Carbonara in the Clouds

On a recent vacation to Lake Tahoe with our friends the Heins and the Pfaffs, I planned a post-ski carbonara — a perfect simple pasta to feed a large group.

For some reason, the pasta never got made — perhaps it was the Flintstone-esque beef short ribs or the opening of Dungeness crab season that distracted us, or the mellow lull of the tequila that met us first.

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

So the eggs, guanciale, parmesan and spaghetti that made the 8-hour drive into the high Sierras turned around and came back home again. And made the perfect post-ski-trip dinner when we got back. Just as well, pasta is a little tricky to nail at 8,000 feet.

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The Dump

I used to complain to my wife about the fact that her sister — a caterer — would often drop by and “gift” us large quantities of food leftover from one of her jobs. There would be big Glad bags of pasta salads, large chunks of picked over cheese and half cakes.

I called it “the Dump,” and came to resent coming home to discover a fridge full of leftovers from someone-I-didn’t-know’s wedding that I was now responsible for either eating or assuming the guilt of throwing away.

Heirloom tomato & corn risotto with parmesan scallops, straciatella

Heirloom tomato & corn risotto with parmesan scallops, stracciatella

We don’t see her sister often these days, and it’s probably been nearly a decade since we last received a drop off. But our friends, Kristine and Simon, just moved to Lake Tahoe, and were back in Topanga to pack up. We invited them to dinner, and Kristine showed up with a canvas bag full of stuff. More

Sonoma Summer

Summer is a wonderful time in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. The days are long and the nights warm, the river languid and inviting.

Relaxing on the river

Relaxing on the river

We typically spend time in the late fall at my mom’s house near the river — hunting mushrooms, sitting by fires and exchanging early Christmas gifts. But when my mom and her partner, Bruce, asked me to come cook for an event at our family winery, I saw the perfect opportunity to extend a one-day event into a nine-day family vacation! More

Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Lake Tahoe — Trout Smoking in America

I was wondering what kinds of things I might cook while in Tahoe. My friend Curtis, as I said, is a cowboy, so certainly there would be lots of beef. But when I’m traveling, I also enjoy cooking local-style food, or use local ingredients I might not find at home. In Hawaii I like to cook with macadamias, pineapple and fresh fish, for example; in the Northwest, I use salmon and hazelnuts. Would there be any equivalent for Lake Tahoe?

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Browsing the Raley’s market just over the Nevada border one early afternoon after skiing, things looked pretty much the usual. I could’ve been at a grocery store in Santa Monica or Malibu. But then at the fish counter, something caught my eye — a red-fleshed Sierra lake trout. More

Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Lake Tahoe — Partying, Donner-Style

Our friend, Heather, thinks our pig, Henri, is evil. It’s my own fault — she once remarked that he had an evil look in his eyes, and I said it was because I fed him bacon. I didn’t really, but the image stuck with Heather.

I like to write posts while I’m on vacation, as I am right now. I hadn’t realized, as we drove up into the Sierra Nevada to join my childhood pal Curtis and his family at their spacious chalet in Lake Tahoe, that our route would take us through Donner Pass, and past Donner Lake and the Truckee River.

Truckee Lake viewed from Donner Pass, 1868

Truckee Lake viewed from Donner Pass, 1868

It takes only a slightly malevolent leap of imagination to connect a food blog to the name “Donner”. For those likely very few of you who may not be familiar with this particular piece of western lore, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. More