The temperatures have continued to rise in the Coachella Valley, so Ruka and I decided to visit Big Bear Lake. Big Bear Lake is like a micro South Lake Tahoe in terms of its residents, merchants, architecture and its ski town appeal. Big Bear Lake sits at an elevation of approximately 6700 feet which is about 500 feet higher than Lake Tahoe. Yet, Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear Lake has only a vertical descent of about 1200 feet. On the other hand, Heavenly Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe has a vertical descent of about 3000 feet.
Ruka and I arrived in town and were immediately pulled over by the police. This time, unlike all my other police stories, things were different. I was wrong and the officer was awesome. I did not get a ticket and I was sent on my way without further delay. I’m thinking, I like this place. I'm fortunate to own property all over the western states because I am an owner in the timeshare, Worldmark by Wyndham. Our one bedroom condo was super spacious and very comfortable. So then, after we settled in, we set out to find the best restaurant that the area had to offer. The community has a lot of owner operated restaurants and many of them serve breakfast and lunch, but what we were looking was a fine dinner venue with signature cocktails.
While Ruka and I walked around the lake we met a few of the locals. Everyone kept pointing to the same restaurant, the Peppercorn Grille. The Peppercorn Grille is in a little area of Big Bear Lake called The Village. The Village is a district of shops, restaurants, a brewery, trading posts, gift shops and even a tattoo parlor. The Peppercorn Grille is in a building that looks like a chalet. This type of architecture is repeated throughout the community of Big Bear Lake.
When you first walk into the room you feel very comfortable. It is professional dining room, with linen tablecloths and napkins, flowers, and a candle on each table. The tables are nicely spaced and there are even booths that seat 2 to 6 people. The restaurant has about 15 tables indoors and maybe about 20 tables outside. On that cold evening, everyone sat inside and you could tell it was a popular spot, my reserved table was the last one taken. The menu which features Continental Cuisine; includes appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas, and a selection of entrees that range from Chicken Marsala, five different Steaks, Lobster Ravioli, a Rack of Lamb, Halibut, Salmon, and Lobster Tail. you are sure to find a menu item that will please everyone in your dinner party.
I enjoyed the Maui Crab Cakes with a Lemon Aioli, served with Pineapple Mango Jalapeno Relish. My second course was a Warm Spinach Salad made with Feta Cheese, Warm Pepper Bacon, Croutons, Currants, with a Tomato Vinaigrette. Then my entrée; Alaskan Salmon which was stuffed with Blue Crab, Red, and Yellow Bell Peppers served with Seasoned Rice Pilaf.
But my focus in coming to the Peppercorn Grille was the Signature Cocktails list. Even though there is not a bar in the restaurant, they have twenty-one specialty cocktails. The first drink I tried was the Pear Blossom. It's made with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Grey Goose Pear vodka, soda water, and a squeeze of lime. It is a delightfully refreshing cocktail. The second drink I tried is called The Tropics. It has Pama Pomegranate liqueur, Malibu Coconut Rum, Ron Rico Platinum Rum, Orange juice, Pineapple juice, and a touch of Cranberry juice. But of course, the drink I could not resist trying was the Cosmo Blanco. It's made with Ketel One Citron, Cointreau, fresh Lime juice, and White Cranberry juice.
The Cosmo Blanco was a nice drink, but being a critic of cocktails, I would say it had a touch too much lime that overwhelmed the White Cranberry juice. It was a gallant attempt.
I recommend that if you make it to Big Bear Lake you should check out the entire Village and stop by the Peppercorn Grille for good food and drink.
Now, if you are a fan of the Mai Tai, I suggest that you visit the Boathouse Lakeside Tavern on Big Bear Lake. There you will find Bartender Glenn Reynolds, who made a better Mai Tai for Bobby McGee’s restaurant chain three decades ago.
Ruka and I enjoyed our stay in Big Bear Lake and would recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from big city life in the Los Angeles area or the heat in Palm Springs.
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