Lake Tahoe Escape – Part II

In my last post I described our hiking experience at Squaw Valley.  A magnificent day that could only be topped by a wonderful dining and wine-ing (excuse the spelling or the pun) experience!!  As I said, Tahoe has become a recurring theme in our wedding anniversary celebrations.  We agreed long (not saying how long) ago that we would refrain from expensive anniversary gifts and focus on activities (like travel and hiking) accented with good food and wine.

So once we got back to our Alpine Meadows accommodations, we showered and had a light refreshment (read Margarita) in advance of our dinner reservation at Christy Hill restaurant in Tahoe City.  Christy Hill has a long history (at least for a restaurant) in Tahoe.  Originally located in Squaw Valley, Christy Hill moved to Tahoe City in the early 90’s to a striking location just above the lake.  The views are extraordinary looking east toward the Nevada side as well as south with the high-rise casinos of South Lake Tahoe and the ski slopes of Heavenly Valley clearly in view. 

Christy Hill Tahoe View - Linda C.

Christy Hill Tahoe View - Linda C.

Christy Hill came under new management/ownership in April this year and has undergone some recognizable refreshing.  The new owners, Robyn Sills and Ed Coleman are a hard-working and creative team of restauranteurs that clearly have helped move the Truckee dining experiences to a new level since establishing the Pacific Crest Grill (1996) and then Pianeta’s Ristorante (1998) in historic downtown Truckee (they also have taken over the iconic Bar of America there).

New paint and upholstered banquette seating along the walls is well conceived and sophisticated.  It all looks very fresh.  Because it is on the downward slope about 100′ above the lake shore, the restaurant has a terraced approach to both the bar and seating inside as well as the outside dining area and the newly added Sand Bar at ground level.

Sophisticated Christy Hill Decor - Linda C.

Sophisticated Christy Hill Decor - Linda C.

Each, of course, with nearly the same breathtaking views and none blocking the view of the other. Really picture perfect.

The interior remains casual chic with white linen and wine glasses preset to offer just a classy opening experience.  Because we had reservation, which are recommended, we had the perfect window side table with a bottle of sparkling wine chilling at our table upon our arrival.  We had also brought along a 1999 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon from Glen Ellen, Sonoma County as I alluded at the beginning of this short Tahoe series.  Christy Hill has a $20 corkage but as we were celebrating a significant anniversary, our server, Karyn, comped the corkage.  A much appreciated and generous gesture.

The menu is eclectic with sufficient variety in the starters and entrees to offer something to please most everyone. We opened with a .375 ml Veuve Clicquot sparkler for toasting the occasion, while Karyn graciously decanted the Arrowood.  We decided to share the Day Boat Scallop and a Caesar Salad for our appetizer and salad courses.  Perfect choices it turned out.  The Scallop was remarkable in the perfection of its preparation and presentation.  Sorry no picture!!  The chef used tiny cubes of watermelon and watermelon rind with radishes and cucumber, all chilled, to surround the large warm scallop.  The warm and cold temperatures along with the sweet and lightly picante flavors all together made a sumptuous summer time appetizer that we thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend anytime it is on the menu.  The Caesar was traditional but executed without over stating the ingredients to the disadvantage of the overall texture or flavors.  To me it is a mark of both class and discipline in the kitchen when a tradition can be offered as something fresh and subtle.

For our entrees we both selected the Ribeye (it just sounded too good to both of us).  The sides offered an intriguing combination of Black-Eyed Peas with Braised Kale and Ham Hocks as well as a Brussel Sprouts Au Gratin. 

Ribeye and Southern Inspired Sides - Linda C.

Ribeye and Southern Inspired Sides - Linda C.

Clearly a tribute to southern comfort food.  All three components were prepared to perfection and each on its own offered tantalizing flavors and a feel of the south from which they sprang.  What sounded intriguing on the menu was a bit confusing on the palate despite the perfection of their preparation.  The ingredients in all cases were fresh and of the best quality and we left little on our plates. 

After the entrees, wanting to extend the celebration, we decided to close with the artisan cheese plate.  The accompaniments, fresh honey in the comb, blue berries, apple slices and black figs made each cheese (Manchego, Humboldt County Bleu and the Brie) that much more enjoyable with the various flavor combinations.

I must not forget to comment on the 1999 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Speciale.  This wine from Dick Arrowood in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, received 92 points from both the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast.  It is beautifully crafted and polished, with spicy overtones and mocha-scented oak.  The main flavors are anise and ripe currant with some hints of black cherry and, after 12 years in the bottle, the tannins were evident but not over powering.  The experts say drink it now through 2012, so if you can find a bottle, I recommend you take it home (or to your favorite restaurant).  See you soon for Part III.

We throughly enjoyed our dining experience at the ‘new’ Christy Hill.  Taken altogether, the new management team has kept the best features of the old Christy Hill while refreshing them and kicking it up a notch in service, quality and spark. It remains our favorite location on the lake!! Thanks Robyn and Ed.  We look forward to a return visit in the nearest future.

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About John Compisi

John Compisi is a freelance travel, adventure and lifestyle writer focusing on California, Italy, France or where ever life takes him. He is a published member of the SF Bay Area Travel Writers and the Redwood Writers Club. John, and photographer wife Linda, reside in Sonoma County and love nothing more than getting out there and experiencing the world, no matter if it’s a destination close to home, a road trip, or a journey to romantic international destinations.
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