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“Chef’s Table,” “Chef’s Tasting Counter” and “Catch & Cook” Experiences Created and Executed by Chef Chris Watkins

NORTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – March 8, 2016 – The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, the first AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Four-Star resort in the Lake Tahoe area and located mid-mountain at Northstar California Resort, announces several interactive culinary experiences offered at the resort’s signature restaurant – Manzanita. The “Chef’s Table,” “Chef’s Tasting Counter” and “Catch & Cook” experiences are offered year-round to enhance the guest experience and create a truly special visit. Curated based on the current season, these culinary experiences are created and executed by Chef Chris Watkins, who holds top-line experience working for notable Bay Area restaurants including Jardinière (San Francisco), Campton Place (San Francisco) and The Plumed Horse (Saratoga) before joining Manzanita in November 2013.

“Chef’s Table” is an intimate dinner offered for up to eight people in which guests are prepared a six- course tasting menu, served and personally explained by Chef.  Guests are seated at a private table adjacent to the exposition kitchen. To accompany Manzanita’s innovative dishes, wine pairings are specially curated by Sommelier Travis Masten for each course. Menus start at $175 per person.

“Chef’s Tasting Counter” provides an interactive tapas tasting with Chef, offering views directly into the exposition kitchen and personal interaction with Chef. The presentation includes communal seating for up to six people and tasting menus reflecting the innovative offerings of Manzanita. Tasting menus start at $95 per person and wine pairings are available.

Chef Watkins’ inspiration for the “Chef’s Table” and “Chef’s Tasting Counter” experiences comes from creating dishes that highlight that season’s natural bounty.  He finds it beneficial in his cooking to source specialty ingredients that he can only find occasionally, as opposed to on a regular basis, and highlight different techniques that are not a part of the nightly à la carte menu. In the winter, Chef prepares sauces that tend to be a little heavier, vegetables that are often roasted and pureed, and heartier meats including braised short ribs, veal cheeks and oxtails.  In the summer, however, Chef prepares vegetables that often stand on their own, and meats with lighter fare and flavors – highlighting fish.

In addition to sourcing seasonal ingredients, Chef sources his produce regionally and locally; many of the farms he uses are in and around Sacramento, including Del Rio & Yeung.  Sourcing items locally allows Chef the opportunity to use the very freshest vegetables, greens and lettuces possible – some of his favorites being kohlrabi, red mustard frisée and sun chokes.  Watkins also loves cooking with locally- sourced radishes (watermelon, black, breakfast, icicle and purple ninja to name a few) to add an element of crunch, a hint of pepperiness and an additional dimension to his dishes.  He enjoys incorporating citrus when available, such as blood oranges and various types of apples – envy apples being his current favorite.

Many of Chef’s proteins are sourced regionally too, including Trout from Mt. Lassen Trout Farm, which is one of the closest to the resort.  Rabbit, Guinea Hen, Bison and Sweetbreads come from Durham Ranch in Napa Valley, and Free Range Chicken comes from Fulton Valley Farms on the Central Coast. Chef has recently sourced some great local beef from The Bently Ranch in Minden, Nevada.  Other than trout, fish has to come from further afield, and Chef’s preference is to source Ahi, Hamachi and Mero from Hawaii, which proves excellent consistently. In winter, Chef sources live Dungeness Crab from Oregon and Octopus from Spain.

Chef also likes to utilize the smoker at The Backyard Bar & BBQ, where he smokes the strip loin sourced from Painted Hills (Oregon), in addition to chicken croquettes. He also smokes the part of the trout not served in his entrées to create fabulous rillettes.

“Catch & Cook” is another interactive experience offered at Manzanita.  After spending a day on Lake Tahoe with a local fishing charter company, guests can bring their catch to the culinarians in Manzanita to have it cleaned, prepared and cooked for a special dinner presentation based on guest preferences. With Lake Tahoe being a prime destination for fishing, in addition to other outdoor activities, this is a popular program that incorporates the natural bounty of the lake ($35 USD per fish and advance reservations are required with Manzanita).