Destination dining in the Sierra Foothills and Truckee-Tahoe

GREAT FOOD IS A PART OF EVERY adventure. In our region, imaginative chefs and restaurateurs are invigorating the dining scene, and a growing number are winning rave reviews—from the James Beard Foundation, OpenTable, respected restaurant critics and food magazines.

Farm-to-fork restaurants are a way of life in the foothills, not a fad, thanks to an abundance of farms and ranches. More than 100 farms and ranches span Placer County, producing fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry and eggs, according to PlacerGrown. More than 50 farms and ranches are located in Nevada County, from Bierwagen’s to Winter Creek Antique Apples, known for heirloom apples. Famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley orders grass-fed lamb from James Ranch in Penn Valley.

Some of our region’s most honored chefs also have small farms, including Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald of Carpe Vino in Auburn and Alan Tangren, an in-house chef at Tess’ Kitchen Store cooking school. Both use the homegrown food in their cooking.

Chefs also forage for ingredients at our farmers markets, including the network of Foothills Farmers Markets in Placer County, Nevada County Growers Market, and Nevada City Farmers Market, among others.

Chefs increasingly are pairing the food with our region’s award-winning wines and craft beers—at winemaker dinners, beermaker dinners and regular dinner hours.

Along with fine dining, we have popular bistros, brewpubs, cafes, gastropubs, coffeehouses, delicatessens, roadhouses and farm stands that have built a following from all over. The settings are often spectacular, ranging from our historic towns of Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee, to the shores of Lake Tahoe, to the countryside.

New restaurants are opening and others are expanding, thanks to entrepreneurism. New restaurants include The Farm Table in Placerville, Bistro 103 in the historic Tsuda building in Old Town Auburn and the Monk’s Cellar in Roseville, among others. Hawks Provisions & Public House in East Sacramento is opening this summer.

A growing number of our restaurants and chefs are receiving national acclaim—including some of the highest culinary honors—all helping to put our region on the map as a destination and grow our economy.

National Honors

Mark Estee, former owner of Moody’s Bistro in Truckee, founder and partner of Burger Me! in Truckee, and chef-owner of Campo in Reno and the new Reno Provisions, was a prestigious James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef: West. The James Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals.

Jacob Burton, executive chef at Stella restaurant at the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee, was a finalist for “The People’s Best New Chef Award” by Food & Wine magazine in New York. Jacob is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Four-Star Chefs

Our region’s beauty and laid-back lifestyle has long been a draw for chefs and restaurateurs, who visit the area on vacation and decide to make it their home.

Some of them are pioneers, such as chef Douglas Dale of Wolfdale’s in Tahoe City and Peter Selaya of the New Moon Cafe in Nevada City, to name a few. Both are still at the helm, serving food that rivals or exceeds any “big- city” dining experience.

A new generation of chefs are relocating to our region from major cities, with degrees from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, the California Culinary Academy and others.

CIA graduates include John Weatherson of Trokay in Truckee, Eric Alexander and Courtney McDonald of Carpe Vino in Auburn, Ty Rowe of Bootleggers in Auburn, and Michael Fagnoni of Hawks in Granite Bay.

Our region’s restaurateurs also are bringing their big-city experience to the foothills dining scene. Monkey Cat owner Jim Bril came to Auburn from San Francisco, where he ran the famous Fior d’Italia restaurant. Later Bril and Gary Capps opened Tre Pazzi, a popular trattoria in Auburn.

(Photo: Erik Bergen, Placer County)

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