Brad continues his search for California's best burger in today's review of a burger from Squaw Valley, a ski resort by Lake Tahoe. You can read more from Brad at his blog Diehard Nation and on Twitter @Braphe. —The Mgmt.
The Arc at Squaw Valley
1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA 96146 (map); 530-583-6955; squaw.com
Cooking Method: Gas grilled
Short Order: Quality ingredients help to enhance the flavor of a somewhat dry Kobe patty
Want Fries with That? In between shoe-string and steak cut; they're a little greasy on the outside but have a good crisp
Price: 4-ounce bacon cheese Kobe-burger $15; fries, $4
Squaw Valley is a world class ski resort. In 1960 they hosted the Winter Olympics and helped put west coast winter sports on the map. In the 50 years since, Squaw has cemented its status as the premiere mountain destination in the Lake Tahoe region. Yes, the slopes will treat you well, but how do the hamburgers taste?
It only makes sense that after spending an exhausting morning shredding serious powder, most riders work up a serious appetite. Yet surprisingly, even some of the most exclusive (read: "expensive") resorts force you to choose from a laughable variety of bland, nutrition-less foods that could at best be described as "digestable." The practice is so rampant that it makes the notion of reviewing on-mountain dining seem a fool's errand.
I'm no fool—I'm just hungry. So I came to The Arc, Squaw's mid-mountain dining cafeteria located atop the Gold Coast gondola.
Scott Rutter takes his food very seriously. The one-time Top Chef judge was hired last year to completely overhaul the on-mountain dining menu at The Arc, and I must say some of the results were surprisingly delicious. Catering to the high number of weekend locavores that make their way up from the Bay Area, Rutter introduced healthier and more locally produced ingredients to enhance a cornucopia of menu options. A made-to-order salad bar offers organic greens and fresh vegetables. The Asian noodle bar offers a chicken vegetable bowl which is tastier and more wholesome than flavorless chili (the traditional on-mountain staple) without weighing you down as much during your afternoon ride.
Was that really a Kobe beef bacon cheeseburger I saw on the menu board? Don't mind if I do. It's topped with succulent, well crisped bacon and a melted layer of American cheese, and garnished with sliced tomato, fresh lettuce, and raw onions on the side.
Grilled thoroughly, it had that deep, smoky flavor of the grill, but at the expense of some juiciness. The grind was coarse, but not crumbly. Cross sectioning revealed a somewhat overcooked patty. As Kobe tends to cook dry, I should have stressed my preference for a pinkish interior. The bun held together well, but would have benefited from a light toasting. Although it is by no means one of the best burgers of all time, the caliber of ingredients involved make it far and away the most flavorful hamburger a ski resort has ever fed me.
Expensive as it is to ski or snowboard these days, I have to appreciate the efforts that Scott Rutter and the staff at The Arc have taken to improve the overall experience of a day on the slopes. For those of you expecting Michelin stars mid-mountain, you're better off staying down in the base village of this top-notch resort. Up here on the mountain, the invigorating freshness of floating down the Sierras on a cloud of white is more mouth-watering than the tastiest hamburger—even for the most devoted of burger lovers.
Although, now that I think about it, an In-N-Out atop Tahoe might just be the ultimate California dream. Just sayin'.