The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge
The Club Lounge completely eliminates that exasperated parent moment when we all wonder, "the kids are starving. Now what do we do?" At the Ritz? Relax, that's what. This snazzy option is offered at all of the Ritz-Carlton's and it's a dream come true for parents. To begin, you get a key that affords you entrance into an elegant (but kid-friendly) dining room tucked away exclusively on the fifth floor replete with sofas, fireplaces, glass vases filled with palm-sized cookies, tables for four and a deux, and of course, a jaw-dropping view of the Martis Valley.
And the cuisine? Par excellence. Five light, but filling meals are offered throughout the day: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, hors d'oeuvres and cocktails (but you can easily call it "dinner") and dessert and after dinner drinks. Each meal is displayed buffet-style with teeny quiches, pastries, fresh fruit, muffins and cheeses at breakfast. Oysters on the half shell, breads, pasta, and fine meats at dinner. Bottles of wine and champagne on ice and mixed drinks for the asking.
Anything for the kids? Great question. At lunch, the staff (anticipating my childrens' picky needs), provided silver platters of PB&J on white bread with those nasty crusts snipped off and tossed far from my treasures' tender mouths. My pickiest boy was waited on like a prince. He wanted peanut butter and graham crackers? Hold the tantrum -- within moments the staff returned with a swirl of peanut butter, a stack of crackers, and his favorite, a peeled banana. The dessert was the most exciting meal of the day with chocolate fondue, miniature pies, creme brulee and small cheesecakes. Fine wines and coffee, of course. (My husband's eyes were lit with pleasure.)
The Club Lounge price is charged for a family of four per day. Smart mama: Request a guestroom on the fifth floor and just a quick step or two will get the entire family loveliness that is the Club Lounge.
The Living Room
You know how you make it to a certain age and there's "nothing new under the sun?" Well, the Ritz's "Living Room" was a great surprise. The Ritz chain, known for insisting on intimate lobbies, seamlessly blends a gracious check-in counter with an octagonal, centerpiece looking a lot like an Alpine tree trunk soaring skyward. The dramatic, woodsy center is wreathed in fireplaces, sofas, cushy chairs and elegant coffee tables. You wouldn't find a typical dining table in most living rooms and you won't find one here. And did I mention the majestic three story windows that overlook the Ritz's "back patio?"
In the Living Room wait staff circulate taking drink and food orders and guests dine casually from an elegant, but macho menu that includes wild boar and white bean chili nachos, Parmesan-truffle steak fries and lobster porcini risotto. The ambiance takes "ski cool" to the max. I half-hoped for a 1960's Sean Connery to round the corner wearing a sexy ski sweater (but no, I guess even the Ritz can't provide every perk).
A casual restaurant that blends haute cuisine with hearty fare resulting in seasonal California dishes that hit the spot after a long day on the slopes or at the lake. The rooms are brimming with natural light, fireplaces and patio seating offering a sparkling view of the mountain. Menu items include duck meatballs, Dungeness crab sliders, red wine-braised short ribs, fine meats, salads and decadent desserts. You'll be delighted to see 1,400 bottles in the wine room (the Ritz is a mere four hours from the famed Napa Valley) and a sommelier is on hand to assist with suggestions. Mac-n-cheese and pizza are both on the menu for children who can pull it together for a nice meal. The Manzanita is recommended for families with kids who behave after one (or, at most, two) "looks" from you, not for families with little monkeys. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Backyard Bar & BBQ
Dine outdoors, year-round, at this casual patio spot. Traditional BBQ favorites include ribs and pulled pork sandwiches completed with a house-made selection of BBQ sauces. Pizza, burgers and local craft beers make for a great pit stop while skiing or swimming.
This casual cafe offers delicious pressed juices, smoothies and coffee beverages. But Paninis and pastries are also available to fill bellies before hitting the slopes.
Sip on signature cocktails while taking in a view of the Sierras. Light fare is also available.