chef’s table

ON PAR

PJ’s golf course cuisine hits a hole in one.

WRITTEN BY ANN LINDEMANN
PHOTOS BY JEN BRITTON

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Chef Willy Carroll

“My goal is to put the best burgers, tacos, and salads in front of my customers,” Carroll says.

But don’t let Carroll’s plain-talking culinary philosophy fool you. Yes, the menu features familiar-sounding fare. However, each item is thoughtfully prepared with the highest quality ingredients available.

That means the juicy, thoroughly satisfying Club Burger features Durham Ranch natural beef. The artfully presented salads include delicate, organic greens from Desert Farming Initiative at University of Nevada, Reno and seasonal produce locally sourced from the Tahoe Food Hub. When it comes to tacos, customers have some tantalizing choices. Some like to nosh on the flavorful wild boar chili Colorado tacos, while others opt for the seafood tacos, gussied up with cilantro lime slaw and pepita dressing.

PJsinTruckee02Ahi salad

Many of the menu items are gluten free, featuring new twists on old favorites. Customers nibble on polenta “fries” and perfectly executed sweet potato waffle fries, both served with homemade Indian curry ketchup.

Other you-would-never-expect-them-at-a-golf-course-restaurant offerings include a delectable Meyer lemon ravioli cloaked in arugula pesto and crunchy garlic, a shiro goma- (sesame seed-) crusted ahi salad, and a brioche bread pudding that’s not to be missed.

Walking the talk

“As a chef I buy food to serve hundreds of people a day,” Carroll says. “I have a responsibility as a commercial consumer of food products to create a demand for food produced and raised with care, versus buying the cheapest product you can to make the most money.”

PJsinTruckee04Hamachi sashami appetizer

Chef Carroll started his culinary career in the Sacramento area, studying at American River College and working at several golf course dining establishments. Eventually, he migrated to Lake Tahoe where, at just 22 years old, he landed a head chef position at Gar Woods, a popular Lake Tahoe mainstay. Later, after a lower-stress stint at Rocker at Squaw Valley, Carroll was tapped for the head chef position at Tahoe Mountain Club, the company that owns PJ’s and other local properties.

“Now, six years into working with TMC, I could not be happier,” he says. “We run four restaurants [at] Old Greenwood, Gray’s Crossing, Alpine Club, and Schaffer’s Camp at Northstar.”

PJ’s, named after the golf course’s designer, Peter Jacobson, opened in 2007. While golfers and TMC members represent a large part of the clientele, Truckee/North Tahoe locals have gotten wind of the impeccable food offered at reasonable price points.

PJ’s offers an outdoor summer concert series for 12 consecutive weeks between mid-June and September, during which it serves a popular barbecue buffet. And take note: Chef Carroll barbecues a mean slab of meat — his ribs earned the people’s choice award at a 2012 rib competition in Truckee.

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From left, August lemonade and watermelon cooler

The breakfast menu leaves golfers satisfied with local ranch eggs; Niman Ranch bacon; and tasty huevos rancheros, burritos, and chilaquiles.

When it comes to outdoor dining, PJ’s is unrivaled. Large glass doors magically slide away, transforming the entire venue into a Sierra alpenglow-infused al fresco tableau. Indeed, the food, like the setting, is anything but ordinary, thanks to the vision of chef Carroll.

Tahoe-based writer Ann Lindemann is no golfer but will gladly hit the Gray’s Crossing links again … if only to eat one more life-changing Meyer lemon ravioli at PJ’s.

Resources

PJ’s at Gray’s Crossing
11402 Henness Road, Truckee (located less than one mile east of Downtown Truckee and 40 minutes west of Reno)
530-550-5801 • Grayscrossing.com
Open 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily – Aug. 12; 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 – Sept. 16; 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sept. 17 – 30; 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Oct. 1 – 21

Recipe

Wild Boar Chili Colorado Tacos
(courtesy of Willy Carroll, head chef, PJ’s at Gray’s Crossing in Truckee. Makes 18 to 24 tacos)

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1- to 3-pound wild boar shoulder, cut into 1½-inch chunks
15 dried guajillo peppers, seeds removed
2 chile de arbol dried peppers, seeds removed
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chopped oregano
Salt, to taste
Corn tortillas, limes, cilantro, diced onions, and Mexican crema for building your tacos

Place cut boar and chopped onion in pot, cover with water, and bring to simmer. Simmer boar on low heat until tender, 6 to 7 hours. Strain meat out of liquid and return liquid to pot. Let meat cool a bit, then discard onions from it and coarsely shred meat.

Place dried peppers, garlic, oregano, and cumin in cooking liquid and return to boil, then simmer on low until peppers are softened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove all peppers from liquid and place in a blender. Add as much liquid as you need, maybe all of it, to purée the peppers into a smooth sauce. Let blender run several minutes. At this point, season sauce with salt, to desired taste. Pass sauce through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining chili flakes, leaving a smooth sauce.

Mix sauce and meat together; reheat if needed on stove, taking care not to dry it out. Now you are ready to make tacos!

Note: In Reno, wild boar is available at Sierra Meat & Seafood (Sierrameat.com).

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