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Restaurant Critique: Wolfdale's

Fall Line

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Tahoe City, Calif.

Douglas Dale’s career as a chef and restaurateur began more than 25 years ago at Tokyo’s Waseda University. An exchange student from Antioch University in Ohio, his interest in art turned toward functional Japanese ceramics¿creating traditional dishware¿that led to relationships with local chefs. “They explained how the dishes had to be made¿the depth, the size and what they were used for,” Dale says. “I developed as much of an interest in the food as in the ceramics.”

For 14 months, Dale lived and worked at a temple in Mineji, a remote mountain region in southern Japan. There he learned to prepare 1,200-year-old cuisine from chef Hideko Matsuura-san, one of the school’s best ceramics customers. “I was fully immersed in the traditions and aesthetics of the cuisine,” he says. “By the time I left, I was practically Japanese.”

Fast forward to 2000. Wolfdale’s, Dale’s popular Tahoe City, Calif., restaurant, has been open since 1978. Dale is still immersed in preparing traditional Japanese-style cuisine, although his dishes have evolved to include influences from China, Korea and Vietnam, as well. Much of this has to do with the availability of ingredients. “When we first opened,” Dale laughs, “I paid a fortune in shipping costs. Now I have guys with organic Asian produce and quality seafood knocking at my door.”

Soothed by the restaurant’s simple, modern décor, diners (everyone from “heirloom families” who’ve been coming since day one to appreciative new tourists) unwrap chopsticks from their napkins and indulge in Dale’s cuisine: seared Alaskan halibut with jasmine rice, cilantro pesto and a moat of green Thai curry broth; braised duck flavored with rosemary, lemon and tomato-plum sauce atop a crisp, chow mein noodle pillow; Korean-style ribs roasted in sesame sauce and served with kimchee. Every offering is presented on specially designed ceramic ware made by one of Dale’s former Antioch instructors.

After all these years, neither Dale nor his customers have a chance of being bored.

Raising The Bar
What’s the difference between tequila and mezcal? Is single-malt Scotch best served with a water back? If you don’t know, consult a ski-town specialist (oh, bartender!), and conduct a taste test of your own.

Where To Go Jimmy’s American Restaurant & Bar, Aspen, Colo.
Specialty Tequila
Owner and tequila connoisseur Jimmy Yeager stocks nearly 60 “top-shelf,” 100 percent agave tequilas and mezcals behind his spiffy copper bar.
Picks El Tesoro Blanco, Chinaco Reposado, Del Maguey Tobala

Where To Go Mr. Pickwick’s, Stowe, Vt.
Specialty Beer
Christopher Francis, a.k.a. “Mr. Pickwick,” keeps 21 specialty kegs and casks on tap, plus 150 bottled varieties (bitters, stouts, bocks, lambics).
Picks Fullers E.S.B. on tap, Abbey Ales (Chimay Red Ale, Unibroue Maudite) in bottles

Where To Go The Owl Bar, Sundance, Utah
Specialty Spirits
Featuring an Irish rosewood bar (reclaimed from a Wyoming bar frequented by Butch Cassidy), The Owl boasts one of the most extensive collections of single-malts in Utah.
Picks Macallan 18-year single-malt, Booker’s bourbon with a soda back

What’s Cooking
Sprouting Good Health

The Herb Store in Jackson, Wyo., is proof positive that good things come in small packages. Set just off the town square on East Deloney Avenue, the 800-square-foot clapboard cottage (appropriately painted eggplant purple and pea green) is chock-full of herbal products and remedies that, one way or another, will make you feel good. On the culinary side, jars of certified organic herbs and spices¿vanilla beans, saffron, rosemary, curry and tarragon, to name a few¿will pleasure your palate. So will dozens of specialty teas, such as cinnamon licorice, which are sold in tea bags or by the scoop. There are also herbal extracts from Wind Rivver Herbs, aromatherapy oils, vitamins, supplements and even skincare products. To top it off, owner Judy Hennessy, a clinical nutritionist with a degree in folklore and mythology, will coach you on diet, exercise and nutrition. Could be just what the ski doctor ordered.