The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2012

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Page 114 of 152

MEET THE RESTAURATEUR Douglas Dale FINDING BALANCE IN LAKE TAHOE story and photos by John Curley I n California���s Tahoe City, Asian fusion restaurant Wolfdale���s has been pulling a sophisticated and discriminating clientele to a historic house on the shore of Lake Tahoe since 1986. And what���s happening inside is full of innovation and enthusiasm.�� ���We���ve pretty much been doing what we���ve been doing since we opened,��� says the owner, Chef Douglas Dale. ���But ���Cuisine Unique��� has given us a license to do what���s most fresh, most seasonal, most inspirational . . . and that keeps us truly motivated.����� ���Cuisine Unique��� is the name Dale has given to his classic East-West fusion style. On this day, the premises are illed with the rich aromas of slowly roasting Asian-braised beef short ribs. They���ll be in the oven for four hours, along with a ive-spice pork belly, which will be in there for six. What Dale has done at Wolfdale���s���and what he continues to do���is create fresh, traditionally sound cuisine that is infused with a spirit of invention. Yes, Wolfdale���s is a Douglas Dale, chef/owner of comfortable place, a known Wolfdale���s in Tahoe City. quantity, familiar and welcoming to the people who have come to look upon it as their own. All of them know Wolfdale���s, and the people at Wolfdale���s know them, too. ���We���re like their country club,��� says Bob Jones, the restaurant���s Bar Manager. Dale is quick to agree: ���It gets down to the minutiae,��� he says affectionately of his customers. ������That���s my table . . . that���s my table at 7 o���clock on Saturday . . . Have this waiting for me . . . Put some trouts on the table.������ But what has allowed Wolfdale���s to stay vibrant and inventive is a respect for the basics, and a desire to make the most of what their location has to offer. ���We want to express California,��� Dale says. ���If you���re not inspired here, you have some sort 1 14 / the tasting panel / december 2012 of problem.��� So they get their food from artisan growers in the Sierra Foothills, and their wine list is relective of nearby Napa and Sonoma counties. Everything changes with the seasons; summer berries give way to apples and pears and compotes, white wines make room for the reds that accompany the heartier fare of fall and winter. And while there are some things that will nearly always be on the menu������we���ve been doing sashimi since we opened������there are still changes every day. All of this is accomplished with an aesthetic that is pure and straightforward.��Everything about the restaurant���the setting, the food, the presentation, the place settings���relects Dale���s reined sensibilities. And that���s no surprise. He was an art major at Antioch College in Ohio, and he spent a year abroad studying ceramics and art history. But it was during his time in Japan, when he worked in a temple kitchen, that he found his true calling.�� After he graduated, Dale went to Boston ���to igure out what to do next.��� He met Chef Hirshi Hayashi of the Seventh Inn, who was interested in acquiring some of his ceramics. But when the chef learned that Dale could speak Japanese and had an interest in cooking, that was that: ���He said, ���Come with me!������ Dale recalls with a laugh. ���And he almost killed me, he worked me so hard.��� By the time Dale moved West, he had acquired the foundation he needed. ���You have to have good, fundamental cooking techniques. I was lucky; people trained me in the basics. That experience allows you to experiment without losing your fundamentals.��� So to stay fresh and inventive, Dale goes back to the basics. ���It���s all about balance; everything in Asian cuisine is balance.����� So the seared Petrale sole enlivened with mushroom sauce, roasted peppers and crispy spinach offers a textural contrast to baked oysters, and wild shrimp tempura is complemented by onion and pepper rings and a macadamia Asian slaw. Balance. ���After 34 years, we want to be totally focused on the customer, and to be consistent,��� Dale says. ���I want people to know that every time they come here, they���re going to get a good meal, professional people, carefully selected wines and specially crafted cocktails.�����

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