For all it’s fame and glory as a former Olympics town, and its majestic beauty ringed with 8,200’ peaks, Olympic Village at the base of Squaw Valley is quiet on a Friday night in August. There’s lots to do here in summer; you can pick your vacation poison. Hiking, bungee jumping, a ropes course, swimming, biking, golfing…it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s wide-open playground.
Dining options do not abound for breakfast; if you are hungry before 11am, drive over to Tahoe City to Rosie’s or a little further south to Firesign. But for dinner, Plumpjack Café has a mouthwatering farm-to-table menu that hits all the high notes. Back in 2005, an arm-twist dinner with my husband and two friends at Plumpjack, involving copious amounts of champagne, led to my agreeing to run for school board and become one of 10 elected city officials. Four years of helping steer the district towards long-term solvency ensued. It was a tumultuous time in our small community as the economy tanked and the state began its long descent into huge budget deficits.
This trip, three years after the school board reign ended, I dined alone, which allowed me to really savor Plumpjack’s offerings with a 3-course meal. I started with a glass of JCB No. 69 Brut Rose NV Clement de Bourgogne ($10/glass). Its pale, dusty pink color tantalized the senses before hitting the palate. The nutty flavors, light acidity and dry, lemony finish paired well with an appetizer of Seviche Seafood Poke Cones ($15). These were presented beautifully and had a nice flavor, but the seaweed that was mixed with avocado and Ahi tuna was a bit strong for the delicate flavor of the fish.
A truly good meal can transport you, and the Berkshire Pork Chop with Charred Stone Fruit, Braised Greens, Jalapeño Chèvre Hush Puppies and Pork Belly Jus ($29) recalled a fond memory of my seven-year-old self sitting down to a memorable pork chop dinner cooked by mom at a rented summer house on a tiny island off Florida’s panhandle. Plumpjack’s ample chop, served on the bone over a bed of chard was plump and juicy with oodles of flavor. It’s always a letdown when restaurant meals rely on the overuse of salt, but this chop was lightly seasoned, and all about the flavor of the pork. The hush puppies, although very good, were a tiny disappointment only because I was anticipating a molton center of goat cheese instead of just flavoring the batter. But the sweetness of the charred peaches and plums was the perfect foil to the pork and any small regret over the hush puppies were quickly forgotten. A glass of Domaine Vacheron-Pouizin "les clos du Caillou” 2009 cotes du Rhone’s cherry, blueberry and pepper notes with soft tannins and a smooth finish lifted the lovely, rustic meal into the realms of greatness.
Although I had absolutely no room to spare for dessert, Poached Peach Melba with Pistachio Frozen Souffle, Fresh Raspberry Reduction and Rosemary Crunch ($8) proved too hard to resist. It was a refined, elegant dessert; not too sweet, not too large and with just a little crunch, was the perfect ending to enjoyable, hearty meal, high in the beautiful Sierra on a warm summer’s eve.