Traci Des Jardins hits the mountains

After a morning of shredding the slopes, it's imperative to hit the lodge to power up on some king-sized Snickers, trail mix, and good old Moroccan tagine with couscous, chickpeas, apricots, and cumin-scented pine nuts. Finally allowing you to live that oh-so-common dream, Manzanita.

Setting up shop at Northstar, Manzanita, essentially the Tahoe outpost of SF's beloved Jardiniere; it's just off the lobby at the brand new, mid-mountain Ritz-Carlton Highlands, and is phatly appointed with handsome wood n' stone interiors, a big ol' cedar bar lined with plush leather high chairs, and intimate two-top seating along a wall of windows that spy a fireside terrace and the slopes beyond, and beyond that...INFINITY! The flavor starts with small plates that range from Dungeness crab sliders with pickled mango/jalapeno/arugula, to a foie gras terrine with quince chutney, to Traci Des Jardins' crazy-good bread salad with crescenza cheese and baby artichokes, cut down before they could ever realize their dream of playing Pop Warner. Entrees include braised pork belly (with butternut squash, celery root puree n' fried sage), Steel Head salmon with roasted beets and mustard greens, and the Bordelaise-smothered ribeye from a ranch called Five Dot, or three dots, three dashes, three dots if you're the cow.

Wash it all down with 150+ wines sourced the world over, and a specialty cocktail list that rocks wintery action like star anise/coriander-spiced cider that's spiked with Makers -- after an afternoon of downing those, it's imperative that you not go skiing, unless you want to hit the lodge, square on.