Big Chefs Big Gala is one of the year’s tastiest fundraisers

Written by Mel Ulloa

What do fresh local ingredients and 35 of the area’s most talented chefs have in common? They all come together for one night of cooking for a cause at Big Chefs Big Gala, a night for food lovers. If you love food, this is the can’t-miss event of the year. What makes it different from any other fundraiser? Top culinary chefs in one room, serving a four-course meal that not only makes your mouth water, but also benefits the life-changing work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada.

An exciting menu

The evening starts with a black-tie reception featuring small bites from several of our area’s finest restaurants, then culminates in a unique four-course culinary experience featuring Bentley Ranch Meats and Sierra Gold Seafood. Some items that may be served at this year’s event include: heirloom kabocha bisque with Tahoe Blue vodka and fried lobster nuggets; flame-charred hamachi with yuzu bone broth, mirin-poached Asian pear, and crispy daikon radishes; red and green curry made with sweet shrimp with coconut, pickled red onion, and cilantro; and Lattin Farms beets with arugula and citrus, goat cheese, and tarragon. Is your mouth watering yet?

“Big Chefs Big Gala gives attendees an opportunity to taste all that our area has to offer while supporting our community’s youth,” says Derek Beauvais, CEO of BBBSNN. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a vibrant food movement going on, led by chefs who care so much about our community.”


At the 2018 event, Team GSR plates its amuse bouche: chilled pear bisque, Tahoe Blue vodka, and caviar. Amuse bouche, which means “please the mouth,” is typically bite sized and interesting enough to prepare the palate for the rest of the meal. Photo by Tom Smedes

The four culinary teams are led by chef captains and rounded out with an additional three local chefs. They pour countless hours into Big Chefs Big Gala on top of their busy schedules, returning year after year because they know the work of BBBSNN strengthens our community.

Rubbing elbows

“I was asked about three years ago to start cooking. It’s a gathering of all local chefs at the Grand Sierra Resort, and I couldn’t say no,” says chef Tommy Linnett of The Union in Carson City and Liberty Food & Wine Exchange in Reno.


Chef Tommy Linnett of The Union in Carson City plates Bently Ranch short ribs, polenta, carrots, and onions for Team Campo at the 2018 Big Chefs Big Gala event. Photo by Tom Smedes

Linnett grew up in the restaurant business, learning the basics from his father, who owned multiple restaurants around Lake Tahoe. Linnett traveled extensively through Argentina before attending Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. After returning home to Northern Nevada and settling in Reno, he joined chef Mark Estee as part of the opening team for Campo Reno. He is now the executive chef of The Union. Linnett looks forward to bringing the local food movement, pioneered by Estee in Northern Nevada, to Carson City. To him, Big Chefs Big Gala is a great opportunity to highlight that effort.

“It’s a great event because, for a lot of us, we get stuck in our four walls. It’s fun to get out and be around other chefs, pick their brains for a little while,” says Nick Stromatt, executive chef of The Depot in Reno. “It’s a good time being around people as passionate as we are about food but also about such a great cause.”

Prior to starting his culinary career, Strowmatt enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2002. He completed three deployments in Iraq, leaving as a sergeant. His culinary career began when he started at Herringbone, a coastal cuisine restaurant in La Jolla, Calif., working his way up from shucking oysters. Strowmatt’s first job when he returned to Reno was at The Promenade on the River, a senior community in Reno, which provided him the opportunity to develop his own recipes, create unique flavors, and deal firsthand with the customers and their interactions with the food. He joined the team at The Depot in 2015 and became a great addition to the Big Chefs Big Gala chef teams in 2017.

Sweet surprise

But the chef talent is not the only highlight of the evening. In a unique twist on the traditional gala format, Big Chefs Big Gala features three different auctions: an exciting live auction, a more-than-200-item silent auction, and a delicious dessert auction.


More than 200 items will be on auction at Big Chefs Big Gala. If you can’t attend the event, you can always bid from home with mobile bidding. For details, visit Photo by Tom Smedes

“Last year, one of our pastry chefs sold a cake for $2,700,” says chef Travis Stehman of La Strada at the Eldorado Resort Casino in Reno. “It’s nice seeing her from being in the program as a Little and now being successful and evolving.”

A former Little Sister of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, chef Sara Anstett will participate in the dessert auction for the second year in a row. She has worked for Liberty, chez louie, and Coffeebar, and now can be found at Roxy at the Eldorado. Anstett discovered her culinary talent and passion when she and her Big Sister started Kittens in the Kitchen, a baking service for friends and family, when Anstett was 14.


Chef Sarah Anstett calls this cake 24-Carat Gold — a delectable chocolate chiffon cake with layers of chocolate ganache and crunch cocoa nibs, spread with a velvety caramel frosting and topped with a cascade of bourbon chocolate icing. This three-tiered cake is finished with edible 24-carat-gold leaf. Photo by Nadia Gulistani

Event details

All the funds raised from Big Chefs Big Gala will stay right here in our community to match children facing economic and social adversity with caring adult mentors. Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters served more than 600 children in our area.

Big Chefs Big Gala will be held on Sat., Apr. 13, at the Grand Sierra Resort; tickets are available at

Mel Ulloa is marketing and public relations manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada.

This event has already taken place.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 5 at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

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Jose Gonzalez is a deep, artful thinker whose singular approach to songwriting and sonics sets him worlds apart; Gonzalez is in a class by himself. He has a voice. He has a sound. He has a point of view. His first album in seven years was released Feb. 17 and was produced by Gonzalez in his home in Gothenburg, Sweden. In 2013 Jose contributed to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack, directed by and starring Ben Stiller.

Gonzalez is touring with The String Theory, an artist collective and production company based in Berlin and Gothenburg. Band members pursue a long-term, experimental approach, investigating new ways of interdisciplinary collaboration. They also incorporate visual art into their performance, developing new concepts and facilitating international artist networking.  

Tickets are available at the Pioneer Center Box office (open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon. ­– Fri.) or by calling 866-553-6605. Tickets also are available at For details, call Artown at 775-322-1538.

Artown Logo Vert ColorPioneer Center New Logo white background

Sierra Scoop: March 2019
The latest food and drink news from Tahoe and Truckee

Written by Suzie Dundas

Winter 2019 was a doozy in Tahoe, so you’d be forgiven if you haven’t been able to explore the food-and-drink scene in the area as much as in past years. But while the roads still may be covered in snow, the region’s restaurant scene is heating up, with big moves around the lake. It’s been a time of celebration as many Tahoe restaurants celebrated significant anniversaries, and Tahoe brand DRINK COFFEE DO STUFF won a 2019 Good Food Award from the not-for-profit Good Food Foundation.


12177 Business Park Drive, Truckee •

If the snow has been keeping you away, you may have missed the opening of the Tahoe Tap Haus in December 2018. The new business is a partnership between five Tahoe business owners, three of whom — Mark Gogolewski and Melissa and Steven Siig — own the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema next door. According to Melissa, the new venture is designed to be an extension of the cinema, offering a place to meet up and enjoy a drink before or after a show. They currently have 16 beers on tap as well as a full menu, including everything from haus- made hummus to burgers and Indian-inspired naanwiches served on tandoori bread.


Photos By: Ryan Salm

Tahoe Tap Haus:

475 N. Lake Blvd, Tahoe City

530-584-2886 •

Also new in Tahoe City is Goose & Chey’s, opened by husband and wife team Greg and Cheyenne Goossen (hence the name). The casual restaurant serves what Greg calls “American comfort food with a healthy twist.” Though it only recently opened, the idea had been in development since summer 2018, when the  couple and their three sons moved to Tahoe City. They’ll plan to have frequent live music — much of it from Cheyenne, a guitarist and singer herself.


Prime Rib French Ddip with hand-cut fries. Photos courtesy of Goose & Chey’s.


Loaded House Salad with a rainbow of fresh vegetables and house-made dressing. Photo courtesy of Goose and Chey’s.

Goose and Chey’s

877 N. Lake Blvd, Tahoe City

(530) 807-1003Find Goose & Chey’s on Facebook

Wolfdale's Cuisine Unique, also in Tahoe City, announced the continuation of its late-spring farmers’ market cooking classes, which invite participants to join chef Dale at the local farmers’ market before returning to the restaurant for a multi-course cooking class. Sign up in advance for the small-group classes on the website or by phone.

Wolfdale's Cuisine Unique

640 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City

530-583-5700 •

Fans of Incline Village’s Lone Eagle Grille will want to be sure to stop in for one last spring meal before the restaurant’s dining room temporarily closes for renovations the week of March 24. A small menu still will be available in the Lone Eagle Lounge during that time. The lakefront restaurant’s kitchen will receive an update with an expected reopening on the evening of March 29. A series of Wine Make Dinners running through the spring also has been announced.

Lone Eagle Grille

111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village

775-886-6899 •

In South Lake Tahoe, Social House is redefining late night, as its deli transforms every evening into the 1920s-style Community Speakeasy, complete with vintage-inspired cocktails and performances.

Social House

1001 Heavenly Village Way, Ste. 3, South Lake Tahoe

530-539-4746 •

It’s not all just about openings, though. While Truckee unfortunately will be losing Treat Box Bakery at the end of May as its doors are shut after 40 years, several staples of the dining scene are celebrating anniversaries.

  • Truckee’s Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar celebrated 30 years in February 2019, as did Tahoe City’s Gar Woods Grill and Pier.
  • Four restaurants have an extra decade on them, with Fire Sign Café, Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique, Jake’s on the Lake (all in Tahoe City), and Jason's Beachside Grille (King’s Beach) each celebrating 40 years of service in late 2018 or early 2019. Here’s to 30 – or 40 – more!

Suzie Dundas is a Lake Tahoe-based freelance writer. She writes about everything from adventure travel to social media and inspired food and drink. You can find more of her work at

Story and photos by Jennifer Rachel Baumer


A bowl of hot soup is just the ticket on a cold winter’s night when the rain and snow blow against the windows. Chicken noodle soup is the traditional panacea against winter plagues, from colds to flu. There’s something about the combination of salty richness and bites of chicken that’s both cheering and soothing. Pair the soup with a cheese-laced bread that’s prepared quickly (for yeast bread, anyway) and lasts well, and you’ve got yourself simple, hearty, warming feast.


Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup

(courtesy of Jennifer Rachel Baumer. Serves 4)

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About 1 to 2 cups chopped chicken or turkey, cooked or uncooked

1 tablespoon butter

2 to 4 stalks celery, chopped to about ½-inch pieces

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

6 cups water and 6 chicken bouillon cubes or equivalent OR 6 cups chicken or turkey stock

1 cup frozen corn kernels

Egg noodles or No Yolks egg noodles, extra broad —about 6 ounces


In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium high heat. Sauté onion and celery until tender, then remove if meat is uncooked; cook chicken completely before adding the vegetables back in. If you’re using poultry that’s already cooked, just heat it coated in the melted butter at the same time you sauté vegetables. (This is a great recipe if you make stock from turkey carcass and use the last bits of turkey meat for the soup. I may love the turkey noodle soup more than the chicken.)


n & Vegetables brown in a sauté pan

While chicken and vegetables cook, either heat 6 cups of water to make chicken bouillon or measure out 6 cups of stock. Once the chicken and vegetables are ready, add stock and heat to nearly boiling. Add frozen corn and let soup come back up to nearly boiling. Add noodles and turn soup to simmer loosely covered until noodles are soft (or until you’re ready for it). This is a good time to add a twist of freshly ground black pepper and maybe lightly salt the soup.


Before serving, if you want a thicker soup, take out a cup that’s more chicken and vegetables than noodles and purée it a bit in the blender before stirring it back into pot.


This soup keeps well, freezes well, and tastes great cold the next day if you’re so inclined. Enjoy it with a slab of warm cheese bread!


Cheddar Cheese Bread

(courtesy of Jennifer Rachel Baumer. Makes 1 standard-sized loaf and 1 smaller freeform round loaf)


This bread takes between three and four hours, even when it’s 25 degrees outside. It rises well and bakes fast, and despite what purists insist about waiting until bread is stone cold to cut it, it’s best after it’s been out of the oven 20 to 30 minutes, still warm with the cheese still soft.

IMG 0477
Cheddar cheese bread cools on a cutting board

1 envelope active dry yeast (not rapid rise), or 2¼ teaspoons, or 1 yeast-measuring spoon’s worth

1¾ cups very warm water (¼ cup + 1½ cups)

2½ teaspoons sea salt

4 to 5 cups unbleached flour

2 cups extra-sharp cheddar, grated (6 to 8 ounces)

Vegetable or canola oil to grease pans and bowl


Pour ¼ cup of the very warm water into large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over it and let stand for 5 minutes.


Stir salt into yeast and water to dissolve yeast completely. Add rest of warm water. Add 3 to 3½ cups of the flour, and stir to create a sticky, cohesive dough. It’s rare in this dry climate to use all five cups of flour, and it’s better to start working dough when it’s on the sticky side and add flour sparingly. Too much flour makes a dull, flat, dry loaf.


As soon as dough is a rough mass that can be handled, lift onto a clean, dry, well-floured work surface and begin to knead. (This is a good time to soak the bowl if it’s the one bread will rise in). Knead anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, adding reserved flour gradually and sparingly. The dough should just barely stick to your fingers and not be a tacky, sticky mess, but also not so dry that it’s breaking apart. If it starts to get too dry, stop adding flour, brush most of the flour off your work surface, and then knead for a minute or two — most of the time the dough will incorporate that flour and begin to stick to you again. Then re-flour your board sparingly and continue kneading.


When dough is stretchy and elastic and no longer soaking up extra flour, let it sit on the board while you clean out mixing bowl and lightly oil it. Gather dough into a ball, place it in bowl, and spin it so all sides are lightly coated with oil. This stops it from creating a dry, crusty skin while rising. Cover with light, clean dish towel, piece of cling wrap, or sheet of wax paper. Leave dough to rise in an undisturbed, draft-free area. Leaving it on top of the oven, if the oven is in use, or in a spill of sunlight will encourage it to rise more quickly. This bread doesn’t need a long, slow rise, and in summer or in a warm spot the first rise can take as little as 45 minutes in high altitudes. On a cold, snowy night, it might take 1 to 1.5 hours.


When dough has risen to double, lightly flour your fingers and gently press dough back down, replace cover, and let it rise a second time.


After second rise, turn dough out on a floured surface and knead in your grated cheddar cheese. I like a coarse grating, so the pieces are wide and more than 1 inch long. I’m probably using about 8 ounces of cheese, or 2 cups or so. It’s not an exact measurement, and not all of the cheese gets kneaded in every time.


Try not to overly deflate dough before starting to knead in cheese. Flatten dough into a rough circle or disc, sprinkle on cheese, and start gently kneading until it’s incorporated. It’s better to have all cheese within dough, not showing on the surface, or that cheese will burn or simply leak out and away during baking.


Separate dough into 2 unequal parts. Two-thirds of the dough is used to shape a kind of oblong football shape and tuck that into the greased loaf pan. The smaller piece is formed into a small, round loaf and does nicely in a greased glass pie pan. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for another 45 to 60 minutes while the oven preheats to 450 degrees F.


Bake both loaves for 20 minutes, then remove smaller loaf, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake another 5 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it — it can quickly overcook. If either bread becomes too dark during baking, just gently drape a piece of foil over it and let it finish baking. Remove breads from pan and flick or tap bottoms — they should sound hollow. Give bread about 20 to 30 minutes to cool or it will squish when cut and taste cloyingly wet.

What’s in Season
Hoop houses, indoor grows deliver bright winter produce
Story and photos by Claire McArthur


Historically, Northern Nevada’s cold and snowy winters have prevented farmers from growing in the winter and early spring. But thanks to advances in hydroponic growing, high tunnels, and hoop houses, some producers in the region are now able to offer fresh vegetables year round.

Prema Farm grows bok choy in its hoop house during the colder months. Photo courtesy of Prema Farm


So while the weather may be drab, there’s no reason your plate should be, too. Dress up your grain bowls with nutrient-dense microgreens grown right in Midtown Reno at Ital Farms. Sauté hoop-house-grown bok choy, kale, and Swiss chard from Reno’s Prema Farm to add local flavor to your udon noodle stir fry. Pat yourself on the back for storing a stash of winter squash from Lattin Farms in Fallon before roasting up a futsu squash and tossing it with the pesto you canned last summer.

Your options for incorporating Northern Nevada goods into meals are plentiful, so this month, challenge yourself to base a meal around what’s in season locally instead of a recipe filled with vegetables that traveled great distances to arrive at the produce aisle. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s what’s in season in the Reno-Tahoe area:

Prema Farm (Reno)

  • Carrots
  • Japanese hakurei turnips
  • Winter baby arugula
  • Mixed salad greens
  • French breakfast radishes
  • Bacchus radishes
  • Beets
  • Bok choy
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Bok choy is a good vegetable to add to soups and stir-fries in the late winter and early spring. Photo by Prema Farm


Prema Farm overwinters carrots in a hoop house. Photo by Prema Farm


Ital Farms (Reno)

  • Rainbow mix (broccoli, radish, and kohlrabi microgreens)
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Radish shoots
  • Alfalfa sprouts

Ital Farms grows a variety of microgreens year round in Midtown Reno.


Lattin Farms (Fallon)

  • Futsu squash
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Honeynut winter squash
  • Buttercup winter squash
  • Spaghetti squash

Futsu squash from Lattin Farms can be stored for months in cool, dark spaces


Dayton Valley Aquaponics (Dayton)

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Salad mix
  • Sunflower shoots
  • Basil


Looking for an idea for how to use this winter’s bounty? Try this unique recipe from Ital Farms.


Dressed-Up Microgreens

(courtesy of Ital Farms in Reno. Serves 2)

- 4 ounces microgreens
- Olive oil
- Nutritional yeast
- Salt
- Pepper


Toss microgreens with a drizzle of olive oil and a few shakes of nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Use dressed-up microgreens as a topper for soup, avocado toast, or salads for a crunchy burst of flavor.


Claire (Cudahy) McArthur is a Zephyr Cove-based writer who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with seasonal ingredients. Though more often than not these dishes are well received, her husband will never let her live down the Inedible Stuffed Acorn Squash Incident of 2012.

Farm-Fresh Produce in Winter? You Bet

Riverside Farmers Market is Reno’s only local, year-round farmers’ market.

Written by Jessica Santina
Photos by Kasey Crispin

If you’re suffering from the winter blues this weekend, may I suggest you head outdoors to the farmers’ market? The bounty of locally grown tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, honey, and eggs is sure to lift you out of your winter funk.

Tomatoes in January? Yes, you read that right. Welcome to the Riverside Farmers Market, Reno’s own truly local, year-round farmers’ market, running outdoors throughout the winter — rain or shine — from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Saturday morning in the north parking lot of McKinley Arts & Culture Center in Reno.

Thanks to Dayton Valley Aquaponics, local tomatoes actually are available throughout the winter in Reno

It was the brainchild of local farmers Kasey Crispin and Zach Cannady, owners of Reno’s Prema Farm, and folks behind Dayton Valley Aquaponics in Dayton, Nev.

“We decided at the end of summer that we wanted a marketplace in the area to sell our products year round, fully independent of the season,” Crispin explains.

Crispin worked hard at the end of the busy summer season to get the City of Reno to approve the year-round market, which would take place on city-owned property and therefore require the farmers to jump a few extra hurdles. The results were worth it, though: the Riverside Farmers Market is the city’s first truly local year-round farmers’ market, selling entirely organic, sustainably raised produce grown within a 125-mile radius of Downtown Reno.

"Eat Your Altitude" is the slogan of the new, year-round Riverside Farmers Market at McKinley Arts & Culture Center

“It’s about recognizing the need for a market focused on local producers,” Crispin says. “We’re experiencing a surge right now of local, urban, organic farms — three new ones have started in the past year. And once they figure out production methods and get their crops going, we wanted to have a place for them to sell their products.”

Why a Year-Round Market?

Crispin says that Prema Farm — which she and Cannady founded in 2016 and currently produces a fully organic bounty that includes lettuces and salad greens, herbs, carrots, peas, radishes, melons, tomatoes, and much more — has already developed a network of loyal customers who actively seek out locally produced, organic items. Even at many farmers’ markets, she says, this can be hard to find.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that it’s not uncommon for farms to operate more like wholesalers, to buy vegetables from as far away as Mexico, and they don’t have to say that they didn’t grow it themselves,” Crispin says. “You’ll end up buying it at a market in Reno and you don’t realize that. It’s a bit of a farce. So everyone at our market has to grow what they sell.”

The January sun still shines at the Riverside Farmers Market in Reno


This extends to the craftspeople, who sell items such as handmade soaps and jewelry, as well as the food artisans selling baked goods at booths or food trucks offering up freshly cooked snacks or meals; or even service providers and manufacturers who provide goods that contribute to the mission of local, sustainable, organic, and eco-conscious living and eating.

What You’ll Find

Crispin says that the vendor lineup varies each week during the winter months, but the following farms have items for sale at the market each week:

  • Prema Farm: organic vegetables and herbs
  • Dayton Valley Aquaponics: microgreens, tomatoes, peppers
  • First Fruits Sustainable Farm (Fallon): pasture-raised pork and eggs, organic produce, honey
  • Ital Farms (Reno): organic vegetables and microgreens
  • High Desert Farming Initiative (at University of Nevada, Reno): organic vegetables, herbs, honey
  • Hole-In-One Ranch (Janesville, Calif.): pasture-raised beef, lamb, pork (available every other Saturday)
  • Great Basin Community Food Co-op (Reno): organic and gluten-free baked goods, juices, and coffee
  • MwintSoph (Reno): organic baked goods and tamales
  • Wedge on Wheels (Reno): food truck offering artisanal cheeses and condiments
  • Thali (Reno): food truck offering organic and vegetarian North Indian food
  • Down to Earth Compost (Reno): the bicycle-powered local composting service offers drop-off and pickup of compost materials to its customers at the market
  • Black Rock Refill (Reno): eco-friendly products and single-stream recycling drop-off service
  • Gwendolyn’s Garden (Reno): handcrafted and locally sourced bouquets, wreaths, and pots

Market Schedule

As cold weather gives way to warm, look for additional vendors to join the lineup. Once the spring and summer farmers’ market season gets rolling in Reno, the Riverside Farmers Market will relocate to the south side of McKinley, along Riverside Drive, and it will move to a Thursday evening schedule, in order to avoid competing with the nearby California Avenue market on Saturdays.

Riverside Farmers Market

October – May

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturdays

North parking lot, McKinley Arts & Culture Center

925 Riverside Drive, Reno

June – September

4 – 8 p.m. Thursdays

South side of McKinley Arts & Culture Center (next to Riverside Drive)

For details, visit

Mix Bakeshop

Sweet memories for your special day


Since 2009, Mix Bakeshop has made engagement celebrations, bridal showers, and wedding day receptions even sweeter. Choose from beautifully decorated sugar cookies, flaky-crust pies, and delicious cupcakes, all handmade with love. Pick up in store or have them delivered.

Contact Information

1117 California Ave., Reno (in the Village Shopping Center)flag 386166

Brad January Wedding 666

Your guide to regional venues and expert tips on choosing one.


Parker Stremmel kisses his new bride, Megan, on the roof of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. Hair by Katie Shy at Sage Hair Studio. Makeup by Lindsay Lu. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography

Falling in love, check. Blissful proposal and engagement ring — or, heck, tattoo — check. Now, where to celebrate one of the biggest events of your life? We can help check that off your list, too.

Betrothed couples living in the Reno-Lake Tahoe region are lucky. Surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery on the planet, they seek that idyllic venue that reflects their personalities while also setting the stage for a gloriously memorable day among loved ones.

Some locations are perfect for events leading up to the vow exchange, while others offer enchanting ceremony settings.

Across the board, venue experts’ top tip for couples is to have a coordinator on site for the wedding to help weave all the elements together seamlessly. Couples already have enough on their minds. Most locales will provide certain elements needed for the wedding, but nearly all require couples to at least find their own entertainment and florists. Generally, the venue will offer a helpful list of preferred vendors knowledgeable about the site and area.

A Green Wedding

The amphitheater at River School Farm in Reno


If you love the feel of a farm and want your wedding to go easy on the environment, the River School Farm may be for you.

This sustainably built structure is set against the Truckee River, amid goats and chickens, seasonal flowers and fruit trees, and the Tahoe National Forest. Hot water and lighting are solar powered; water is harvested from rainfall; and eco-conscious practices are adhered to, such as composting food scraps, recycling materials, and using the on-site collection of eclectic dishes versus disposables at the reception. An outdoor amphitheater is one option for the ceremony, and staff will assist with wedding and reception set-up and breakdown.

Rustic Romance

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Graeagle Corner Barn. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography

Just north of Reno in scenic Graeagle, Calif., are three sister venues, each with its own personality.

A 1912 dairy barn serves as the first setting. With skyscraping ceilings and more than 5,200 square feet of interior space, the Corner Barn can be the wedding weekend’s central station. Couples get the rustic barn from Friday to Sunday, so there’s no rush. It accommodates a whopping 381 seated guests and 814 standing.

Nearby, Graeagle Meadows — Plumas County’s first golf course — and the rolling hills and expansive spaces of the Whitehawk Ranch course provide two different ceremony backdrops.

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The award-winning golf course at Whitehawk Ranch in Graeagle is a beautiful location for a couple’s Big Day


At all three venues, an on-site chef customizes menus and accommodates dietary needs. Multiple options exist for receptions, all with set-up, breakdown, and some wedding essentials provided. Plus, the bride and groom each get a free round of golf.

Ever imagine riding horseback into the sunset with your beloved? Greenhorn Ranch in Quincy can make that and many other dream wedding moments happen.

On this historic 600-acre working ranch, 80 horses roam, awaiting riders. It’s ideal for a weekend or weeklong gathering, with cabin and lodge accommodations for up to 70 people and plenty to entertain property-wide.

“It’s really a mountain retreat,” says Teffany Precourt, marketing manager for Greenhorn Ranch. “I fondly remember coming here as a girl.”

Mingle in the laid-back lodge complete with comfortable seating, a game room with pool table and foosball, a full bar, and a saloon. On-site planners and a gourmet chef help weddings run smoothly, and picturesque backdrops abound.

Fish in the pond, go skeet shooting, make s’mores by the campfire, and take dips in the heated pool. Children can play games, explore the outdoors, and make crafts in the Kids’ Corral. Your pets are even welcome!

Loving Libations

Onlookers watch as Jackie and Marius Isidore dance. Tent and rentals by Camelot Party Rentals. Styling by One Fine Day Events. Catering by The Cheese Board. Hair by Elyssa Lee at Greco Rose Beauty. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography

When looking for a place to host your shower or reception, head to Pignic Pub & Patio in Reno. On the grounds of the 1916 craftsman home in Downtown Reno occupied by Pignic lives a custom-built kitchen trailer dubbed the Pig Shack Eatery, producing Creole and Southern soul foods, though menus can be customized to suit any budget and cuisine.

Pignic’s distinctive grill yard packed with wood smokers, ceramic charcoal, and gas grills is perfect for cooking and chatting over open flame.

“Pignic Pub & Patio offers a unique environment, perfect for anything from a classic, homestyle wedding to a rowdy reception in a vintage venue,” says co-owner Ryan Goldhammer. “It comes complete with a shaded sun deck with sunset views and edible gardens full of herbs, veggies, fruits, and flowers. And we have recently partnered with Revision Brewing to open The Revision Taproom in the second story of our space.”

Goldhammer suggests couples have honest conversations with their caterer and venue about expectations, budget, and desired guest experience, and not to get caught up in tradition or others’ anticipations.

In the vast, bright spaces laden with industrial décor at Downtown Reno’s The Depot, Nick Strowmatt, general manager and executive chef, can help with “the whole shebang,” from rehearsal to reception.

The Depot, one of the area’s premier venues, features compartmentalized spaces that span three stories, with its newly refurbished 25,000-square-foot warehouse being what Strowmatt calls a “one-stop shop” for weddings — especially for the do-it-yourself crowd on limited budgets.

Rent a portion of the facility or the whole thing. The restaurant can accommodate about 250, with the warehouse space holding another 100 to 200. Ceremonies can be performed in front of the still or on the patio.

Elegant Expectations

Bride Morgan Watchous, in a Morilee by Madeline Gardner gown, looks out over the Gansberg Ranch property in Gardnerville. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography

“When choosing a venue in Reno-Tahoe, it is wise to consider a location that has a built-in Plan B,” says Nevada Museum of Art senior vice president of communications Amanda Horn. “We all love a venue with a view that immerses guests in a stunning environment, but weather must be considered a factor.”

Reno’s internationally renowned art museum fits that bill. Combined, the NMA’s Fred W. Smith Penthouse, Nightingale Sky Room, and Stacie Mathewson Sky Plaza offer capacity for up to 700 guests, reception-style, along with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors that create an indoor-outdoor feeling while also being protected from the elements. Some of the most scenic, panoramic vistas in the area are found on the rooftop venue. Other indoor spaces provide additional festive options for the couple.

Dana Rivers, director of catering for the Tahoe Mountain Club, has heard many in her eight years there and shares some expert advice for couples.

“Don’t listen to everyone’s opinions; you’ll receive a lot of them, largely unsolicited, and often you’ll second guess yourself,” Rivers says. “Just focus on what you want and creating the most incredible day of your life just how you want it. Don’t allow (anyone) to direct you; make it your own day.”

Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee


With four venue options nestled in Truckee, Tahoe Mountain Club offers something for everyone.

Toast the couple from the private patio at the Alpine Club while overlooking the ice rink and Village at Northstar year round, with accommodations for up to 70. Take in views of Mount Rose, Grey’s Crossing golf course, and the surrounding forest from PJ’s. Available all year, it offers room for up to 185 outdoors lovers, a high-end option in summer and a more intimate venue during the colder months. Rustically elegant and removed, the Old Greenwood House features sweeping views of Old Greenwood Golf Course’s 18th fairway and the Truckee River Canyon; it’s ideal for cozy events for up to 50, with catering and a full bar. Or feel like you’re on top of the world with 7,900-foot-elevation ceremonies at Schaffer’s Camp. From the top of Northstar California, gondolas float guests to the site. Indoors, a rustic restaurant replete with open kitchen, pizza oven, and rotisserie tantalize taste buds, and a bar full of potent potables helps wash it all down. Outdoors, a deck with firepits and brightly lit torches provide ambience for the special occasion and up to 100 guests.

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At Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, Shawn and Adam Weinke's wedding guests make s'mores. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography


At Tahoe Mountain Club, a banquet manager works with planners, catering is provided on site, and most vital elements are supplied at the venues, but call to confirm what’s available.

Wherever you plan to exchange your “I do’s,” each venue’s main mission is to please, and customization is key. Arrange a tour. If it proves the right fit, share your vision and let a representative put together custom pricing and a plan to create the day of your dreams!


Stay on trend while remaining earth conscious this season.


Model Yazmin Luna-Orozco at the Coachman Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. Gown by Swoon Bridal. Floral design by Holly Fleur. Styling by La Di Da beauty artists Gloria Maritza and Bailey Hanna

Planning a wedding can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of direction and a whole lot of permission to let your creative energy flow, you can create a celebration that will propel your matrimonial bliss and wow your guests to boot. The best part? You can indulge in unique décor and a sensational menu while remaining consciously sustainable at the same time.


Bride Caitlin McKennie-Hanley and two bridesmaids make a grand entrance via the chairlift at Homewood Mountain Resort + West Shore Cafe. Wedding planning by Liane McCombs. Floral design by B&B Designs. Hair by Hannah Jo at Sage Hair Studio. Makeup by Edin Carpenter Makeup Artistry. Gown by Swoon Brida

Selecting your venue should be the first decision you make. After nailing down the perfect location that expresses your personality while suiting your budget, the other details will fall into line. Non-traditional wedding venues still are all the rage this season. Rather than exploring a beachfront or ranch setting, consider letting the architecture of an industrial building provide a blank canvas from which your picture-perfect wedding will manifest. Airplane hangars also make a fantastic blank-slate setting. With high ceilings and a large, open building, any dream can come to life.

If industrial settings don’t appeal to you, consider turning your attention under the sea. Aquariums hardly require any décor because the colorful underwater creatures provide an eye-popping backdrop. Art or history lovers should consider renting a museum for the special day. At the Nevada Museum of Art, we help couples curate celebrations to match their personalities. Often, the food and décor will be themed to complement an exhibition on view. The extraordinary architecture, sculpture garden, and rooftop make for incredible photos as well — a critical consideration when booking your venue.

A creative venue delivers more than a look to your wedding; it sets the tone for the entire celebration. But if none of the venues mentioned above appeals to you, not to fear. Keep it simple and book a brewery for your big day. Beer enthusiasts, this one’s for you.

Color and Design

Summer’s jewel tones still will be on trend through the fall and winter, albeit with slightly richer and deeper hues. Think garnet rather than ruby. Chocolate diamonds and sapphires also are fantastic options this season while copper is the hot metallic.

Balloon installations still are in this season. Consider making them a large part of your event in the form of balloon arches or a photo wall backdrop. For background and photo décor, think light box signage, vintage neon, and chalkboards.

Velvet and print table linens are all the rage this summer and fall. Floral prints are especially on trend. Eye-catching floral installations can serve as the entrance or backdrop for photos. Consider geometric or ceremony arches that will really dazzle your guests. Textured grasses such as pampas and greenery-focused arrangements will create a soothing and celebratory vibe.

Keeping sustainability in mind, always explore the source of your flowers and choose a vendor that’s as conscious as you are about the planet. Also, less is more: Be bold but go simple.


The food-and-beverage area is where you can really make your sustainable mark. Sustainability-centered catering not only will infuse earth-conscious bliss into your special day, but it also will leave your guests feeling better having kept Mother Earth’s beauty top of mind.

How do you accomplish this? Consider compostable disposables rather than plastic. Do your caterer and venue recycle or compost? Be sure to ask. Family-style service will create a communal and bountiful experience, leaving everyone feeling more connected and joyful. Unique glassware such as square-shaped wine glasses and colored goblets not only create more vibrant place settings, but they also leave less of a trace. Also, food-as-art presentations, including interactive food stations, add a delightfully creative element to your big day.

New this season: Catering with CBD oil, a cannabis product. With new, more-lenient laws on the books, expect to see more CBD-infused foods and beverages hit the events scene. If traditional vices are more your style, regional craft beers and sour beers are sure to keep all your beer enthusiasts hoppy.

Entertainment and Photographic Experiences

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DJ Joey Parazo-Modlin entertains a reception crowd at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno

These days, you have to consider the longevity of your wedding experience. When creating photographic backdrops, think about how the photos will translate online when shared later with your guests and friends who experience them virtually.

Regarding entertainment, silent discos are hot, hot, hot. This option, which involves dancing to music heard through wireless headphones rather than speakers, is especially good for venues with less-than-ideal sound ordinances. Silent discos can offer your guests, all at the same event, the opportunity to choose different musical genres with just a click of a button — a cross-generational win for your DJ and your guests. Be sure to ask your DJ company for more information about this option.

Nisha Hallert has more than 16 years of industry experience planning 600-person galas; rooftop weddings; intimate, exclusive dinners; events for VIPs such as Former President Clinton, and more. She currently works as director of facilities and special events and sales at the Nevada Museum of Art and serves as immediate past president of the Reno/Tahoe chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE). In 2018, Hallert and her team were awarded Reno Tahoe NACE Venue of the Year and, in 2014, a national NACE award for the Best Social Event Production of the Year.

Sweet ideas for wedding cakes

Written by Natasha Bourlin

Among the most memorable components of any wedding is the cake. Crowning the ceremony with a slice of sweetness sends guests off with a lovely taste reminiscent of the nuptials themselves.

What are betrothed couples seeking for their Big Day in 2019? Tap into the trends seen by local bakers and food purveyors to create a picture-perfect wedding cake presentation.

Wedding coordination by The Hytch in Reno. Styling by Lucky Burro Event Rentals. Flowers by Love & Lupines Floral Design in Truckee. Linens from Creative Coverings in Sparks. Cake by C's Mad Batter Cakery. Photo by Courtney Aaron Photography

Eye-catching cakes

In Carson City, L.A. Bakery has exponential wedding cake options. Cakes range from vanilla and chocolate to almond and red velvet. Filled with creative flavors such as tiramisu and cinnamon cream cheese, this bakery’s edible wedding creations are topped with delectable frostings, including salted caramel cream cheese and chocolate buttercream.

For 2019, L.A. Bakery Sales Manager Ali Arbabha says everyone wants simple cakes. Though the bakers here are capable of creating cakes in nearly any shape, the requests they receive are veering away from the piping and traditional designs seen for decades. Modest, birch-log-shaped cakes are popular, along with those dubbed “naked,” with such light frosting guests can see the cake underneath.

L.A. Bakery offers cake tastings for a $50 fee and can bake sweet showpieces for up to 150 people, if not more, with notice of one month in summertime, or two to three weeks for winter weddings.

Bundt cakes are renowned for their moist deliciousness, due to the shape of the pan, cooking method, and recipes. If the couple is clamoring for this type of cake, Nothing Bundt Cakes can craft just what they desire.

Four different sizes and 11 flavors are available, and some cakes can be ready with just a few-days’ notice, though a month is preferred. Owner of Reno’s Nothing Bundt Cakes Shele Faretto Silveira says the wedding trend she and her staff are seeing most often is a dessert bar. These can offer many different types of treats beloved by the betrothed.

Following a trend of natural décor for weddings, Nothing Bundt Cakes works with local florists to decorate cakes with beautiful, fresh flowers. It also features many other decorative options, along with a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie flavor. Ordering a few varieties — such as chocolate chocolate chip, white chocolate raspberry, confetti, or pecan praline — is a surefire way to please all guests.

NbC Tiered Drizzle Cake Horizontal
Photo courtesy of: Nothing Bundt Cakes

For its in-house weddings, the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno is receiving more requests for small cakes made just for cutting on camera, supplemented by various other desserts, says Nicole Parker, catering and sales manager. Also among the requests are more cakes colored in earth tones, gold, and ivory; naked cakes with light icing; and ruffle cakes. The Peppermill’s team of bakers can make just about any cake the couple can conceptualize for resort weddings.

The big cheese for the Big Day

Not all wedding cakes need be on the sweet side of the spectrum. Try a savory cheese wheel cake from Wedge on Wheels based in Reno. Ideal for cheese lovers, guests, or a couple with paleo or keto dietary restrictions, for instance, these distinctive cakes are comprised of whole cheese wheels stacked on top of each other.

Dozens of types are available, and the towers can be decorated like traditional cakes — such as with ribbons, flowers, veggies, herbs, or fruit — by Wedge on Wheels, the wedding caterer, or florist.

“They are all the rage in Europe and are starting to become more and more popular here,” says Laura Conrow, Wedge on Wheels owner and certified cheese professional.

Prices start at about $4 to $7 per person, depending on the types of cheeses selected. Conrow conducts consultations and tastings to determine cheese preferences, and she suggests ordering at least six weeks ahead, as some cheeses are only available seasonally.

A bevy of organic bites

One of the most prevalent cake trends for 2019 is adding just a hint of nearly translucent frosting so the cake flavors really shine. Adding touches of greenery instead of flowers to the tiers is another.

Owner of Reno’s Batch Cupcakery Anne Archer uses only organic ingredients in her products. Since the shelf life is lessened using organics, she and her team bake all their wedding orders the same day, so they’re fresh from the oven upon arrival.

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Photo courtesy of Batch Cupcakery

Paleo, vegan, or gluten-free orders are regular occurrences at Batch, and Archer says they can’t keep their pumpkin paleo with raw coconut and homemade vanilla bean extract on the shelves due to demand.

“The trend is going toward flavor combinations that please the palate,” Archer says. “A rosewater pistachio or a matcha green tea-infused cake with hints of sage or lavender is divine.”

Also popular for weddings are Batch’s small bites, including alcohol-tinged mini cupcakes in an array of flavors. Tier rentals are free, with various options to go with any décor, such as crystal, silver, and log tiers. Delivery and set-up are free throughout most of the region, and Batch just welcomed a new party bus limo into the family that can transport the wedding party in fun fashion.


Natasha Bourlin is a freelance-writing fan of cake in its many forms.




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