A village of options
April 4, 2006
Especially if it’s been a couple years for you, entering the Village at Northstar is a gawk-worthy experience. Booth Creek is wise to invest in the development of its base complex, and as East West Partners is doing a bang-up job building an attractive, cozy and grandiose village, I’m sure the resort and its affiliates, from employees to merchants to homeowners, will reap the benefits.
Northstar is right in our backyard ” just minutes from Truckee, Kings Beach and the surrounding area. Yet, if you’re like me and you don’t have a pass there, you probably don’t venture off Highway 267 often as you crest the summit. Knowing that a big deal has been made of the ongoing development of its Beaver Creek-style village, I decided to see what progress has been made, and explore the burgeoning dining scene.
Sleek, straightforward and classy. These are the first impressions as you leave your parked car, and enter the inviting pedestrian avenues. While much of the village’s commercial space is still vacant, it’s easy to imagine wandering the streets under a mid-winter snowfall amidst a melange of nighttime revelers perusing shops and restaurants-to-be.
An energetic vibe will succeed with guests gathering under Northern skies and ice-skaters negotiating the rink, surrounded by an amphitheater of luxurious condos and open fire pits. At least that’s the vision for the completed village.
As for dining options, there is clearly huge potential with groundwork in place, and the currently limited dining options are being added to with great ambition as the Village grows.
With a quick once-over of the outdoor menu display and a vision of happy gastronomes seen through its broad windows, I entered casually elegant Timber Creek Restaurant and Bar with uncertain excitement. The fire flickered, and a careful incorporation of natural stone and wood complemented the bold olive- and yellow-colored walls decorated with food and wine photographs.
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Judging this book by its cover, I was looking forward to a great meal in an exciting new place. At the time, a seemingly untrained staff wasn’t as professional as their surroundings, tarnishing the otherwise heartwarming fare of fall-off-the-bone Braised Lamb Shanks ($26), settled upon after careful deliberation over a score of attractive offerings.
Dinner was highlighted by an Organic Tomato and Gorgonzola Soup ($6), with a comfortable palette of vine-ripened tomato and creamy blue cheese flavors. I would like to finish every ski day with so heartwarming a concoction.
Servings from other new Village eateries are more likely to fit the “every day” budget, such as a power-packed burrito from Big Wave Burritos and Wraps. With all items under $10, it is the type of restaurant I’d like to see more of in the North Tahoe area.
Owners Will and Chris both have years of executive chef experience, and bring inspirations from their various previous positions. Their fun and funky Yucatan-inspired burrito shop offers an array of wraps, rice bowls, and salads with Mexican, Asian, and Southwestern ingredients.
Try a fast, healthy Pacific-inspired Maui Wowie wrap, with roasted Mahi Mahi. The fish is dressed with a tangy lime sauce and grilled pineapple salsa, along with romaine, grilled peppers and sweet Maui onions, all in a toasted tortilla. Come and enjoy a draught beer in this laid-back hang-out, and logon to their free wireless with a purchase.
Right next door, and foreshadowing what will become a high concentration of dining establishments in the compact Village, is the new Earthly Delights. An upgrade is space, selection and scene from the former Truckee cafe, bakery and caterer on West River Street, the friendly, locally-run establishment has improved itself and expanded its services.
In addition to providing a small selection of gourmet market items including cheeses, baked breads, olives, wines (with a tasting bar) and specialty bottled dressings, they have a long case of ready-to-eat foods.
The carefully prepared spread includes fat-stacked deli sandwiches, fresh-prepared salads and roasted vegetables, and huge portions of handcrafted lasagnas (Italian sausage, chicken, or veggie) to satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. Gluttonous gourmands can seek temptation from a dessert case filled with pastries promising to leave a sweet cap on whatever Epicurean earthly delight might have preceded it. Cream, frothy mousses and decadent chocolate sweets stand by colorful fruit tortes, all vying for your attention.
Current options for food and drink in the Village are rounded out by a couple franchises. Euro Snack serves Hot Dogs from a cart adjacent the skating rink, and fills the air with sugary waifs of hot Belgian waffles ($4) available at all hours. Starbucks also joins in on the action near the ice. Anti-Starbuckians are unlikely to be persuaded to make a visit, but loyalists will be glad to know the new outlet is the largest on the West coast. A S’mores kiosk is next in line to open doors, with a small bar to offer a handful of seasonal drinks, and every American’s favorite campfire dessert sandwich.
The new Village is creating a community where there was once only a pit-stop for Northstar skiers before, and I had no idea. Upcoming additions have more restaurants in mind, such as a hip sushi joint, fine dining from a nationally acclaimed chef, and family-style Italian. With such careful planning and investing, the resort company is sure to further stake its claim, and lead the trend as Tahoe promotes itself as a world-class year-round tourist destination.