Best of the Sierra

Best of the Sierra
Best of the Sierra

Best of the Sierra

Here are Sierra Living’s Editors’ Picks for people to watch and trends to admire, followed by the “winners” of categories that are very deliberately tongue-in-cheek. Despite our humorous approach, however, we are perfectly serious about our recommendations, all of which exemplify what we love most about the Sierra Nevada: passion, wit and plucky individuality.

BY TIM HAUSERMAN, KATRINA PAZ,  PAULA RILEY, THEA MARIE ROOD , WHIP VILLARREAL, KATHLEEN VIVALDI AND KIMBERLY WILKES

Best People to Watch
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve

After a stint on the Reno City Council, Hillary Schieve was among 20 mayoral candidates on the 2014 ballot—and won. Since then, she’s overseen much of Reno’s renaissance—with high-tech companies like Tesla, Apple, Google and Switch all coming to town, as well as Midtown and Downtown Reno kicking things up with food events, street art, edgy retail and vibrant housing (like an abandoned hotel turned into the stylish 3rd Street Flats). She is a registered “non-partisan” and believes finding common ground is the key to solving both local and national problems. “We might not see eye-to-eye on this issue over here,” she says, “but I can guarantee you we can see eye-to-eye on another issue.” With this refreshing attitude, it’s no surprise she’s considered one of America’s 11 most interesting mayors, and although she denies having higher ambitions, there are calls for her to move to the Governor’s Mansion—or possibly the White House.—T.M.R.

Chef Mark Estee
Photo courtesy of Chef Mark Estee.

Chef Mark Estee
Mark Estee is likely the most influential chef in the Sierra Nevada. A James Beard semi-finalist, he cooked at Lone Eagle Grill in Incline, ran Moody’s in Truckee, started Dinner in the Barn in Plumas County, opened Campo in Reno and in Sparks, and currently runs Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, which includes a 4,000-square-foot production kitchen, bakery and USDA-approved butcher shop. He also owns The Union, a taproom and coffee house in Carson City, and Chez Louie—the French café in the Nevada Museum of Art. “Honestly, you can’t name a restaurant that Mark wasn’t involved in,” says Billy Deaver, senior executive chef at Campo Mammoth, which Estee also founded. “And (in all of them) he puts the farmer out front—he really believes the farmer is the show…and that we’re cooks, not magicians. A lot of restaurants say their food is farm-to-fork because it sounds good. Mark’s restaurants really are.” What will Estee do next, we wonder?—T.M.R.

Best Trends

Supporting the Arts
The Sierra Nevada has two of California’s 14 Cultural Districts, which are awarded to unique artistic communities: Grass Valley-Nevada City and Truckee. Our entire region is also awash in excellent symphonies, ballet and theater companies, galleries, museums, and public art. Big-name musical entertainers appear at our concerts and festivals, and live music by local performers is…well, everywhere. We are also home to filmmakers, writers, photographers and designers. It’s not by happenstance, however, but rather a result of committed city officials, sponsors, directors, organizers, teachers and, of course, audiences.—T.M.R.

Environmental Activism
Over the past two years, Sierra Living has reported on the health of our forests and the state of the lake—as well as land stewardship, organic farming and the greening of cities like Reno and South Lake. In the process, we’ve uncovered scientists, activists, public officials and ordinary residents who care deeply about the environment. Throughout the Sierra, there are conservation programs that protect Lake Tahoe, surrounding forests and waterways, and public lands. There are plans to power cities with only renewable energy, save trees in forests from invasive species and drought, combat climate change, and raise awareness of environmental issues through education and by enforcing regulations. Even in the face of dwindling support from the federal government, the Sierra Nevada continues to challenge actions detrimental to the environment with unwavering determination.—W.V.

Food & Drink

Best Chef Who Got His Start in a Gas Station

“I’ll have some unleaded gas with my lobster taquitos.” There’s only one place where you can utter that statement: the Tioga Gas Mart’s Whoa Nellie Deli at the Mobil station in Lee Vining, Calif. People entering the convenience store for the first time do double takes when they see diners walking away from the counter with gourmet delights. Who’s responsible for this culinary oddity? Thank Matt Toomey. During his 16 years as chef there, Toomey transformed the establishment—located on the road to Yosemite National Park—into what Gourmet magazine named one of the 100 most interesting restaurants in the world. In 2012, he left the gourmet gas station to open Toomey’s at The Village at Mammoth. His new digs are home to luscious breakfasts, like two fluffy coconut mascarpone pancakes that rival anything you’ve had on your island vacation. For Whoa Nellie Deli fans, Toomey also serves old favorites such as fish tacos, wild buffalo meatloaf and giant slices of Killer Carrot Cake. But he’s also introduced new offerings, such as seafood jambalaya, the New Zealand elk rack chop and daily specials. 6085 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA,760-924-4408, toomeysmammoth.com.—K.W.

Wild River Grille
Photo courtesy of Wild River Grille.

Wild River Grille offers one of the best views for dining in the city. On Mondays called ‘Dinner With Your Dog’ where 10 percent of each guest’s check gets donated to the SPCA of Northern Nevada and other animal organizations.

Best Restaurant Where You Should Have Dinner With Your Dog
Located in the heart of Downtown Reno, steps away from the banks of the Truckee River and the newly installed Virginia Street Bridge, the Wild River Grille offers one of the best views for dining in the city, hands-down. It also serves up draft beer on tap from local breweries, wine tastings with food pairings, and emphasizes fresh, seasonal, local ingredients for its dishes. Summer concerts are held on the patio stage and it is the official restaurant of Artown, a month-long summer arts festival that features 500 events citywide and highlights the best performers in our region. But customers may be in for another surprise. “We have an event on Mondays called ‘Dinner With Your Dog’ where 10 percent of each guest’s check gets donated to the SPCA of Northern Nevada and other animal organizations like the Shakespeare Animal Fund,” says Executive Chef Chris Baldwin. “When the weather is nice, bring your dog to the patio and know that a portion of the check will go to a good cause for animals.” 17 S. Virginia St., Reno, NV, 775-284-7455, wildrivergrille.com.—W.V.

Best Damn Soup
There is a story behind this cleverly named menu item at Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley, Calif. “I worked in a bakery for a while and every single day, this old woman would come in for the soup,” says Chef Zach Sterner. “I mean, you’d see her coming up the walk and could just dish up the soup. And every single day, she would eat the soup, then come into the kitchen and say, ‘Who made the soup today? That is the best damn soup.’” Sterner, who cooked for Michelin-starred restaurants in Napa and has won the best chef award two years running in Nevada County, offers daily Best Damn Soup choices, as well as locally sourced meats, produce, wine and beer on a creative, ever-changing menu (that includes desserts made by his mother from family recipes). 10018 Commercial Ave., Penn Valley, CA, 530-446-6534, twelve28kitchen.com.—T.M.R.

Best Neapolitan Pizza in a Historic 1873 Hotel
Back in the Truckee Hotel’s heyday, restaurants would have served grass-fed beefsteaks, fresh-caught lake trout, veggies grown nearby and some hearty red delivered by wagon from a nearby Basque rancher. Thanks to Executive Chef William Burns, Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats, inside said hotel, honors the era of unadulterated eats while nurturing today’s taste for interesting combinations of seasonal ingredients (local when possible). Leave your necktie behind and come for truffled deviled eggs and ahi poke, fresh seafood, seasonal wild game, grass-fed beef, house-made pastas, and brick oven Neapolitan-style pizzas to yelp about. Summer brings alfresco dining and special fare such as watermelon salad and fried green tomatoes with Dungeness crab. Thursday through Saturday evenings, catch live music by performers with chops—jazz, Americana, soul, and R&B bands with a splash of hip-hop on the down beat. The bar still serves a hearty red, but will also happily prepare re-imagined classics of the Manhattan and whiskey sour variety, along with any of a number of thoroughly modern mix-ups. 10007 Bridge St., Truckee, CA, 530-587-8688, moodysbistro.com.—P.R.

Best Taco Tuesdays
Chimayo Tacos y Tortas in South Lake is a non-traditional, fusion taco restaurant that combines smoked barbecue meats with salsas and sauces that are homemade each day. Chimayo also focuses on fresh seafood all summer long, so in this very laid-back, comfortable environment, with a relaxing patio, the ceviche bar is a popular choice. There are also creative twists on fish tacos, including grilled octopus, scallops and halibut, as well as the Pink Taco—seared ahi tuna, seaweed salad, guajillo aioli and tabiko. Non-fish eaters have plenty to choose from as well, such as the smoked pork street tacos with sweet chili, passion fruit and plantain. Plate-sharers shouldn’t miss the Chimayo fries, piled inside a taco shell, topped with brisket chili, melted cheese, pico de gallo, jalapenos and crema. Also find Chimayo at the local Ski Run Farmers’ Market every Friday through August. 1142 Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA, 530-600-3900, chimayotahoe.com.—K.V.

Best Donut Shop Founded by a Cop
When inquiring about the perfect donut, does one simply go to a baker? Sure, but who else could respect the art of the humble donut more than our men and women in uniform. So when L.A. Police Officer Bob Kenny and his wife Marge founded Donut Stop in Hollywood in 1980, their customers knew they’d found a man in whom they could entrust not just their safety, but their appetites as well. Years later, Bob and Marge’s son Jay moved the family and its recipes to Reno, where Doughboys Donuts continues to serve (but maybe not so much protect) their handmade classic donuts. The Kenny family prides itself on being a member of the neighborhood, and supports dozens of local charities, meaning its customers are investing in law-enforcement approved snacking, and their community as well. 5115 Mae Anne Ave. B, Reno, NV, 775-787-8586, doughboysreno.com.—T.M.R.

Best Coffee Fresh-Roasted in the Lost Sierra
When you find yourself in Portola, Calif., don’t let its looks fool you (small in stature, long on trees) because a good cuppa joe is close at hand. California’s Highway 70 becomes the town’s Sierra Avenue, which is where you’ll find Coffee Tree Express, an unpretentious but beloved coffee café in a repurposed building. Owner/manager Kim Carey, a skilled roaster, chooses beans that can “lift a morning fog like a broad beam of sunshine or…a sun-drenched beach.” Her velvet touch during after-hours roasting produces coffees with wide appeal—a 100-plus-roasted-pounds-per-week of wide appeal. This is big city coffee served with small town hospitality, meaning your favorite style is surely on the menu. Cinnamon lovers will find a mocha made with Mexican cocoa and, for cooling your jets, iced coffees and cold brews. And you might as well add on a cookie, a slice of fresh-baked pumpkin bread or a breakfast sandwich. Located just 45 minutes from Reno, the café is open 6 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday (closed Sundays).196 E. Sierra Ave., Portola, CA, 530-832-4563, coffeetreeexpress.com.—P.R.

Best Place to See Winemakers in Action
Knowing where our food comes from is gaining in popularity—with farm boxes, farmers’ markets and you-pick options—but what about our vino? At the annual Big Crush Festival in the foothills of Amador County, you can get up close and personal with winemakers during their harvest season. Watch the action as grapes are picked and hauled to crushing pads—if you’re lucky, you might even be invited to spray out a barrel or lend a hand. The two-day event, held this year on Oct. 6 and 7, includes wine tastings, food pairings, live music and harvest activities at more than 40 family wineries, such as Bella Grace, Iron Hub, Helwig, Jeff Runquist and Sera Fina. Presale tickets are available Aug. 1 at participating wineries; amadorwine.com.—T.M.R.

Auburn Ale House
Photo courtesy of Auburn Ale House.

Auburn Alehouse in Old Town for its wide selection of beers and craft whiskeys, as well as a hearty meal: burgers, mac‘n’cheese, ahi poke nachos and mushroom gnocchi.

Best Town for a Walking Tour of Award-Winning Breweries
The introduction of Uber has made pub-hopping a bit more convenient, so we are taking some liberties with this wildly popular foursome in Auburn, Calif. To be fair, Moonraker and Knee Deep are easily within walking distance of each other (less than a block). You can practically wave from one expansive patio to the other, but that would detract from your Electric Lettuce (New England Double India Pale Ale) or Tanilla Porter (with Tahitian vanilla beans). From there, you can head to Crooked Lane, just 3.5-miles away. It’s located on Grass Valley Highway, but the neighborhood vibe is strong here, which makes sense, given that the owners live on the same street (yes, there is a real Crooked Lane). Finally, it’s worth ending up at Auburn Alehouse in Old Town for its wide selection of beers and craft whiskeys, as well as a hearty meal: burgers, mac‘n’cheese, ahi poke nachos and mushroom gnocchi. Opened in 2007, the Alehouse is the granddaddy of local breweries and brewmaster Brian Ford is renowned for his expertise, wisdom and unwavering support of other beer-makers. Moonraker’s Zack Frasher says it best: “Consumers see us as competition, but it’s like a brotherhood.” Which is what we believe beer should be about. Moonraker Brewing Co.,12970 Earhart Ave., 530-745-6816, moonrakerbrewing.com; Knee Deep Brewing Co., 13395 New Airport Road, 530-797-HOPS, kneedeepbrewing.com; Crooked Lane Brewing Co., 536 Grass Valley Highway, 530-878-5232, crookedlandbrewing.com; Auburn Alehouse, 289 Washington St., 530-885-2537, auburnalehouse.com.—K.P.

Arts & Entertainment

Best Street Art
For public art that’s bigger than life and rendered in eye-popping colors, this tour’s for you. Feed your dreams on some of the 80 murals decorating Reno’s Midtown District painted by local, national and international artists. You’ll find them street-side and in alleys; also tattooed upon the backsides of retail and restaurant buildings. Some require you to slide up close, so ditch your ozone-maker and hoof it along a route centered on Virginia Street (give or take a block or two), capped by Liberty Street to the north and Vesta Street to the south. Plan two hours for catching all or most, more if you stop for hardware, vintage threads, buds, or to have a mural tattooed on your own backside. Docent tours are available for $10 every second Saturday at 11 a.m. starting at Blue Whale Coffee and Tea, 32 Cheney St. Find the mural map at artspotreno.com.—P.R.

Best Art Classes in a Former Livery Stable
Atelier may now be a space for art workshops and events, but the Truckee building’s history is also notable: In 1898, it was originally the site of John Moody’s Feed and Livery stables. Since that time, it has also been home to Old Bingham Corral, the O.K. Restaurant and Saloon, Charlie Siegal’s Butcher Shop and the Donner Theater. In 2015, however, Atelier began using the space to inspire artists, collectors, illustrators, designers, weavers, knitters and painters. The art studio offers hands-on workshops for ages 12 and up, no previous experience required. For example, in August and September, sign up for a mixed media nature drawing workshop, introduction to knitting, goat-cheese making, Autumn Equinox wreaths or a watercolor class.10128 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA, 530-386-2700, ateliertruckee.com.—K.V.

Best Arts Venue in a Remodeled Car Dealership
You wouldn’t think it at first glance, or second, or even as you sit in this cozy theater watching big name performers, but the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, Calif., used to be an auto showroom. Now it showcases the likes of Five for Fighting, Cowboy Junkies and Colin Hay, as well as an eclectic collection of comedians, authors and dance companies. Built in 1947 in historic downtown, however, it was originally the home of Hartman Chevrolet, and eventually Toyota, Oldsmobile and Subaru. It evolved through the years, serving as a cosmetology school, gymnasium/dance studio and production facility. Finally, for more than a decade, the Center’s art deco façade has served as the cornerstone for local and regional artists, housing galleries, youth art programs, and studio and event space. The metamorphosis continues today, too, as the Center is in the midst of a multi-million-dollar renovation, expanding its theater seating from 310 to 492 and installing a state-of-the-art sound system and additional green rooms. 314 West Main St., Grass Valley, CA, 530-274-8384, thecenterforthearts.org.—K.P.

Best Place for Cross-Pollination of Theater and Jazz
Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) and Good Luck Macbeth (GLM) Theatre Company now share a rehearsal/performance/office space in Midtown Reno. Recently remodeled, the one-time home of the Reno Musicians Union Hall has been enriched with comfy seating, a new sound system, storage for props and a multi-purpose stage. The building’s art-loving owners have plowed cash into multiple improvements, the better for RJO to practice its 20th anniversary performances and plan its 2019 Jazz in the Schools event. Meanwhile, GLM gets its nicest staging yet for a lineup of offerings based on original and classic scripts (coming in October: Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”), plus room for a future theater arts outreach program.“We hope to work together in the future on artistic projects,” says Amanda Alvey, an actor and the GLM director. “I’d love to have some of these brilliant musicians work with us on our musicals and other original works.” 124 W. Taylor St., Reno, NV, goodluckmacbeth.org, renojazzorchestra.org.—P.R.

Center for the Arts
Photo courtesy of the Center for the Arts.

Chalet View Lodge. The natural beauty of this remote part of the Sierra surrounds the lush grounds of the lodge, but guests will still find modern comforts and plenty to do.

Best Restored Movie Theater to Also Have Its Own Acting Company
The State Theater in Auburn, Calif., opened in December 1930, with top-notch sound production, a beautiful interior and elaborate furnishings. Today, it is known as the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, which is committed to preserving the theater’s history while also providing live entertainment, film and educational experiences. Showing on the silver screen this summer is its movie classic series—think Turner Classic Movie channel—and the acting company will stage “The Producers,” based on Mel Brooks’ smash hit musical. Other upcoming events include the seventh annual Auburn Ukulele Festival (Aug. 10) and the appearance of Will Durst, a political comedian (Aug. 18). 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA, 530-885-0156, livefromauburn.com.—K.V.

Best Year-Round Art Walk With a Concert Series
In its eighth year, the 2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora, Calif., is drawing people to town, much like gold did more than a century ago—except now people are coming for the culture and history. Sonora is in fact one of the oldest towns in California, and the historic downtown backdrop, with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, is perfect for walking and perusing the galleries, restaurants and shops offering art, live music and art demonstrations. In summer months, centrally located Coffill Park hosts a concert series (Timberline will perform Aug. 8 and the Steven Graves Band will be playing Sept. 8). Historic Downtown Sonora, CA, 209-533-2781, 2ndSaturdayartnight.org.—K.V.

Best Community Radio That Started in a Miner’s Shack
A lot has changed in the 45 years since this little local station began broadcasting four hours a day from a miner’s shack on Nevada City’s Banner Mountain. And a lot has stayed the same. It’s not hard to see, or hear, that KVMR is still the lifeblood of the community. The station, which recently moved into a $4 million building behind the Nevada Theatre (a significant step up from the shack), enlists the services of more than 200 volunteer broadcasters. From poems and beer-brewing advice to community issues and emergency updates (it was one of the only sources for live information during last fall’s fires), the station remains integral to Nevada County, which is a melting pot of artists and professionals. KVMR, however, has something for everyone, with shows ranging from Old Radio Theatre, Trance-It Lounge, Hallelujah Hollaback and Music for Grown Folks. Music is the driving force of the station’s success and appeal, with frequent live broadcasts of local concerts and music fests. Every September (this year, Sept. 28–30), the station helps transform the Nevada County Fairgrounds into a Celtic Village for the KVMR Celtic Festival and Marketplace, with eight stages, dozens of vendors and a complete Irish Pub. Frequency: 89.5 (FM); kvmr.org.—K.P.

Best and Biggest Outdoor New Year’s Eve Music Festival
While Coachella, Bonnaroo, EDC, Outside Lands and a parade of other festivals monopolize the warm spring and summer months, this category honors the commitment it takes to party just as hard in the dead of winter. Every New Year’s Eve, SnowGlobe Music Festival draws thousands of neon-and-fur-clad attendees to the alpine city of South Lake Tahoe, where some of the biggest acts in electronic music perform in sub-freezing temperatures. Far from fretting about the weather, last year partygoers spent up to three days dancing for warmth with acts like Porter Robinson and Travis Scott—surrounded by the pine forests of South Lake. SnowGlobe is for those who consider their festival season to be year-round, and tickets range $140–$500. News of our pick must have leaked out early, it seems, because at the time of this writing all pre-sale tickets for SnowGlobe 2018 are sold out; snowglobemusicfestival.com.—T.M.R.

Best Freebie
The best things in life are free, especially when they include vistas of glacier-polished domes, glimmering alpine lakes and idyllic waterfalls. Yosemite’s spectacular scenery is yours for the taking during four free National Parks entrance days, which this year includes Sept. 22 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day). What will you do during this National Park Service annual tradition? The possibilities are as vast as Yosemite’s 761,266 acres. Before State Route 120’s seasonal closure (usually between late October and late November), drive to the high country to appreciate splashes of fall color and 13,000-foot peaks. Or trek up to North Dome for one of the best views of Half Dome in the park (a moderately strenuous 9-mile round trip hike; park at Porcupine Flat Trailhead 1.2 miles east of Porcupine Flat Campground). Perhaps you’d rather visit Yosemite Valley, gazing in awe at El Capitan while ambling along next to the river. Live near Sequoia or King’s Canyon National Parks and want to stay close to home? Entrance fees are waived there, too. The free fun is also available in January on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and in April on the first day of National Park Week; nps.gov.—K.W.

Shopping & Services

Sundance Books and Music
Photo by Gina Munda.

Sundance Books and Music in Midtown Reno is housed in the historic Levy House, originally built by William Levy, who made his fortune in mining and retail (a dry goods store).

Best Place to Browse With a Ghost
Sundance Books and Music in Midtown Reno is housed in the historic Levy House, originally built by William Levy, who made his fortune in mining and retail (a dry goods store). After his death, his daughters fought bitterly over the property, finally rotating the house 90 degrees for Mildred and her family, leaving room for Fritzi to open a gas station on the corner. Over the years, paranormal behavior has been regularly reported—sudden chills or dizziness, footsteps running up and down stairs—and investigators say as many as 30 spirits reside there. We can’t guarantee a ghostly apparition, of course, but you will find one of the best collections of books and music in our region, as well as children’s story times and authors’ book signings. 121 California Ave., Reno, NV, 775-786-1188, sundancebookstore.com.—T.M.R.

Best Vacation Grocery Shopping
It’s fine to run in the Safeway close to home, but when you’re at a cottage overlooking the lake, even picking up groceries should be part of your vacation experience. At the charmingly retro Village Market in Incline Village, Nev., you’ll find an onsite butcher shop stocked with Natural Black Angus Beef, as well as stuffed chicken breasts, center-cut pork chops and fresh Coho salmon—perfect for the barbecue on the cottage deck. This family-owned market, in business for more than 30 years, also offers local produce, imported cheeses and wine from nearby vintners. And if you don’t feel like cooking, hit the full-service deli for handcrafted sandwiches, party trays, fresh salads, soups and house-made quiche. 770 Mays Blvd., Suite 2, Incline Village, NV, 775-831-5025, villagemarketincline.com.—T.M.R.

Best Toy Store to Hold Weekly Coffee + Play Dates
The site for Little Roots Toy Shop, owned by husband-and-wife team Ken and Kristen Hedges, was picked out on a quiet winter night in 2015 by their then-baby daughter, Aspen, who pointed at the empty storefront as they walked by. The couple opened up Little Roots soon afterward, where they stock unique and handcrafted toys, many of them locally made, as well as board games and science kits. They consider the store their second home and host weekly “gatherings” there every Friday for parents (and their children) to connect, talk and play. The coffee is free. 106 S. Washington St., Sonora, CA, littleroots.toys.—T.M.R.

Derrick's Cheese
Photo by Charlene Lane.

Dedrick’s is a neighborhood gourmet food store featuring over 200 cheeses. It opened in 2002 when owner Mary Dedrick, relocating from San Francisco, saw the need for good bread and cheese in the Placerville area.

Best Cheese Shop With a Cow Named Daisy in the Window
Dedrick’s is a neighborhood gourmet food store featuring over 200 cheeses. It opened in 2002 when owner Mary Dedrick, relocating from San Francisco, saw the need for good bread and cheese in the Placerville area. More than 16 years later, the aromatic smells of cheese, salami, olives and fresh bread draw many in for picnic supplies, lunch items and edible goodies. (Shoppers in Dedrick’s can always count on cheese samples to taste.) Daisy, the shop’s iconic life-size cow, is now a fixture in Placerville. The story goes that the cow was originally part of a prank actor Blake Edwards played while at Triad Artists in Los Angeles many years ago. Today, Daisy stands proudly in Dedrick’s front window. 312 Main St. #101, Placerville, CA, 530-344-8282, dedrickscheese.com.—K.V.

The Truffle Shop
Photo by Kat Alves.

The Tenaya Lodge at the south entrance of Yosemite Valley blends rustic charm with modern amenities for those looking to enjoy winter, not just escape it.

Best Chocolates Made by a Former Monk
There’s no shortage of candy shops in Nevada County, but when the sweets are handcrafted and imagined by a former monk, there’s something extra blissful going on. The Truffle Shop’s heavenly creations have even been beckoned by the Vatican, but are for the most part enjoyed by legions of locals and dedicated online customers. Born in Holland, chef Willem DeGroot moved to Canada and joined a Franciscan monastery, where he was first introduced to the craft of chocolate-making. More than 50 years later (the shop itself celebrates 30 years in 2018), DeGroot continues to tempt the most discerning sweet-tooths with a sophisticated taste that lacks the obvious sweetness one expects with chocolate. In fact, there’s no sugar added to the imported Belgian chocolate, leaving the opulent and complex flavors to demand the attention they so richly deserve. And while the history of the shop is steeped in divinity, the menu is purely sinful: the Café Diablo, for example, is strong coffee blended with alcohol and swirled in a spicy bittersweet chocolate laced with a zest of orange. The fires of the devil never tasted so good! 408 Broad St., Nevada City, CA, 530-265-3539, thetruffleshop.com.—K.P.

Best Yoga Studio to OfferDiscounts to Skiers
Wanderlust’s 1,000-square-foot studio in the heart of Olympic Valley gives off vibes of serenity and peacefulness. As yogis take their deep breaths and say “om,” the majestic Lake Tahoe landscape is right in view to further relax the mind, body and spirit. Wanderlust is open year-round and provides daily classes such as Vinyasa Flow, Morning Flow and Hatha. In winter months, the studio offers a 20 percent discount off yoga packs and drop-in classes to skiers who have a ski pass at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows. Wanderlust has several summer yoga events as well. Every Tuesday is “Yoga for Athletes with Live Music,” designed for overall strengthening to help you be pain free, and is done while listening to a live acoustic guitar player. Every Wednesday through Aug. 8, Wanderlust offers free 90-minute yoga classes outside the studio in Squaw Valley Village. The Wanderlust Festival also takes place every July—a one-of-a-kind event that brings top yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, chefs, winemakers and brewmasters together for an inspiring yoga weekend. 1750 Village East Road #64, Olympic Valley, CA, 530-584-6140, squaw.wanderlustyoga.com.—K.V.

Best Board Shop to Also Give Mammoth Snow Conditions
The die-hard team of riders who work at Wave Rave Snowboard Shop in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., have long been rumored to not just report the snow conditions of the Eastern Sierra, but are so in tune with the winter weather they can control it. Well, we did say it was just a rumor. In reality, Wave Rave has been a hub of local knowledge and equipment in Mammoth Lakes since its founding by pro snowboarder Steve Klassen in 1989. Equal parts board shop and local snowboarding museum, Wave Rave is a 10-minute drive to the slopes of Mammoth, handy for customers as well as the staff, who make it a point to inform the global ski and snowboard crowd of the week-to-week changes on one of California’s most popular mountains. Their efforts to serve the greater snow-loving community have earned them our recognition. 3203 Main St., Mammoth Lakes, CA, 760-934-2471, waveravesnowboardshop.com.—T.M.R.

Reno Bike Project
Photo courtesy of Reno Bike Project.

The Reno Bike Project is a nonprofit community bicycle shop that has been in business for 12 years, with the goal to make cycling as affordable and accessible as possible through education, outreach and very cheap repair services.

Best (Nonprofit) Bike Shop
The Reno Bike Project is a nonprofit community bicycle shop that has been in business for 12 years, with the goal to make cycling as affordable and accessible as possible through education, outreach and very cheap repair services. RBP hosts many annual events promoting cycling and cycling culture, including community rides, We HeArt Bikes Art Show, Bike Week Pancake Feed and an annual bike swap. It also provides a bike valet at various public events. “The money we make goes right back into our shop,” says Raymond Eliot, a public workstation attendant at RBP. “We get donations from the community, we fix up those bicycles, we sell them and all that money goes to pay for (things) like the Biggest Little Commuter Program, (which) provides bicycles to low-income folks and at-risk youth who need transportation.” Last year, RBP distributed more than 1,200 bikes. 216 E. Grove St., Reno, NV, 775-323-4488, renobikeproject.org.—W.V.

Best Place to Buy an Ansel Adams Original
The creations of the most famous landscape photographer of all time are best appreciated in the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley, the place he called “a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” The gallery intermingles Adams’ stunning black-and-white depictions of natural landscapes, Mother Nature’s artwork outside the windows (Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan), and an interesting history complete with a love story between Adams and Virginia Best, the gallery founder’s daughter. Have a spare $4,000 to $70,000? Invest in an Ansel Adams original. If that’s not in the budget, many modern replicas—digital reproductions made from Adams’ original hand prints—go for $129. Other choices: posters, calendars, note cards, and Ansel Adams’ Yosemite Special Edition Photographs. Need to brush up on your photography skills? Follow in Ansel Adams’ footsteps during the free camera walks on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. (reserve your spot three days before, 209-372-4413). The gallery features other photographers and painters, too. Through Aug. 18, admire Charles Cramer’s color landscape photography, and from Aug. 19 to Sept. 29, Roman Loranc’s black-and-white California landscapes. Yosemite Valley Village Mall, 650-692-3285, anseladams.com.—K.W.

Sports & Recreation

Best $47.5 Million Gym
The E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center is one of the newest and biggest additions to the continuously expanding UNR campus. This state-of-the-art gym, totaling $47.5 million, has four floors and 108,000 square feet. At the entrance of the gigantic facility, a series of deep and heightened stairs lead to a 1/8-mile running track on the top floor. The steep stairs alone are perfect for warm-ups before hitting the main workout space on the first floor, which is dedicated to open strength and functional training and houses endless rows of dumbbells, squat racks, benches, cable machines and other fitness equipment. The second floor holds five multi-purpose rooms for fitness classes such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics and Zumba. The third floor features a gymnasium with three multi-use courts and a cardio zone with additional treadmills, ellipticals, Stairmasters, cycling and rowing machines. Finally, the fourth floor holds the running track and includes some areas for stretching. 1664 N. Virginia St., Reno, NV, 775-784-1225, unr.edu.—W.V.

Best 165-Mile Hiking Trail
Have you ever had the ambitious dream of conquering the Pacific Crest Trail, but then were smacked across the face by the 2,600-mile reality? Hiking 15 miles a day for six months is a bit too real for most. But how about the Tahoe Rim Trail? It’s “only” 165 miles, the logistics are much easier, and you can do it on your two-week vacation. You also get to spend your days looking down at Lake Tahoe. It’s a circle, so wherever you start is where you end. Resupply is easy as the trail crosses a number of highways and Tahoe communities loaded with food and hiking supplies. One caveat: Even though you are looking at a humongous lake, you will need to arrange for several water resupplies. You could also join one of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s guided hikes, which provide guides, of course, and meet the hikers every few days with food, water and encouragement; tahoerimtrail.org.—T.H.

Best Place to See Historic Wooden Boats
View the best antique, vintage and classic wooden boats resting on the shores of the lake at the Concours d’Elegance in Homewood, Calif. Open to the public, this event showcases some of the most meticulously restored boats, including pre- and post-World War II racers and runabouts, historic lakers and launches, utility boats and flashy Rivas. Concours’ judges come from throughout the U.S. to reward those whose boats are at the highest level of authenticity, i.e., as they appeared when they were shipped from the factory. This year’s 46th annual Concours will be staged at the historic Obexer’s Boat Company on Aug.10 and 11, and includes a gala opening night dinner and dance, a men’s grill and a ladies’ luncheon and fashion show. 5300 W. Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA, laketahoeconcours.com.—W.V.

Best Place to Meet Team Mascot Truckee
While you might think the best place to meet Truckee would be in his swanky high-rise apartment in Downtown Reno, or rubbing elbows with the city’s political elite at a cocktail party, alas he has requested we list the actual best spot as his place of business: the stands and fields of Greater Nevada field during any Reno 1868 FC soccer match. Since their record-breaking debut season last year, the Reno 1868 have cemented themselves as a winning part of Reno’s athletic identity—with Truckee’s wet hand firmly at the helm (he is a manifestation of the river). Truckee can be found leading his team to victory at every home game on the Reno 1868 season calendar, and with family picnic seating, box seats and fireworks after weekend games, there are plenty of opportunities for dedicated fans to spend some time with him. And the team too, of course. Greater Nevada Field, 250 Evans Ave., Reno, NV, 775-334-4700, reno1868fc.com.—T.M.R.

Best Use of 100 Percent Renewable Energy
There’s no doubt our region’s ski resorts—and our professional skiers and boarders—are leading the effort to “go green” in the Tahoe area, in part because their livelihoods are tied to a healthy planet and reliable climate conditions. Recently, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows announced its goal to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources as early as this coming December. The resort is working closely with Liberty Utilities, the local power company, which is developing designated clean energy sources—primarily solar—for Squaw and other Tahoe customers. The change-over will reduce Squaw’s total annual carbon footprint from 13,078 metric tons to an estimated 6,682 metric tons, a 49 percent reduction equivalent to emissions generated by 959 homes. 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA, squawalpine.com.—T.M.R.

Glacier Point
Photo by Tim Hauserman.

While the road to Yosemite’s Glacier Point is a steady stream of cars and tour buses in the summer, once the snow flies, the road is only groomed for skiers. Just a relatively few hearty skiers make the 10.5-mile journey (each way) out to Glacier Point.

Best View on a Cross Country Ski Trail
While the road to Yosemite’s Glacier Point is a steady stream of cars and tour buses in the summer, once the snow flies, the road is only groomed for skiers. Just a relatively few hearty skiers make the 10.5-mile journey (each way) out to Glacier Point. After gliding through rolling terrain for about 9 miles, the route descends through a series of tight switchbacks to Washburn Point, where bang!…there is Half Dome, looking like it’s just a stone’s throw away and is levitating above the snow. Even skiers in the Glacier Point cross country ski race have been known to stop in the middle of the competition so they can take a moment to capture this jaw-dropping image. And it’s not over yet: A few more hairpin turns bring you to Glacier Point, with even more holy-cow-look-at-that panoramas. Once you get there, turn around for a trip back to Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, or spend the night at the Glacier Point Ski Hut; travelyosemite.com.—T.H.

Best Place to Learn to Ski/Snowboard in One Day (Guaranteed)
While skiing is certainly worth the effort, learning how to ski can be intimidating and damned expensive. We found a potential cure for that dilemma: Yosemite Ski and Snowboard’s Guaranteed Learn to Ski/Snowboard Package, which proudly proclaims: “By the end of the day, you will be riding the chairlift and skiing or snowboarding down the beginner run. And if you need more than one day to accomplish this, we’ll be happy to give you a voucher so that you can come back for another day of lessons—absolutely free.” The package includes equipment rental, lift ticket for the beginning tow and chairlift, and group lessons. “We have fewer crowds, family-friendly activities and a dedicated and skilled staff to make a day at this classic ski area fun and fulfilling,” says Lisa Cesaro, Yosemite Marketing Manager. Yosemite National Park, travelyosemite.com.—T.H.

Best American West Experience That Has to Be Booked 24 Months in Advance
Experiencing an authentic Old West cowboy lifestyle, complete with horseback riding, camping, and driving cattle from California to Nevada, is within reach: the Reno Rodeo’s Cattle Drive, which brings 300 head of cattle from Doyle, Calif., to Reno, over a three-to-four-day period. Nightly camps involve bedding down under the stars, as well as a saloon, food cooked over an open fire and nightly entertainment. The drive ends with the cattle arriving at the Reno Livestock Convention Center, kicking off Rodeo Week. The only problem? The 28-year-old event is wildly popular, and registering for it reflects the frenzy of snagging Burning Man reservations. The 2019 Cattle Drive has already been sold out and there is currently a waiting list for 2020; renorodeo.com.—W.V.

Best Wild & Scenic River That Sparked a Film Festival
It may not draw out the stars that Cannes or Park City does, but the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, Calif., brings out the best in people trying to make a difference. Created in 2003 to raise funds vital for conserving the Yuba River, the festival now attracts thousands of adventurers, intellectuals, activists and, yes, even environmentally minded celebrities (Patrick Stewart and Daryl Hannah). It took the name from the Yuba’s 1999 state designation as a Wild and Scenic River: Designated/protected rivers are classified as wild (free flowing), scenic (undeveloped waterways accessible by roads) and recreational. The flagship festival takes place every January at about 10 different venues throughout Nevada County and even goes “on tour,” spreading its watershed message and inspiring activism around the world. Coined as a festival by activists for activists, most people are simply drawn to the river for its secluded sandy beaches, emerald swimming pools, rushing rapids, lush meandering trails and mesmerizing beauty; wildandscenicfilmfestival.org.–K.P.

Best Place to See the Sun Set at 11,053 feet
A Sierra sunset is something to behold—colorful clouds floating above mountain peaks or the western sky glowing like orange embers. It’s hard to top Mother Nature’s evening show. But Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., has taken this already spectacular sight to new heights with its Summit Sunset Parties. On select evenings, the resort’s Panorama Gondola—which usually makes its last run down the mountain in late afternoon—stays up past its bedtime to whisk partygoers to 11,053 feet. At the top, watch the sun set over the Minarets and stroll the lit glow walk to the Lakes Basin Lookout. Dance to tunes spun by an outdoor DJ and, with a beer or glass of wine in hand, toast the alpenglow or the sky’s sunset blush over Mono Lake. Natural history buffs will enjoy a guided walk with the Eleven53 docent. And great news for parents: Kids are welcome, too. (Take them to the face painter for a fun photo op.) This year’s Summit Sunset Parties are on Aug. 17 (6:30–9:30 p.m.) and Sept. 2 (5:30–8:30 p.m.); find tickets at mammothmountain.com.—K.W.

Mammoth Mountain Resort
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Resort.

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