Pine Cone Kitchen brings High Sierra caviar to Truckee-Tahoe
TRUCKEE, Calif. — The leaves aren’t the only thing changing in the Sierra Nevada, so is the way that people view garlic. What individuals typically see as the traditional, complementary flavor to most dishes, Pine Cone Kitchen is bringing a new spin on this savory bulb.
Kayla and Greg Lusson, self-taught “garlicologists,” founded Pine Cone Kitchen in 2020 in their hometown tavern, the Knotty Pine.
“We were in Sacramento, and Greg had the idea to make black garlic for a recipe we were making,” Kayla said. “We made a very small batch, just a couple cloves in a crockpot, and we just couldn’t believe how it tasted and what it looked like.”
Shortly after their home cooking experiment, the Lusson’s took their batch of black garlic up to Graeagle, to share with the local community. Upon sharing, the couple realized that it was a hit, and people wanted more.
“We thought ‘wow, this is really good stuff and people really don’t know what it is, we should make this is a business,’” Kayla said.
Two years later and Pine Cone Kitchen’s black garlic is trickling into the Lake Tahoe Basin and is now in the kitchen of North Lake Tahoe restaurant Six Peaks Grille.
“Supplying Chef Chris Watkins at Six Peaks Grille with our black garlic has been one of our biggest accolades,” Greg said. “Chris had been using black garlic for years. Most of the time we’re introducing it to everyone to bring into their meals, but Chris is very familiar with it.”
According to Watkins, what sets Pine Cone Kitchen’s black garlic apart from others is the moisture content. The black garlic is charcuterie compatible instantly, unlike other recipes that provide a drier result.
The “High Sierra caviar” is made in a process relying solely on heat and humidity. Traditional white garlic is placed under hot and humid conditions with no additional additives, and in just nine days, the white garlic will turn black, bringing an entirely new flavor profile to the traditional garlic clove.
“We’ve made about 50 batches since March,” Greg said. “We stagger our black garlic batches weeks apart, and while we were first starting, I was making several batches a day to record and analyze the results. What we’ve concluded is the black garlic is best after 60 days of spending time in hot, humid conditions, and that extra time allows the black garlic to be shelf stable.”
While traditional white garlic boasts flavors of being pungent, earthy, and spicy; black garlic brings out an entirely new flavor profile to the bulb.
“Through the process of the white garlic turning black, the garlic caramelizes, resulting in the flavors turning somewhat sweet. When you’re eating black garlic, you’ll taste the garlic on the back of your palate, but initially what you’re tasting is a mild, molasses, sweet, umami flavor.”
The Lusson’s recommend using the black garlic as a garnish, infusing it into butter and olive oils for additional flavor while cooking, and even adding a couple cloves of black garlic to most dishes that are also using white garlic to better compliment the flavor profile.
Looking forward into Pine Cone Kitchen’s rapid expansion, the couple plans to attend Truckee Thursday’s in summer 2023, and are expecting to be in roughly a dozen or more restaurants around Lake Tahoe in the next year.
“We’re thrilled to be expanding more, and are really looking forward to bringing black garlic to more restaurants, home kitchens, and recipes all around Lake Tahoe,” Greg said.
For more information on Pine Cone Kitchen, visit https://pineconekitchen.com/.
Madison Schultz is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sun.
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