There are quotation marks around “summer in your mouth” in the headline because it’s not my phrase. If it were the experience would be something like this: I was about 12 and a boy dared me to jump off of an eighteen-foot (OK, maybe eight foot) lifeguard tower. I did, and when I landed I found I was sitting squarely on my heel. I was in so much pain, I fell face first into the sand and ate a mouthful — so unpleasant.
Fortunately, when Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe’s general manager and classically trained chef Joseph Mattioli promised a “summer in your mouth” it proved to be a much more celebratory experience. Before I get to the menu, let’s talk about the staff. The Ritz has been offering these amazing cooking classes through the summer for anyone to enjoy. Monsieur Mattioli had children foraging for fresh herbs in the gardens at the Rit, he had the teenager en route to Eton chopping, he had friend Rick Rucker making homemade Ricotta. Moi? I was relegated to carving corn kernels off fresh cobs. Honestly I thought I could have handled more, but I was nervous, had just had a manicure and was distracted by the leeks. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I use leeks I just chop them up as if they are onions, which they are. But, apparently, there are many layers to onions – and leeks. What Chef Mattioli had his apprentices do was par boil them then separate the leaves to create what would become the first layer for our fish dish, an amazing snapper. Even from my vantage point of corn kernel carver, I could tell we were in for something special. Well, of course, it’s the Ritz-Carlton. But all the kids? Wouldn’t the kids be better at my corn? It’s hot outside. I am used to Manzanita with all its, “Phewwww. I’m at the Manzanita.”
Et Voilá. What a special treat. Of course it would not have survived without my very, very, very fresh corn kernels. Here is what transpired. The table was set outside — just gorgeous. One of the equally gorgeous little kids asked, ”Where are my flowers?” (the blooms she had picked off the grounds). At this point I think it was very nice of Chef Mattioli to point out my corn. The beautiful snapper was laid to rest on the bed of leeks and much fresh salsa followed. For me, one of the best parts was when chef/general manager/corn eyebrow raiser brought a perfectly made cheese pizza to the table for one of the team (a very cute little girl who was super-skilled but not fond of fish.) It was very, very sweet.
They never say “no” at the Ritz.