Tahoe City's Fat Cat Cafe serves up Wine, Food, Music

The story of the Fat Cat Café starts with Carolyn Nunn, owner, driving through Tahoe City and saying to herself, “There is no place for locals and visitors to pick up good fresh food quickly, and at the same time find reasonably priced good wine.”

Thus was born this casual wine bar with an orientation toward serving up not only good food and wine but also good local music. Located at 599 North Lake Blvd in Tahoe City, there’s live music every Friday night, but a unique event is the Tuesday night “Open Mike Night” which showcases local musicians. When I went on a Tuesday to hear a local jazz band play, the place was packed, but everyone at the bar scooted a bit closer together, with a welcoming and instant familiarity.

The wine list is a big attraction, featuring a broad selection of affordable wines, with small plates that pair wonderfully.

Carolyn (photo, far left) selects all of the wine herself. She personally visits local wineries in and around Tahoe. The wine list focus is mainly California, but she is also passionate about Italian wines. These choices fit with her personal philosophy: “You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to go out and have a nice dinner, glass or wine or cocktail.”

Recently redecorated to accommodate more guests and a robust kitchen, you’ll enjoy going to the Fat Cat to pair these (and more) wines with these (and more) small plates.

A 2007 Sonata from Nevada City Winery is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (68% and 32% respectively) that play off of and balance each other in perfect harmony. Only 330 cases of this wine were produced. On the palate, the wine shows a bit of citrus with fruit overtones but not too sweet. For a fruit-forward wine, it is crisp and dry. 14.2% alcohol. $7 glass/$20 bottle at the café.

Carolyn paired the Sonata with Thai lettuce wraps, featuring chicken, tofu and pine nuts sautéed in spicy Asian sauces. This small plate dish can also be made with tofu only, for the vegetarian crowd.

The 2007 Chardonnay from McManis Family Vineyards located in Ripon in California’s northern interior is light, fruity, not too oakey and not too buttery, with abundant aromas of pear, mango and tropical fruit. Grapes for this wine came from McManis’s River Junction vineyards at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus Rivers. 13.5% alcohol. Paired with a plate of roasted shrimp that are a bit spicy with lots of garlic and red chili flakes – perfect! The wine is $7/glass, $19/bottle at the café.

The Italian 2007 Vallevo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a straightforward dry red wine with a smoky, blackberry taste and sweet medium tannins. Made entirely of the Montepulciano grape from the region of Abruzzo. !3.5% alcohol. $6 glass/$17 bottle. It was well paired with the café’s pasta pomodoro, and would go well with the café’s entrée sized meat sausage lasagna, “a lasagna that every guy in Tahoe City is hooked on,” says Carolyn.

Another good red wine is the Lang & Reed 2007 Cabernet Franc. The winery is located in St. Helena, CA, and grapes for this 100% Cabernet Franc are sourced entirely from California’s north coast. I found it to have a fantastic nose, and would give it my highest personal ranking, which is “Yummy!” A bit of pepper on the mid palate, a fresh-herb taste mingled with black cherry. Silky tannins add to the rich taste; it is eminently drinkable! $12/glass, $35/bottle. It paired beautifully with the dinner special at the Fat Cat Café, which was a beef filet.

The newly renovated Fat Cat Café offers a fantastic selection of wines by the glass. The kitchen features an excellent assortment of small plate offerings including sliders, sweet potato fries, homemade soups and many other tasty menu items. Located at 599 North Lake Blvd in Tahoe City, it is open daily 11AM- 10PM. Phone 530-583-3355, but reservations not required.
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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in June 2009.

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