Date night: Romantic hot spots around Lake Tahoe-Truckee
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Really and truly, in a perfect world, your entire vacation should be one big date night, right? A big, fat, 24/7 holiday. Unfortunately you forgot and brought the kids. And your cellphone. And you told your office where they could reach you.
Time to shut it all down, my friends, and carve out a little alone time for you and your significant other. The following are some tried and true romance boosters guaranteed to light your fire — or at least get things cooking.
Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats
http://www.moodysbistro.com • Downtown Truckee
As the name would imply, this place really gets you in, well, the Moody’s. The lighting is warm, soft perfection, and the dining area hosts generous, cushy booths nestled in an old-world atmosphere.
Here, the blast from the past ends, as chef Will Burns’ menu is cutting edge with a wide selection of creative appetizers just begging you to feed them to your loved-one across the table.
The pork belly is out of this world, brined and then cooked three times to get this amazing texture and then flavored buffalo style. For dinner, I would usually recommend, again, ordering different items to promote sharing, but the Fried Chicken Roulade coated with home-made, sweetened Spaetzle takes chicken and waffles to a whole new level.
A fight may ensue if you don’t both order it. Patio fire pits, live music and an ample hot toddies menu seal the deal.
Manzanita Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
http://www.manzanitalaketahoe.com • adjacent to Northstar California
Just when you thought it was impossible for this restaurant to get any more romantic, they go and introduce the Chef’s Tasting Counter, a more casual approach to the Chef’s Table.
It seems to me, this was specifically designed with couples looking for a little R&R&R — that last “R” being “romance.” Guests are seated with a view looking directly into their fabulous exposition kitchen where Chef Chris Watkins and his team are whipping up smaller-portioned dishes or “tapas” for your compete “tasting menu.”
It’s so fun and so tension free. Just sit down; they bring you champagne if you so desire, give you the menu, smile and chat with you during dinner while you and your date hold hands under the counter.
Good thing they have lovely rooms upstairs.
http://www.souledomain.com • Kings Beach
The Soule brothers have been putting “r” in romance (like “rrrrrr”) for more than 30 years at this charming log cabin. In fact, they have been voted “Best Place to Take a Date” by the Sierra Nevada Media group readers for 15 years in a row.
I was holding out for Paris until I went here. These people have definitely earned their Zagat rating with a menu infused with flavors from around the world. Because I was still sulking about Paris, I went with the duck breast pan roasted and sliced with oranges, raspberries and glazed with Grand Marnier.
My date went with the filet mignon topped with shiitake mushrooms and a six pepper sauce. I have never found him more attractive. The prices here are very reasonable, which adds to the charm of this already lovely experience.
Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique Restaurant
http://www.wolfdales.com • Tahoe City
Since 1978, Wolfdale’s has been synonymous with a first date and it’s aimed to impress. Yes, you think you’re past that, but we beg to differ.
Start your date night with a cocktail from the martini menu and move on to oysters on the half shell. Relax into the moment and leave the bad day on the bunny slopes with the kids (you told them it would be cold without their gloves!) behind.
For more than three decades, this gem of a restaurant has been wowing with fresh East-meets-West cuisines, simply prepared in perfect balance. Not unlike their stunning art work and Lake Tahoe setting, their amazing Tamarind Seafood Stew … and your soul mate seated there, looking so datable in the soft light.
Big Water Grille
http://www.bigwatergrille.com • Incline Village
Even if you were George and Amal Clooney dining at Big Water Grille, and the paparazzi were saying “give us a loving look,” you would not glance at each other — you’d be staring out the window at the view of Lake Tahoe.
At some point, however, you are going to have to look at your menu and you decide the wild mushroom tart appetizer followed by the sea scallops for your main course will go nicely with the view. Back to the full view until dessert. And for dessert: the key lime cheesecake makes a nice prop for, yes, the view.
Try the excellent wine list and specialty beers as well.
Evan’s American Gourmet Café
http://www.evanstahoe.com • South Lake Tahoe
The intimate dining room hosts only 11 tables, but somehow you never feel overheard, over attended, or rushed. The only problem here is you might love your food more than your date.
You would be hard pressed to find a companion as enjoyable as the scallop in lobster cream appetizer or as interesting as the venison in a pinot noir demi-glace entrée. If you find yourself struggling to focus on the love of your life, order the fresh-made pasta prepared each evening, and do one of those sharing noodles things like they did in “Lady and the Tramp.”
He’s on one end, you’re on the other and you come into a kiss in the middle.
http://www.nepheles.com • South Lake Tahoe
Take your date to this South Lake Tahoe favorite. You walk into what appears to be a tastefully refurbished classic Tahoe home and are greeted by some smooth jazz playing softly in the background, warm wood paneling and gentle lighting.
The signature appetizer here is the seafood cheesecake, which is shrimp, crab, and an almost chutney-like topping smothering a room temperature cheesecake. I had it with my other appetizer, the escargot. It is almost impossible to find escargot at Lake Tahoe, so, date night aside, I had to do it, despite the lovely garlic. The tarragon salad dressing was probably the best salad dressing I have had in years, bar none, and went oh-so-well with my pesto-crusted elk.
I decided I could still fit in a dessert — wrong. My toffee ice cream cake was just like I like it — huge. (Size really does matter when it comes to dessert.) I then decided I could fit into my bathing suit and enjoy the Nepheles’ hot tub experience, under the stars.
The suit did not fit, but thank God there were four privacy walls surrounding me, my date and nice bottle of wine.
Riva Grill on the Lake
http://www.rivagrill.com • South Lake Tahoe
Located in the Ski Run Marina on Lake Tahoe, this waterfront dining destination should not be overlooked in the winter months. Lake Tahoe, quiet and framed by the snow-capped Sierra, is the ideal setting for a marriage proposal — or at least a dinner where you don’t go “Dutch.”
The wine list here is impeccable and features more than a dozen wines by the glass. It’s best enjoyed by the river-rock fireplace, but the floor-to-ceiling windows make any seat in the house exceptional.
This place is really what great Tahoe memories — then and now — are made of.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at firstname.lastname@example.org.