Truckee: Fresh, local, and organic
By Kathy Chin Leong
The swarm of 3-D butterflies affixed to the walls of the Ritz-Carlton Highlands literally flutter with the slightest breeze. This vertically soaring art installation dubbed Blue Butterflies is a jaw-dropping vision for anyone stepping onto the Lake Tahoe property. And what's more fascinating is the fact that the butterflies are made of discarded aluminum beer cans, handcut into butterflies, and painted with blue vinyl by artist Paul Vallinski.
What's happening on the art walls of the Ritz-Carlton underscores what's going on in the Lake Tahoe Truckee region. That which is original, repurposed, fresh, local, and organic can be found throughout the 150-year-old town. Truckee's lodging, culinary, activities, and boutique shopping all echo the same vibe. This positive emphasis on a natural and healthy lifestyle is intrinsically linked to Lake Tahoe, the nation's largest alpine lake at 1,645 feet deep, 22 miles long, and 12 miles wide.
Just as scientists want to keep the blue lake pristine and natural, the whole locality and related businesses want to provide a natural offering that will bring visitors an appreciation for the outdoors and a sensitivity to ecology.
Cedar House Sport Hotel is one that is built with many, many recylcled and repurposed materials. In addition, the hotel also offers a variety of outdoor excursions that enable a customer to enjoy a three-to-five day tailored excursions that include scenic birding, off-the-beaten-path hiking, mountain cycling, moonlight kayaking and more.
An emphasis on supporting local artists comes across in its local art displayed in the lobby. Local bounty is served in its on-site restaurant Stella. From fresh homemade raspberry jam to baked breads, the open kitchen is getting rave reviews.
Further up the road less than 15 minutes away, the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands at less than four years old, runs with a local and organic vibe with a LEED certification (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design). Not only are many of its gorgeous art pieces by regional artists, the rock and timbers used for building were found either on the property or in the area, and the hotel has utilized recycled steel. At the restaurant, the ceiling beams come from the nearby reclaimed trees in the Sierra mountains.
With so much to do on the property that is located next to Northstar Resort, hotel staff emphasize that guests can park their cars and leave them until they depart. In the summer and fall, hotel guests can utilize the Northstar gondola to go up the mountain for activities such as hiking and mountain biking.
For families on a tight budget, affordable friendly accommodations under $200 include Hotel Truckee Tahoe and also the Hampton Inn. Both places include breakfast, free WI-FI, refrigerators/microwaves, and free parking.
As for dining, finding great mountain fare that is local and healthy in Truckee is easy. Moody's Bistro Bar & Beats Restaurant in its historic downtown features fish, meat, veggies, fish and fruits that originate as close to Truckee as possible. Utilizing local and regional farms, the dishes include homemade pastas, homebaked breads, etc.
Down the street is Dragonfly restaurant, a Japanese and Asian-inspired eatery with creative sushi rolls, meat and fish entrees that rely on sustainable fish and seafood. Fantastic in presentation and delectable in taste! Photography and local art from professionals and local children playfully adorns the walls.
Meanwhile, Truckee's only winery aptly named Truckee River Winery offers wine tasting with merlots and pinots, but unlike other wineries, it makes and sells food and beverages. Hot panini sandwiches, sweet treats, local chocolates and artsy trinkets make this a comfortable gathering spot. Picnic tables out in front, along with a bocce ball court provide for a quiet afternoon outing. Many families come for free weekend music on the patio.
If you are craving home cooking with quality and quantity, the Lodge at Tahoe Donner offers a great variety of seafood, meat, pasta, international dishes, and salads. All are equally tasty and innovative, and most dishes are made with organic and local products. Entrees are cooked with no transfats. The rib eye steak runs $31.95; the spring rolls just $9.95. Do note that you can bring your own wine on Tuesdays with no corkage fee. Also, on Sunday through Thursday, between 5-6:30 p.m., the restaurant pub featurs a 25 percent discount on its small plates.
One day we craved some fresh juice, and everyone in town pointed us to New Moon Natural Food Store and Juice Bar. It was an excellent call, for we felt cleansed after getting our wheatgrass juice. The store also carries a number of organic local products, so it is worth a visit.
For many travelers, no vacation is complete without a visit to the local spa. The Sierra Cosmetic Center offers facials and massages in additoin to tanning and Botox services. This local favorite gives customers an organic treat with its Eminence organic line of facial products.
Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts will find the natural highs inescapable. Families can bring the kids to hike around Lake Tahoe with exquisite views. And when they want to do something new, they can hire the services of Tahoe Mountain Guides.
Led by founder Ken Long, the adventure company focuses on mountain biking and each of the guides is an experienced biker and has emergency first aid skills just in case. Offering single to multiple-day instructional mountain biking, the excurions run anywhere from $90 and up.
The Truckee Donner Land Trust wants the public to enjoy the resources of this protected acreage so much that it offers advice and hiking services led by its many volunteer ambassadors. The trust also provides group hikes and tours as listed on its website, www.tdlandtrust.org.
The local and organic and up-cycling themes carry through to downtown shopping with great delight and pleasure. The shop called NOK puts a focus on natural fiber clothing and organic lotions and soaps.
At Bespoke, a world of interior decor, jewelry, art brings taste to the foreground. A local artist creates class pottery with poetic sayings. Handmade paper flowers created by recycled magazines are exquisite.
Tahoe Blu epitomizes the up-cycling trend with home goods and trinkets that are clever indeed. Tote bags, shower curtains made of boat sails from yachting competitions such as America's Cup. Also inside are the works of one artist who turns leftover skis into chairs and mirrors, and another artist who turns snowboards into wine bottle holders. Eco-friendly soaps and sponges, repurposed skirts with recyled fabric swatches, not to mention larger pieces such as coffee tables on bicycle wheels are so delightful it makes Tahoe Blue a definite must-visit.
At Riverside Gallery, a collective of four artists fills this gallery with innovative pottery, handbags, jewelry, sculptures, and wall art and more. The two-story store is a handsome one with recycled barn planks that lead up to the second level.
In Truckee, the move to the natural aesthetic is widespread, from hotels to hiking, from food to fanciful fashion. When you involve your kids in creation and be introduced to a more natural lifestyle, make Truckee a place to begin a regular health-vacation.
When you go:
Plan your trip at the Truckee website- www.truckee.com
Cedar House Sport Hotel - www.cedarhousesporthotel.com
Truckee Tahoe Hotel: www.ritzcarlton.com/laketahoe
Ritz-Carlton Highlands - www.ritzcarlton.com/laketahoe
Truckee River Winery - www.truckeeriverwinery.com
Sierra Cosmetic Laser - www.sierracosmeticlaser.com
Tahoe Mountain Guides - www.tahoemountainguides.com
Tahoe Donner Land Trust - www.tdlandtrust.org
Moody's Bistro - www.moodysbistro.com
Dragonfly Cuisine - www.dragonflycuisine.com
Hampton Inn - www.hamptoninn.hilton.com
New Moon Natural Foods - www.newmoonnaturalfoods.com