Monday, August 27, 2007
Camping, Episode 3: Adventures, Culinary and Otherwise
One of the most important ingredients of a successful camping trip, besides the weather is the food. When you head to Crabtree Falls there are lots of food and wine resources to draw on in addition to what you bring yourself. In the heart of Virginia wine country we have visited a number of the local vineyards such as Wintergreen Winery, Veritas Vineyard, Mountain Cove Vineyard, and one of my favorites, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, where native fruits are turned into wines and meads. I have to say, for fun, while the other vineyards have more traditional wines, Hilltop Berry Farm and Winery is a family business and has some of the most enthusiastic and welcoming emissaries for Virginia fruit wines that there can possibly be. I learned a lot about mead and who can't like a place where they make persimmon wine?
For food, there is our favorite Thai restaurant Thai Siam (pictured right), where we stopped for a delicious lunch. Some friends of ours who travel to Wintergreen have been known to drive all the way to Thai Siam and take a night at Wintergreen just to enjoy what they call the best Thai food they have ever had! Another favorite place is the Colleen Drive-In which serves hamburgers and some of the best onion rings that I have had. It is an old-style type of drive-in (the kind I remember from my youth), that also serves real milkshakes (okay, so I'm not watching my diet when I go camping, setting up camp burns a lot of calories).
Since we anticipated it taking longer to set up camp, we planned for hot dogs for dinner, Nathan dogs to be exact, roasted on sticks over the wood fire. They turned out great and we ate all but one. After a walk to the river and many trips up to the camp store to catch up with Sue and Dave's news and for the girls to play with baby Jonathan, and several card games (including BS and Speed), we went to bed. Normally, we wake at first light, but we were so relaxed we slept in until 7:30, and Gavin made the fire and played some rounds of speed to let the girls sleep in. By the time we started breakfast, Andrew arrived with his girlfriend, who was about to enjoy her first camping experience. I had planned pancakes, breakfast sausage that Gavin and "good David" had brought back from Cibola Farms, and a fruit salad of cantaloupe, mango and other mixed fruit. The sausage was great and we had fresh maple syrup with our stacks of pancakes, and amazingly everyone was out of appetite before I was out of food.
The rest of the day was spent walking to the second overlook at the Falls (with temps in the 90's we decided not to make the trek to the top this trip), and a trip to Saunders Brothers to stock up on the delicious produce and products that they carry (you can see what we came home with right). We got a peck of Mr. Carson peaches, some hot chow chow, some Bing black cherry cider, some raspberry chipotle sauce, and some caramel corn puffs and peach gum balls for the kids. We cooled off by going for a dip in the chilling waters of the Tye River (see Andrew, Bridget and Molly hamming it up, left).
Our dinner was flank steak that I had frozen in a marinade of red wine and italian salad dressing, Feta potatoes, and green beans with bacon and onions. By the time I got food on the table, it was a struggle to keep everyone out of the food long enough to get a picture (you can see that clearly at right!)
Our excitement for the evening was a quick pack up of non-essentials to avoid an evening thunder and lightning and rain storm. After the worst of the lightning was over we retired to our tent (covered by the rainfly and a huge tarp) and got a good night's sleep (except for Andrew who slept in the car (we only had one extra tarp and we used that to cover Jess's tent). We began packing up and I fixed a steak omelet and made hash browns out of the leftover feta potatoes, and browned some turkey bacon. Along with our percolated coffee (that could be smelled all across the campground), it made a perfect meal.
We were on the road back home by 11 AM, and after a stop at the Charlottesville Whole Foods, we made our way home. Despite the heat and rain, it was a great weekend and we are already planning for a September and October trip to the mountains.
2 lbs potatoes with skin, cut in chunks (red or yukon gold are best, but any will do)
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup feta broken into pieces
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped chives (yes, I carried cut fresh chives with me to the wilderness!)
Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and add butter, salt and pepper and feta. Stir until feta is distributed then sprinkle chives over and mix in. Enjoy!
1 banana for each person served
On the inside curve of the banana, pull a strip of peel down, but do not disconnect. using a teaspoon, scoop out a trench from the banana, and fill with a mixture of marshmallows and chocolate chips. Cover back up with peel. Wrap in foil and put on perimeter of fire for 10 minutes, turning periodically until chocolate an marshmallows are melted. Eat with a spoon (with Redi-whip, if desired). Great alternative to s'mores as a camping dessert!