In the mood for Italian? Try Café Fiore (1169 Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe CA. Tel: 530-541-2908. www.cafefiore.com), a hidden gem with just half a dozen or so tables (in summer, there’s also patio seating). It’s a special occasion kind of place for locals, but also a sweet spot for visitors after a long day of exploring. You can start with an intriguing “eggplant crepe,” thin slices of eggplant wrapped around smoked salmon for a delicious twist, and perhaps continue with some pasta, a mouthwatering saltimbocca, or Chicken Alla Sonoma, with wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes in a chardonnay cream sauce. For dessert, the star is the rich, smooth white chocolate ice cream.
Do visit The Getaway Café (3140 Highway 50, Myers CA. 530-577-5132. www.getawaycafetahoe.com), a little roadside house holding a restaurant that’s down-home, friendly, and beloved of locals. While they serve three meals a day, breakfast is a great choice. At the suggestion of the concierge at Edgewood, I get mushroom soup, thick and rich and, as the concierge promised, it was the best ever. (Yes, I get mushroom soup at 9 A.M.. This is Tahoe. I’m allowed.) I seriously consider the coconut French toast, a local favorite, but decide instead on spicy chilaquiles and eggs, prepared with their homemade salsa. There’s a patio outside, ceiling fans whirr, and a sign proclaims “We do not have wifi. Talk to each other.” I love the place from the minute my serve Ashley greets me, and I think I’ll always love it.
At Incline Village, stop in Brewforia (800 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village NV. Tel: 775-298-7660. www.brewforia.com). As its name indicates, beer is the specialty here, with about a dozen varieties on tap as well as a long wall of refrigerated beers. The main food on offer is pizza, but the menu actually roams the world with such offerings as ceviche tostadas, hummus and flatbread, and poké (my choice). Tables are scattered through the floor of what still feels like a store, super-casual and relaxing, that just happens to have delicious food. Another great spot up north (this one on the California side) is Gar Woods Grill & Pier (5000 N. Lake Blvd., Carnelian Bay CA. Tel: 530-546-3366. www.garwoods.com), where the gracious service, astonishing lake view, and great food combine to make a winner. Zucchini sticks are super-popular, but this time I go with lobster deviled eggs (can you imagine anything better?) followed by fish tacos made with blackened Pacific snsnapper. Friendly and casual, it’s a perfect spot for lunch or sunset dinner.
One thing you must not leave the area without doing is a journey with Tahoe Tastings (Tel: 530-494-9222. www.tahoetastings.com), where you’ll sip wine while cruising on the lake. When I do the ride, my company is a bachelorette party, and they’re the nicest young women you could hope to meet. We taste a variety of vintages, savor cheese and fruit from a local purveyor, and gaze in awe as we make our way across the lake. Selfies abound as the scenery moves from astounding to more astounding, and the wine, much of it from lesser-known wineries in the area, kicks in. It’s all great fun, and a wonderderful way to make new friends.
As I gaze out at the perfect panorama of lakes and mountains from the little deck at the back of the boat, I remember the words of Shawn Murphy, food and beverage director at Edgewood, as we sat in the restaurant gazing beyond the fire pits to the lake reflecting the setting sun. “It’s like God just stuck his finger down, melted the snow, and made this amazing lake,” he says, and I can’t think of a better description. It’s no surprise that much of what there is to do in the area revolves around this blessed natural wonder, and while Tahoe certainly attracts a wide variety of sports-lovers, the lake is so placid, so deep, so unfathomably beautiful, that it also encourages people to just while away the time looking at its beauty. So don’t worry if you don’t want to ski or hang glide. You’re fine just perching on a boulder and watching nothing…and everything.