Monday, August 22, 2011

Birthday Campout Cookoff

Los Padres National Forest
For the second year in a row, we loaded up the wagon once more and headed to Los Padres National Forest. The Los Prietos Campground is a lovely, oak-lined spot in the heart of the valley. The campsite is very convenient to LA and slightly less so to East Bay...the 5+ hour drive was well worth it though to be with old friends for my birthday.
two of our best cooks
Because there are so many food-focused friends among the pack of campers we split up the meal duties...and may I say, it could not have been more successful!
Every meal was delicious and delightfully different from the next.
It added a wonderful dimension to the weekend.
yes, that is walnut oil at the campsite!
For a low-key, lovely Thursday night, Satbhajan and Alice fired up some tasty chicken and veggie sausages and brought along homemade potato salad, pickles and pickled red onions to class up the joint.
veggie kilbasa w/ homemade pickled red onions, potato salad & pickles
homemade fixin's
DH and I mixed up some Nepenthe pancakes and slow-cooked scrambled eggs for Friday's breakfast.
Nepenthe pancake batter
our fearless leader, slow-cooking eggs
After a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting and picnicking at Brander Vineyards and Rusack Winery, we headed back to the campsite to swim in the river and greet the bulk of campers arriving Friday afternoon.
Alice, Sbjn & Juno at Brander
Sbjn & Juno at Rusack
Ziggy, in character
Brendan & Amanda at Rusack
Brendan, a.k.a. 2Pac, a.k.a. Paco pulled out all the stops for Friday night's dinner. Rolling 25+ deep, tacos were a fitting choice to feed the many hungry Panthers, ahem, campers! B cooked up an entire pork shoulder in the camping dutch oven using only a few choice spices and the heat of burning coals.
Grant F. assisting Brendan with hot coals
an honest to goodness oven! 
an entire pork shoulder
Amanda, his champion sous chef, prepped what must have been kilos of onions, cilantro and cojita cheese. Mike G. covered the vegan/veggie bunch with crispy kale and onions for the taco fixin's . Both taco options were perfectly suited for a lively night.
vegan vs. pork tacos 
amanda, master sous chef
Sally and Farah laid out an incredible spread for Saturday's breakfast. Poached eggs with garden fresh chives, matchstick potatoes with rosemary and buttery grilled bread sound more like high-end brunch menu offerings than camping cooking. Leave it to Sally for that.
Sally poaching, Farah frying
poached eggs w chives, grilled bread, rosemary potatoes & watermelon
Our pack of campers made their way to the river/watering hole up the road to lounge in the icy cold water for the afternoon. DH once aptly said "jumping off something, into something is the height of summer fun." 
Agreed DH, agreed.
Ziggy eyeing the agua
a beautiful day for a dip
A camping trip to the Los Padres National Forest would be incomplete without a proper trip to Cold Springs Tavern. If you've never made your acquaintance to the 'Tavern', make your way there immediately. Housed in an 1860's stagecoach, Cold Springs Tavern heralds icy cold beers, live music and some of the very best Tri-Tip sandwiches in the valley, and that's saying a lot. On any given day, there is a line of serious-as-a-heart-attack Harley bikers, taking a load off from the breathtaking routes of San Marcos Pass.
Cold Springs Tavern 
enjoying tri-tip sandwiches
Tri-Tip with salsa & dijon mustard
Cold Springs sandwiches were the unspoken highlight for most of our meat-eating campers. I am not much of a meat-lover myself and rarely miss it at veggie or vegan meals but when meat is this good, I can't get enough. My only regret of the day...hell!; the entire weekend, was not eating an entire one on my own! Sharing is for suckers when it comes to these sandwiches!
Stuart storytelling

Shannon, Marty & David
While we were all ready for a nap, Brendan insisted instead we venture out to Knapp's Castle instead. Just up the road from the campsite is one of the more extraordinary sites I'd never known existed. Built in 1916 at the edge of the world in the Los Padres Nat'l Forest, Knapp's Castle provides a breathtaking view of the Santa Ynez Valley. The impressive castle was the victim of a forest fire shortly after it was built but the foundations that remain resemble ancient ruins. 
Knapp's was a world better than a nap. ;-)
meghan m. at the edge
DH & matt btwn the walls
mike g.
ballerina amanda
josh b.
emily m. acrobatics in the amphitheater
After a whirlwind day, everyone was ready for a mellow evening cuddled up by the campfire. And what better way to unwind than with Chilean hot dogs made by our fellow Chilean camper, Sebastian. David and Sebastian grilled up traditional, turkey and veggie dogs and topped them with mashed avocado, diced tomato and mayonnaise. So simple and so so delicious.
Chilean completo hot dog

david v. mashing avocados
fresh diced tomatoes
master and creator
For the grand finale, Amelia and Amanda M. made happy campers of us all with the much talked about doughboys. Doughboys, if you haven't had the pleasure of making and eating one, consists of Pillsbury crescent rolls (resist judgement, you'd love it) wrapped around a wooden dowel, toasted over the campfire, then filled with butter, jam, ect. I opted for orange marmalade and dubliner cheese in mine.
Amelia schooling the doughboys
bread & egg dish above; doughboys on the fire below 
finished doughboy
empty inside of the doughboy
orange marmalade & cheese inside
The doughboys were the surprise hit of last year's camping trip and have come up in in concert with camping conversations ever since. The girls made 2 delicious egg dishes and soyrizo with potatoes but let's get real, doughboys are where its at.
Amanda M. working the soyrizo potatoes
bread, egg & tapenade dish
frittata birthday 'cake'
A big thanks to all who came out and cooked their hearts out. It was an incredible birthday and a legendary weekend.
I'll leave you with another DH truism...
'weekends shouldn't be this fun'

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