If there is one thing I learned living here in the Sierras, it is the fact that the weather report is never 100% reliable. Even during a 24-hour period, a forecast of “snow storm” could mean bluebird skies in a matter of hours. So when I proposed a PICNIC ON THE PISTE on the world famous Heavenly Ski Resort for this month’s Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24, I was prepared for sun, rain or snow on the day I prepare a gourmet meal for our skiing friends. (Yes, a gourmet meal. But more on that later.) I figured, if it turns out to be sunny then we get to enjoy a marvelous feast on top of the mountain at 10,000 feet while gazing at beautiful Lake Tahoe. If it rains or snows, there’s always the picnic tables at one of the several lodges a little ways down at about 8,000 feet level. As it turned out, we hit the trifecta.
Going back to the ‘gourmet meal’ comment for a moment. Yes, I did say gourmet. (What was I thinking?? And on the slopes? I must have been experiencing caffeine withdrawal the day I submitted the proposal. ) According to Wikipedia, Gourmet (pronounced /ɡɔrˈmeɪ/)
is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses.
Uh..oh. Could the mediterranean feast I was planning on serving be considered gourmet? Let’s see. I got the elaborate preparations part since it took a looooong time to prepare the food. Six appetizers, 5 main meals and a dessert. As for presentation, fuggeddaboudit! It’s a picnic! On the slopes. No Williams-Sonoma dinner plates and Oneida flatware. We’re talking paper plates, plastic cups and aluminum foil. What about the large meals and rich courses? I have been known to serve large portions of rich courses so I guess 3 out of 4 is not so bad. Then I can officially call this MEDITERRANEAN MEZZE FEAST on the slopes a gourmet meal!
The sun was still shining when we started with the appetizers of lemon olives, spanakopitas, hummus, flat bread, tatziki and sambusaks. As we happily imbibed on red wine and hot cocoa, the clouds started moving in. I immediately served the rest of the meal: dolmadas, homemade pita bread, lahama mashvi kofta, borek, ground turkey kofta and lamb kebabs. By the time we finished the main course and enjoying dessert portions of semolina halva and assabih bi loz, it started snowing.
Skiers and snowboarders were zooming down the hill to take cover at the lodge (or perhaps take the bus back to their hotels). As we watch the snow turn into rain, we decided to pack up and enjoy another round of cookies and coffee at a friend’s house nearby. After all, no season-pass-carrying, sane local goes skiing (or picnicking for that matter) in these conditions. Gourmet meal or not.
MEDITERRANEAN MEZZE ON THE PISTE
Hummus (olives, garlic and roasted pepper)
Homemade flat bread
Lahama Mashvi Koftas (Beef and lamb koftas)
Dolmadas (Ground lamb wrapped in grape leaves)
Shish Kabobs (Grilled lamb pieces)
I was prepared to lug a mini-food-store-disguised-as-a-backpack had the gang decided to brave the snow conditions and ride up the top of the mountains for the picnic. When you are staring at the blue jewel that is Lake Tahoe while breathing what Mark Twain calls “the air the angels breathe”, one can almost forget and ignore the capricious nature of the Sierra weather.