Lone Eagle Grill
November – December 2015
Lone Eagle Grill
LAKE TAHOE’S CELEBRATED DINING STAPLE IS ANYTHING BUT PREDICTABLE
BY MEGG MUELLER
Vanilla ice cream laced with toffee chips; a moist, gluten-free buckwheat brownie; and an expertly flambéed secret-recipe merengue towered atop an intricate molasses drizzle. Take a moment to let your brain build a picture of this decadent dessert. What you’re now salivating for is the Baked Tahoe—the Lone Eagle Grille’s take on the Baked Alaska that will have you forgetting its originator after one bite of this pine-cone-shaped indulgence. A bold statement perhaps, but that is what the Lone Eagle Grille’s Chef de Cuisine Shane Hammett is all about.
The Baked Tahoe—a creation of Daniel Zajac and refined by fellow pastry chef Guido Landolt—is the last remaining item on the menu Shane inherited when he assumed the role of lead chef for the restaurant in 2012. Stepping into the formidable shoes before him, Shane insinuated himself into the restaurant’s successful “high Tahoe” culture and made it his own.
Shane grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and he didn’t realize it, but the stage was being set for his culinary career. He grew up hunting and fishing, and remembers his mom cooking duck in the crockpot, even though she wasn’t a big fan. Her meals and those memories have informed the choices he makes today.
“My mom thinks it’s crazy that I have duck on the menu, because she didn’t like it,” he says, laughing. “But she cooked it because we had it.”
Being a chef wasn’t Shane’s dream until he was 17. While studying at the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Program at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he realized he had a knack for creating amazing dishes. As he modestly puts it, he “ended up being successful at it.”
He’d spent time in the Lake Tahoe area as a kid, hiking and snowboarding, and after graduating from culinary school, knew where he wanted to be.
“I spent seven years bouncing around the East Bay and Napa, but my wife and I wanted to live in Tahoe,” he says.
CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION
The Lone Eagle Grille opened in the winter of 1994 and is arguably the most popular restaurant on the north shore, due in part to the spectacular lakeside views, but mostly to its creative dining options. With polished stone walls, grand high ceilings, rough-hewn woods, and two-story windows, Lone Eagle is both inviting and impressive. The first thing you see is the lounge with its incredible view of the crystal blue waters and soft sandy beaches of Lake Tahoe. Venturing in further, two immense stone fireplaces bookend the main dining area, with alpine-lodge inspired touches melding with elegant Mission-era lighting and colors.
The locale of Lone Eagle Grille plays an obvious role in the décor, but also the food. Shane’s seasonal menus have taken the restaurant past its prime rib and French onion soup days, to feature such elegant and earthy items as a candy-striped beet salad with a blue cheese fritter and candied pecans dressed with a pear vinaigrette, and a grilled prime Brandt strip loin with a brandied peppercorn mousse and bordelaise sauce. The freedom to create such seasonal delights in an alpine environment is not lost on Shane, who works with the Tahoe Food Hub—a local nonprofit that connects area farmers with local restaurants. Using locally sourced foods sparks Shane’s creativity.
“I love my job. I get to buy the best ingredients and create whatever I want,” he says. “Right now, I get better produce because it’s from within 100 miles of us. I’m using organic polenta, heirloom tomatoes, lemon-infused olive oil…all from local farmers.”
The food community surrounding Lake Tahoe is growing, and is where Shane continues to look for inspiration. From going out to eat and seeing what other chefs are creating, to searching for new ways to be involved in food, being a part of the area’s food scene is reflected in the meals he creates for Lone Eagle Grille.
“Tahoe Food Hub is a big part of that. We did crop planning with a few growers, and all the Hyatt chefs visited some farms to see what they were planting. We have these relationships with the people growing the food,” he explains. Shane is also a big proponent of using all the food-related resources of the area. To that end, he created an industry dinner where farmers and other restaurant owners and staff were invited to get together and mingle. Such events spur his motivation to keep his menus creative and engaging. His staff is another huge component.
“I’ve got the best kitchen team I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “From people who’ve been with us more than 20 years to people who just came on board. They are fantastic.”
And a fantastic experience is what Shane hopes his guests remember.
“Dining is emotional, and food is nurturing. A meal needs to have that connection. I hope the memory of their dining experience at Lone Eagle is the one they compare all other dining experiences to,” he says.
Lone Eagle Grille
111 Country Club Dr.
Incline Village, NV 89451