Gourmet on the go: Stock up the right way for your Tahoe-Truckee picnic
Special to the Sun
Besides these gourmet markets, some of our old tried and true grocery stores offer top-notch picnic fixins. Save Mart has fantastic rolls, Balillos and Teleras, three for $1.
Be sure to buy them the day you plan to use them, because they are kind of like the bread in France — not so good on day two, but amazing day of.
Safeway has, by far, the best made-to-order sandwiches around, and Raley’s has a first-class cheese selection.
Of course, our Truckee-Tahoe scenery is so spectacular it almost doesn’t matter what you’ve packed for lunch.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE — Ahhh, Lake Tahoe. So many lovely picnic spots, so little time — but be prepared.
The last thing you want to do is score the killer parking space, hunker down with your family and a good book and, an hour into your bliss, realize you do not have enough provisions to go the distance.
I’m going to help you pick your three top gourmet picnic partners according to location, location, location, and we’ll start with my personal favorite…
You have three great day-outing choices here, the first being the public docks. This alpine lake has 37 public docks with parking right on the street, that being Donner Pass Road. I like the ones closer to town but, really, they are all sunny, easy to access, and rarely crowded (don’t even think about it on holiday weekends, though).
For beaches, you have three options. West End Beach (that would be the end of the lake away from town) charges $5 a person, but they offer white sand, barbecue set-ups, picnic tables and restrooms. It’s also blocked from the wind, which picks up later in the day.
On the other end of the lake, there’s Donner Memorial State Park, home to China Cove, a lovely white sand beach. The charge for entrance to the park is $7 per vehicle and, like the West End, there are plenty of picnic tables, barbecues and restrooms, but the picnic options here offer more privacy.
To assemble your picnic, an absolute must-do is the Sticks Market in Donner Pines Market Place at 13710 Donner Pass Road. The deli here offers incredible sandwiches packed with Boar’s Head meats (I go with the ham) and cheeses (havariti), all the veggies you could imagine, zesty dressing and fresh baked bread from Truckee Sourdough Company at a flat rate of less than $8.
For sidekicks, there is a huge selection of wine and seasonal beer (they are one of the few vendors that carries Lagunita’s come and go specialty brews), big salamis, top-drawer cheeses and munchies.
This really is gourmet on the go. Another cool thing about Sticks is they carry local inventory such as Tahoe Beer, wines from Truckee River Winery, Tahoe Time T-shirts and other samplings from the Sierra.
‘Secret Beach’ — Tahoe City area
Actually, I am not sure what this Lake Tahoe stretch of white sand is really called, but I call it Secret Beach because no one is ever there. Ever. Except a bunch a fat, friendly ducks who’ll eat crackers from between your toes.
If you are coming from Tahoe City on North Lake Boulevard, you take a right on the first Lake Forest Boulevard, and then a right on Bristlecone and go all the way down to Lake Tahoe.
If you are coming from the other direction on North Lake Boulevard, you take a left on the second Lake Forest and follow Bristlecone to the waterfront.
There are picnic tables, a kind of bathroom (porta potty) and plenty of parking and lots of beach room to really spread out. For your picnic to last the day, I strongly recommend Tahoe House Bakery & Gourmet, 625 West Lake Blvd., Tahoe City.
Family owned and operated since 1997, this is a one-stop shop for everything gourmet picnic. They have a great wine selection (screw top bottles, anyone?) cheeses, deli, fresh daily baked bread, pastries, candies, salads, dips, chips — you name it, they’ve got it, to go, and the baskets and utensils to boot.
My personal favorites include the lemon, artichoke and asiago pasta salad, the brownies six-pack, ultimate malted milk balls and the meatloaf sandwich. Yes, they also make great sandwiches, and you can call your orders in at 8 a.m., leaving you plenty of much-needed picnic time.
Sand Harbor — Incline Village area
This Nevada state park a few miles east of Incline Village is worth the $12 parking fee — and everyone knows it, so get there early.
What I love about this Lake Tahoe beach are the huge boulders dotting the shoreline that bake in the sun and heat up the water. They provide little private nooks and crannies for picnickers, and they’re also are super cool to jump off if they are out a little farther in deeper water.
It’s a fantastic place to kayak and stand-up paddleboard, and, because you have paid the substantial parking, you are going to want to make the day of it which means, of course, a lot of food and beverage. For full-blown gourmet picnic supplies, you cannot beat Village Market, in Incline Village’s Village Center.
Yes, they are known for their amazing wine and cheese selections; yes, they have a beautiful deli for ready-to-order sandwiches and deli meat selections; yes, they have all kinds of gourmet munchies.
But me, I go for the pickles. They have real, huge deli pickles in the big wooden barrel — sold individually. Sorry, but what is a picnic without one of these puppies? They had me at “hello.”
I’m also a big fan of seaweed salad with a light sesame oil dressing. It’s very hard to find in the U.S. and a great side with a tuna sandwich.