Sunday, January 24, 2016

Riva Grill - On the Lake; South Lake Tahoe, CA; Casinos; Heavenly Mountain Skiing; Diamond Resorts International; Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort.

Riva Grill - On the Lake; South Lake Tahoe, CA; Casinos; Heavenly Mountain Skiing; Diamond Resorts International; Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort.

 Lake Tahoe - Courtesy of the Internet

Lake Tahoe from Emerald Bay - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lake Tahoe from a ski slope - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lake Tahoe from a ski gondola - Courtesy of the Internet

When in South Lake Tahoe, CA for vacation, a getaway weekend, or enjoying the great skiing in the winter season on Heavenly Mountain or one of the other fine ski resorts, there are many places that can tempt your hunger and excite your palate, not to mention Casino Gaming.   Whether you go to a small local restaurant, or one of the inviting places to eat at a Casino such the Hard Rock, Harrah’s, Harvey’s,  or the Montbleu, you can find interesting menus and good to fabulous selections.  However, after a week of sampling the local restaurants, I must simply state that the Riva Grill located right on the lake is my hands down favorite in South Lake Tahoe.  2016 is Riva Grill’s 16th year on Lake Tahoe.

 The Riva Grill is on the southwest California side of the lake as you approach South Lake Tahoe, CA on Route 50 heading East from Sacramento, CA.  It is located on Ski Run Blvd., right across from one of the better time share resorts in the area, Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort, a Diamond Resorts International resort. 

The Riva Grill is on the southwest California side of the lake as you approach South Lake Tahoe, CA on Route 50 heading East from Sacramento, CA.  It is located on Ski Run Blvd., right across from one of the better time share resorts in the area, Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort, a Diamond Resorts International resort.  

You can also access the Riva Grill by boat and there is a small dock for your boat while you enjoy the food.  The Riva Grill is two floors with a large outside deck open in the warm weather season and a good size bar area to eat, drink and watch your favorite sports on the big screen TV’s.  Try one of their many specialty drinks……  My favorite are their “Wet Woody” specialty drinks.   

As you approach the restaurant, there is a large sculpture of Eagles and Bears!  What an appropriate masterpiece for this blog!!!!

We ate there on Sunday for a late lunch, so the following is from their Lunch Menu.
They have a nice selection of Appetizers including Zucchini sticks, Sliders, Beer Battered Coconut Prawns, Dungeness Crab cakes, Pomegranate Glazed Pork Ribs and much more.   

For our lunch we ordered two standard fare items and also two “Weekend Breakfast” specials.  They were: 

Prime Rib French Dip:  slow roasted and thinly sliced on a sweet French roll with gruyere cheese, sautéed onions and horseradish cream.   

My wife just loves Beef French Dip sandwiches and she also ordered one at a Montbleu café restaurant a few days earlier.  While the Montbleu meal was tasty, the Riva Grill sandwich was superb.  The meat was perfectly cooked but the combination of the gruyere cheese, sautéed onions and horseradish cream made it one of the best she has ever eaten!

Caesar Salad:  romaine lettuce & classic garlic-lemon dressing and grated asiago cheese,  crostini (crispy baugette slices), sun dried tomatoes, capers with optional grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp.

Our friend enjoys a good Caesar salad and he was certainly not disappointed.  The romaine was very fresh and crisp and the dressing had a rich creamy texture with a nice anchovy flavor.  But, it was the cheese, capers and additional sun dried tomatoes that you seldom find mixed with a Caesar salad that set this generous serving apart from other restaurants.  The crostini was crunchy and tasty and the optional grilled salmon was moist and cooked to perfection.

Ok, I tasted both of these dishes and yes they were excellent, but when I say the Weekend specials, two of us knew we had to indulge ourselves with these very tempting dishes.  We were NOT to be disappointed. 

Caramel Sabayon French Toast: sweet French baguette, Grand Marnier, caramel apple cream cheese, apple-cider sabayon and mountain berries (optional maple syrup).

I just had to try this menu item myself.  Now I have travelled the world in eaten in thousands of restaurants but I had never heard of Sabayon.  The server asked the chef, and I was told that Sabayon is the French version of an Italian dessert Zabaione.   Zabaione is usually made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine (usually Marsala Wine).  This dessert is typically a light custard whipped to incorporate a large amount of air, and is usually served with strawberries, blueberries, or other fresh fruit.

After hearing this, I could hardly wait to try this delightful sounding breakfast with maple syrup on the side.  The presentation was marvelous with six slices of the French baguette with the sabayon in between and the caramel apple cream cheese on top with fresh large blueberries and blackberries.
After taking my first generous bite all I can say is OMG (Oh My God).  This French Toast is to die for.  It was an explosion of flavors, textures and the very best French Toast I have ever tasted in the world! Fabulous meal, simply fabulous!  As a side note, you do not need the maple syrup.  But for Maple Syrup French Toast lovers a dash of syrup may be satisfying.

Chicken and Waffles:  Rice Crispy buttermilk fried chicken, bacon stuffed waffles with chipotle-blueberry syrup.

To be candid, I was not too sure what to expect with this dish.  It was different. It sounded tempting and possibly tantalizing.  But, I was not sold on the combination reading the menu.  Let me tell you readers, I was totally surprised and delighted.   The presentation was not expected since the waffles were served like a sandwich with the chicken in between.  I sampled the chicken and waffles separately. 

The Chicken tenders were crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside and the herbs and ingredients produced the best tasting boneless fried chicken I have ever eaten.  It was so delicious, I went back the next day to order this meal for myself but I was so disappointed when I realized they only serve these specials on Saturdays and Sundays.  

The waffles were thick and crispy on the outside and mouth-watering on the inside with the flavorful bacon.  The syrup was scrumptious along with the fresh blackberries and blueberries, and I was not even tempted to add the maple syrup served on the side.  My only disappointment was I wished they served a more generous portion of the delicious chipotle-blueberry syrup instead of the maple syrup.  Waffle Lovers, you have to try this meal!!

The Riva Grill service was excellent and the wait for these tremendous meals was very reasonable.  The coffee served was better than most served in restaurants.

I did go back the next day and tried several of their specialty drinks in the bar.  They are unique, refreshing and can pack a punch so drink responsibly.   On my future trips to South Lake Tahoe, The Riva Grill will always be on my list as a favorite place to enjoy a wonderful meal.  


For more info on this wonderful choice for eating and drinking in South Lake Tahoe, you can contact them at the following:

900 Ski Run Blvd., Suite #3,
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Riva Manager: Mr. Bryce Bjerke
Riva Chef: Eric Liebendorfer
Executive Chef: Peter Brinckerhoff

NOTE: The owners of the Riva Grill also own the following other three establishments and if I am in the area, I will stop and sample their offerings!

Gar Woods – Carnelian Bay, CA
Caliente! – Kings Beach, CA
Bar of America – Old Town Truckee, CA

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace Hotel.

The United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace Hotel.

According to Wikipedia, “an emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Islamic monarch styled emir. It also means principality.   The emir, (monarch, commander-in-chief, or simply leader), is the head of a noble or royal family.  The United Arab Emirates was established in December 1971 and is a federation of seven emirates.  These emirates are Abu Dhabi (which is the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.   

Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the monarchs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates.  Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the first President of UAE.

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Painting in Emirates Palace Hotel

During our stay in Dubai, we had a chance to take a day trip to visit Abu Dhabi which is only about 130 kilometers of modern expressway from Dubai’s center city.   While we had a chance to drive around many of the sites in the city (such as the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi), we spent most of our time touring the famous Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace Hotel.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: (Below, various images of the Mosque as we approached and entered the grounds)

This is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and is considered the unifying structure of Islam in the country.   His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan built this magnificent place of worship and his final resting place is located on the grounds beside the mosque. It took about 7 years to construct (from 1996 to 2007 and the building complex alone is approximately 290 meters x 420 meters (960 ft. by 1,380 ft.), covering over 12 hectares (30 acres), not including exterior landscaping, vehicle parking, etc.  When we visited, much of the exterior grounds is under construction for expansion.

Mosque construction and billboards showing coming Expansion Plans

Entering the mosque, we were escorted to security metal detectors.  The women entered adjacent doors and had separate security screenings.  We then were allowed on the grounds, I noticed a female visitor taking pictures and she was told that is not allowed until she is properly clothed.

We were guided to the lower level parking area rooms where men had put on a robe, if not properly dressed, and all women had to wear an abaya cloak before entering the mosque or to take pictures. 

We were told that almost 40,000 people can participate in Eid prayers in this massive mosque.  The main prayer hall can accommodate over 7,000 worshipers, and the two smaller prayer halls have a capacity that can handle 1500 worshipers each, one of which is the female prayer hall.

The four minarets on the four corners of the main courtyard rise about 107 meters (351 ft). The courtyard, has a beautiful marble floral design, measures about 17,000 square meters (180,000 sq. ft.), and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.   

There are hundreds and hundreds of pillars throughout this mosque and each has a similar marble floral design in the pillar columns.   

The pools along the arcades reflect the mosque's spectacular columns, and the 96 columns in the main prayer hall are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl.

There is also a separate area for the women’s restrooms and is at opposite corner of the mosque.  This is the first time I visited a mosque, and the men’s facilities are located below the ground level.  As you descend the escalator, to the right is an ablution area and an area to take off your shoes.  As you proceed, you come to another area where you find slippers to enter the restrooms.

The main prayer hall is stunning yet serene and peaceful.  To enter, you must take off your shoes and store them in the main entrance area as shown below.

There are seven (7) huge glass chandeliers, produced by Faustig in Munich, Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest chandelier is the third largest in the world and is 10 meter (33 ft.) in diameter and 15 meter (49 ft.) in height. 

The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the world's largest carpet made by Iran's Carpet Company and measures about 60,570 sq. ft.   I was told it took more than 1,000 carpet knotters to produce this primarily wool carpet by hand.  According to Wikipedia, “There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet and it took approximately two years to complete”.

Main Hall Carpet pattern

Emirates Palace Hotel:

The Emirates Palace (Arabic: قصر الإمارات) is a superb hotel in the United Arab Emirates Capital, Abu Dhabi.  It was built as a true landmark showcasing Arabian culture and luxurious accommodations, with ultimate hospitality and comfort.  It is located in the capital city and was constructed on a 1.3 km stretch of private beach, surrounded by 85 hectares of gardens and lawns, with 114 domes (80 meters high), and a total of 302 rooms and 92 suites. Based on its lavish style and design, it describes itself as going "beyond 7 star" hotel!  And rightly so, because when it fully opened in 2006, it was the most expensive hotel in the world with a total cost of almost $3 billion USD or about $11.02 AED.  This wonderful hotel is owned by the Abu Dhabi government and is managed by the Kempinski Group.  Today, only the 2561 room Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore cost more to build at a whopping $8.0 Billion Singapore Dollars.

For Movie and Music buffs, it should be noted that Christina Aguilera performed at this hotel in front of more than 15,000 people during her famous “Back To Basics” tour on October 24, 2008.  The Emirates Palace hotel also appears in the new “Fast and Furious 7” film, that was released in 2015.  

The following are just a few interior images of this wonderful Hotel:

Some of the skyline in Abu Dhabi

One of the worlds largest pearls on display in the hotel


Ferrari World Abu Dhabi:

Overhead view of Ferrari World theme park, courtesy of Wikipedia

“This is the world’s first and only Ferrari-branded and largest indoor theme park in the world. With over 20 Ferrari inspired rides and attractions, two shops and a range of authentic Italian dining experiences, there’s plenty of choice for the whole family.

Beneath its huge iconic red roof it houses numerous high-adrenaline rides including the world’s fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa, with speeds of 240kmph in 4.9 seconds, family-friendly attractions, state-of-the-art simulators, live shows and an inspiring treasure of racing memorabilia. Open 365 days a year, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi offers a unique experience for visitors of every age in a refreshing, indoor, climate-controlled environment.”

Located on Yas Island, just 30 minutes or so from the downtown area of Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World is one of the best places in the world to take your family for the ultimate in family fun.   We did not have time to visit the park on our trip, and unfortunately, driving around the park did not give us a chance to take any photos that was worthy of this blog.

I am so very glad that we arranged a full day private car to tour so many wonderful things to see and to do in Abu Dhabi.

"From family fun to delectable dining deals, football festivities to coastal cruises, theme park thrills to circuit skills, golf swings to Seawings, there’s plenty to do to make sure you have a blast on Yas this summer" Courtesy of Ahbu Dhabi Week