September 30, 2006
Lake Tahoe to Annex Sacramento?

Lake Tahoe looks to be its usual glorious size, but the Lake Tahoe basin looks to be growing. I'm up here for the 21st annual North Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival, a weekend of seminars and workshops on a variety of culinary topics, such as party appetizers, Asian grilling and oysters.

The highlight is Sunday's Grand Tasting and Culinary Competition at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Despite my long-standing skepticism regarding the pairing of food and wine, I'm again one of the judges for the culinary competition, which involves teaming up restaurants with wineries so they can try to come up with an ideal matching of food and wine. I have to confess, some pairings are marvelous; at least, we've always been able to come up with a winner.

During the competition, which generally involves some 20 teams of restaurants and wineries, the judges don't know the identity of either. We're given a brief description of the dish and we're told the varietal or style of wine, but only after we have some fun first trying to figure out what it is.

The festival's Web site, however, lists the teams. Several Lake Tahoe restaurants that compete each year are back, including Sunnyside Resort, Mamasake Sushi, PlumpJack Cafe and Wolfdale's. But there also are some players I don't recall seeing here before, and two teams are far from what I usually consider the Tahoe basin, the area that has provided competing restaurants in the past. From Nevada City, for example, the restaurant Five Mile House will team up with Lucchesi Vineyards, a Nevada City winery. And from Auburn, Monkey Cat Restaurant and Mt. Vernon Winery will team up.

I don't know what explains this participation by restaurants from outside the basin, but if the trend continues I expect to see a Sacramento restaurant or two up here next year. Any suggestions out there for which restaurant should represent Sacramento in the competition, and which dish and wine it should enter?

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