From Incline Village’s visitor center, the shuttlebus leaves for Thunderbird Lodge (Incline Village NV. Tel: 775-832-8750. www.thunderbirdtahoe.org), which you must do on a pre-arranged tour, but it’s well worth the planning (there are also arrivals by boat available). It’s a sight to behold. Built in the 1930s, Thunderbird was once the home of the ecentric George Whittell Jr. (and his pet lion). Marvel at the views from any room in the house (which is smaller than you might expect), explore the hidden tunnels that wind past a secret opium den to the dock, where “The Lady of the Lake,” Whittell’s 55-foor yacht, is moored. Your guide leads you through the most incredible outdoor space in the world, as gardens curve around rocky hillsides, a gazebo overlooks an unbeatable view, and you’re surrounded by the lake wherever you stand.
Make sure to go online and check out Heart Rock Herb & Spice Company (www.heartrockherbandspice.com), a locally-run company offering a great collection of herbs, from Moroccan and Mexican blends to a wonderful lemon pepper, with part of the proceeds benefitting Thunderbird Lodge.
Thunderbird is one of those “I want to stay all day places,” but I have more ground to cover, so I continue down the eastern (i.e., Nevada) side of the lake, till I arrive at Sand Harbor State Park (State Route 28, Incline Village NV. Tel: 7831-0494. parks.nv.gov/parks/lake-tahoenevada-state-park), as great a spot as any from which to admire the lake. Here, a long boardwalk snakes around and above the coast, as you look out over tall pines standing on points that jut out into the lake, treeclad bluffs, and of course the mountains beyond. One turn of the boardwalk and you’re gazing at the lake. Another, and you’re looking at the mountains. A third, and a set of offshore boulders come into view. It’s this ever-changing vista that I love, and if you want to leave the boardwalk and head down to the beach, you can do that too.
If all these explorations are making you hungry, Lake Tahoe is well-equipped to take care of that need. There are two wonderful dining choices at Edgewood: Edgewood Restaurant (180 Lake Parkway, Stateline NV. Tel: 888-769-1924. www.edgewoodtahoe.com), a dramatic building just a short walk across the grounds from the hotel. I love the beet risotto, the smooth sweet beets contrasting perfectly with the chewy rice. I continue with a main course of duck that combines traditional and inventive, with both cherries and a scattering of spiced apples, while true carnivores love the aged prime New York steak and filet mignon. The food is as great as the panorama outside your window, the sun setting over mountains and lake as fire pits blaze on the balcony. More casual dining is available at Edgewood Bistro (180 Lake Parkway, Stateline NV. Tel: 888-769-1924. www.edgewoodtahoe.com, where you’ll enjoy everything from grilled salmon or free range chicken to Southern-style shrimp and grits.
In South Lake Tahoe lies alluring Evan’s American Gourmet Café (536 Emerald Bay Rd., South Lake Tahoe CA. Tel: 530-542-1990. www.evanstahoe.com). The feeling is upscale but friendly—and, oh that food! You definitely have to try the chile cheesecake, a savory adaptation served as an appetizer with a mound of lobster salad. Pizzas and pastas are freshly made, and when I’m there the pizza is this unexpected and totally amazing combination of ricotta, blackberries, herbs, almond slivers and honey. Prawns rest on a bed of tangerine coulis with crispy wontons and Asian slaw, while day boat scallops come with saffron-infused Israeli couscous. No wonder this lovely spot has become the favorite of locals and visitors alike.
I love, love, love The Lake House (1181 Emerald Bay Rd., South Lake Tahoe CA. Tel: 530-541-3433. www.thelakehousetahoe.com), which offers the delightful combination of laid-back, casual locale with creative, upmarket cuisine—a combination the owner calls “upscale down to earth.” Start, perhaps, with a deep and rich pea/mint soup, before continuing to such mains as pan-seared lamb chops (the favorite of my dining companion) or my choice, the scallop/prawn chimichurri, with chile buerre blanc giving the dish a nice heat. Vegetarians love the mintcrusted tofu served on a bed of mushroom risotto. Dessert? Three words only: Death. By. Chocolate. Trust me on this one. Whatever you do, though, you can’t go wrong at the Lake House. It’s just that kind of place.