Fourth of July on Lake Tahoe
As we’ve grown more comfortable with life on the road, we’ve started to throw out more invites for visitors--not that we’ll actually pull out the sleeping couch, let our would be guests use our shower, or even have the space for one more warm body, but we’ve extended the invites. And with those caveats in mind, it makes sense why nobody came to see us in Tahoe during the Fourth of July. I get it; Tahoe is really only nice in the winter. Those 78 degree days, full of picturesque alpine lake views, stellar food, gambling, hikes, water sports, and quality time don’t do it for everyone. With that wompy womp womp aside, it was actually a blessing in disguise that we got to rock The 4th alone.
Like any red blooded Americans, we started the holiday early (on the third) with a trip to the local Carniceria for two pounds of pork belly. Because where else do you go when you’re looking to make Taiwanese minced pork for our nation’s birthday? Like many of our excursions on the road, this stop was an excellent learning experience.
Nestled in the fourth slot of a six slot mini strip mall, just off of the 50, La Mexicana Meat Market is a hidden gem of South Lake Tahoe. We rolled in and made a beeline for the meat counter. There were a few other customers in front of us and that gave us just enough time to see that they didn’t have any pork belly under the glass. Whelp, looks like we struck out...Let’s see if anything else looks cool in the other aisles...Nope. Guess we’ll have to go to with plan B, like meatloaf or something… With our heads hung low and halfway out the door, a nice woman behind the cash register asked if we found everything okay.
Usually in these situations, we go with the default response of, “Yup…” in a veiled attempt to not hurt any feelings. Fortunately, something came over us this time and Sam said, “Actually...No...We were looking for pork belly.” To which the cashier politely replied, “Well, did you ask?”
Huh... Back to the meat counter we went, sheepishly.
Being a family establishment the cashier accompanied us and was kind enough to ask the gentleman butcher if he had any of the sweet pork goodness we were looking for. With a reaction akin to a bear shitting in the woods or the pope wearing a funny hat, the butcher slowly turned his head and pointed his obscenely large knife at an entire belly of pig, clean and ready. “How much?” He grunted. “Two pounds, please.” CHOP. Pork got wrapped, cash got paid. Cooking time.
If you haven’t made minced pork before, you should. It’s fatty, takes a long time, requires specific spices, but is well worth the wait and calories. The only thing that makes it better is when it’s served with a side of stir fried tomatoes and eggs--Another Taiwanese classic that just so happens to be right in Sam’s wheelhouse. As the name suggests, tomatoes and eggs are fried with a dash of sugar and shoyu until they reach the perfect consistency. It’s an easy dish to learn; an incredibly difficult one to master. Our eating celebration was off to a great start.
The actual holiday started bright and early with a hike along the lake’s southwestern shore. The views were great and the exercise was dece’, but truth be told, the only thing I could think about was the upcoming menu and how, exactly, we were going to pull it off with our limited kitchen space.
In terms of trailer cooking, we have it, “okay.” In addition to three, low BTU burners, there’s an oven that may or may not get to 350 degrees (depending on its mood), and a small weber grill. We’ve done more with less, so undaunted we decided to celebrate ‘Murica with the following:
Jalapeño Poppers -- On a rainy Seattle afternoon a few years ago, we found ourselves famished from shopping at The Rack and in dire need of sustenance. Unfortunately, the closest food establishment was a sports bar known for bad food and even worse service. On the flip side, one thing they did do right was jalapeño poppers. We each had about four too many, and since then they’ve become one of our guilty pleasures. As such, we figured it was high time we gave them a go. They aren’t hard to make, per se, but I committed a critical error by par baking the bacon to hedge against our oven’s capabilities. This left us with bacon too firm to properly wrap around the ‘peños and we were all out of toothpicks. Whoops. But, roasted jalapeños with a side of bacon and cream cheese isn’t the worst appetizer. We’ll try again.
Street Corn/Elote -- First and foremost, I’m a corn man. Love it. On the cob. Creamed. Roasted. Grilled. In a burrito. On top of a salad. Cold, straight out of the can. Whatever. Gimme. However, until a food truck on the north shore of Oahu introduced us to a version of grilled corn slathered in mayo and butter; rolled in paprika, ancho, garlic, and cotija, I had not seen the kernel mountain top. Rounding out the four things I love (wife, dog, corn, and country), this was a no brainer.
Sliders -- We had to do at least one classic and what’s more American than perfectly seasoned ground beef on buns?
Sweets -- After our hike, we realized that we didn’t have a viable dessert option. Not that we needed more food; we just “needed” more food, if you know what I mean. Not feeling anything in particular we spent at least 25 minutes in the bakery section of Raley’s weighing our options. Cookies? Nah. Cupcakes with tiny plastic flags? Too trite. A premade pie? BOOOORING. We eventually landed on a pre-sliced pound cake that we planned to dress up real pretty like. To it we added macerated strawberries, an entire can’s worth of Redi-Whip, and fresh blueberries. Pretty basic, but Old Glory never tasted so good.
We did a solid job of spacing out the courses, drinks, and good times. We’d make a few modifications, but loved the holiday in Tahoe. While we didn’t catch any fireworks and have to lick our wounds on a lack of visitors, we would run back the whole routine in a heartbeat.