Kathie had the apple and pear salad featuring mixed greens, Point Reyes bleu cheese, toasted walnuts, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. She seemed pretty happy! Her entrée was a black sesame seed encrusted Ono with a hosin-chili glaze served with coconut sticky rice, fresh mango and edamame. It also was very fresh and tasty. I had the NY strip loin steak with a wild mushroom trio and red wi
ne demi. It was served with Yukon Gold frites. The mushroom sauce was great, but the steak was so-so. The French fried potatoes were perfect. For more info and photos, go to www.bluewaterbistrotahoe.com
Our wine was the 2005 Chasseur “Sylvia’s” Pinot Noir. I was disappointed a first for such a highly rated wine, but, just like the night before, by the last glass it was kickin’ ass. Our new mantra is “decant… decant… decant”.
Tuesday, Feb. 5: We went to Café Fiori, a tiny, tiny Italian restaurant and one of our Tahoe favorites. We always start with their freshly baked garlic bread. This is no ordinary bread. It’s laden with gobs of butter and melted golden brown parmesan cheese and has enough garlic to clear a room (always handy when you need to get a seat at the crowded casino tables). We skipped the other appetizers and ordered our entrées. Kathie had the spaghetti con salsiccia, a very tasty dish with tons of Italian sausage and prosciutto, plus tomatoes, spinach, crushed red chilies, lots of garlic, and olive oil. My fork was visiting her plate often. I had the veal saltimbocca. They wrap tender veal scaloppini around prosciutto and mozzarella to form a roll, then cut it into sections and finally cover with sautéed wild mushrooms in a Madeira wine sauce. It was killer!
Our wine was the 2005 Kosta Browne “Kanzler” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This time we decanted. Ahhh, what a wine! Deep, deep cherry fruit. Fabulous nose. It was the perfect match for the meal.
Wednesday, Feb. 6: Brrrrrr! It’s about 18 degrees out tonight as we walk from the snow covered parking lot into the Edgewood Restaurant. We haven’t been here for years because the menu always sounded better than what actually came to the table. But the hotel concierge and another person highly recommended we go back. So we did. And, they were wrong. To be fair, the first appetizer was OK, sautéed scallops with matchstick veggies in a ginger-cream sauce. But it went downhill from there. Kathie’s duck confit pasta with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, fennel, and parmesan cheese was not memorable. So blah, in fact, we want to forget it. My entrée sounded great, at least on paper: Sliced Kobe tri-tip, cooked medium-rare, with a spicy mushroom-pepper sauce. The pepper sauce and the cheesy potatoes that came with it were actually quite good, but the so-called “Kobe” tri-tip was so chewy, it would have made a great commercial for Polident denture fixative: “Keeps on holding – even with this leathery steak!”
At least the wine was top notch. We had the 2005 Booker “Fracture” Syrah from Paso Robles. (Decanted, of course.) It’s a big, big wine with lots of fruit. Very good stuff.
Thursday, Feb. 7: We headed over to Evans, probably the best restaurant in SLT, and we think one of the finest in California. Kathie stated with salad of mixed greens, caramelized pears with melted Brie cheese, toasted almonds and then topped with sautéed scallops. I’m not a big salad guy, but this was great. Fortunately Kathie shared. My appetizer was hoisin and orange glazed prawns served over Asian slaw (thinly sliced jicama, red pepper, and carrots plus sautéed golden raisins and currants in a tangerine-butter reduction sauce). There were also black sesame seeds, cilantro, and maybe some orange zest. It was amazing. For the entrée, I had a prosciutto and herb crusted veal chop, tarragon laced mashed potatoes, wild mushroom ragout, and a brandy and pearl onion demi. The chop was perfect, and the sauce and mushrooms had me swooning. Kathie had an herb and panko crusted chicken breast with jus, mascarpone risotto, green beans and a small salad of edamame, tomato, and croutons. I got a bite or two, and this was probably the best chicken I have ever tasted. Perfectly cooked, great crust and very moist. Yum!
And the wine was perfect also. It was a match made in heaven: all this amazing comfort food paired with a 2005 Kosta Browne “Koplen” Pinot Noir. When it comes to Pinots, It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Friday, Feb .8: Our original plan was to check out, leave Tahoe and head over to San Francisco to attend a Petite Sirah tasting and have dinner at Ana Mandara. But we were feeling extremely lazy, and were still glassy eyed from our dinner at Evans the night before. So, we cancelled SF, called up Evans and made reservations for dinner…again. We thought it couldn’t get any better, but it did. Kathie started with a warm spinach salad with duck sausage, fried pancetta, shaved asiago, pine nuts, and a balsamic dressing. Again, I don’t get too enthusiastic about salads but this was really, really good. I had ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms and mascarpone cheese topped with a juicy veal Bolognese sauce. The description really doesn’t do it justice. You had to be there. Kathie’s entrée was a hazelnut crusted halibut, gorgonzola mashers, and a fennel salad with a caramelized pear sauce. She was one happy camper. I had a peppered tenderloin of pork served with applewood smoked bacon chunks, white cheddar gratin potatoes, and a spicy apple chutney. It was incredible.
Ahhhh, and the wine: the 2005 Mollydooker “Carnival of Love” Shiraz. This wine is so huge, yet so balanced. It has tons and tons of fruit. Plus the nose is just amazing, you just want to swirl and sniff, swirl and sniff. I could go on, but suffice to say this is one great wine.
Well, that was it for us. We’re done. We headed home on Saturday and back to reality.
See below for the final wine rankings and our special “Redneck” Report on biscuits and gravy.
FINAL WINE RANKINGS
1.) Mollydooker Shiraz2.) Kosta Browne “Koplen” Pinot 3.) TIE: Kosta Browne “Kanzler” Pinot and Foxen “Sea Smoke” Pinot 4.) Booker Syrah 5.) Chasseur “Sylvia’s” Pinot 6.) Black Bart’s Bride
Rankings for extra credit post-dinner sipping wines (scored 1 – 10, 10 being best):1.) 2004 Shirvington Shiraz …….…92.) 2004 Kaleske Grenache……… .8.53.) 2005 Hatcher Syrah………… …7.84.) 2004 Delhinger Reserve Pinot…6.5 (disappointing)
Special Redneck Report: the world’s best biscuits ‘n gravy!
There is this small breakfast café not far from our Lake Tahoe hotel that serves the most amazing biscuits and gravy. We have to share the news. This is not your usual snow white Elmer’s Glue-All style gravy. No, it’s dark, brooding and brown, just laden with enormous amounts of sausage and peppered to the max. Talk about porcine pleasure! If you go to Tahoe, you must check out the Driftwood Café. Go ahead and spring for the full size order for a buck more. You’ll be happy you did.