Tips from Food Network Personality Aida Mollenkamp
June 14th – SAN FRANCISCO – June is National Camping Month — the perfect time to gather around the campfire with friends and family, enjoy wonderful California wine and food and immerse yourself in nature while sleeping under the stars. Campgrounds at national and state parks are already in high demand as summer approaches, but there are still good spots available through websites such as Hipcamp and Harvest Hosts, which feature campsites at wineries and KOA. Even pitching a tent in your own back yard can feel like an adventure.
One advantage of camping is sharing delicious al fresco meals cooked over an open fire, says Food Network personality Aida Mollenkamp of Salt & Wind Travel. While hot dogs and chili are classic choices, it’s easy to take camping cuisine to the next level with fresh, elevated dishes and food-friendly California wines. It just takes a little planning. “The name of the game is to prep as much as possible in advance so you can enjoy yourself at the campsite.”
Here are Mollenkamp’s tips for planning an inspired camping menu from Wine Institute that includes lighter fare, healthy fruits and vegetables and your favorite California wines this summer, which can be found at DiscoverCaliforniaWines.
Plan and Prep
Do the prep work at home. Pack meats in their marinades, chop vegetables ahead of time and make sauces and dressings in advance. This will free up time at the campsite to relax and have fun.
Pack flavorful accents. Bring along a favorite spice mixture or special sauce to add a pop of flavor to all sorts of dishes. Italian salsa verde is great for everything from topping coal-cooked potatoes to garnishing grilled steak to spreading on sandwiches. Likewise, California’s own green goddess dressing makes a delicious dip for crudités.
Upgrade your ingredients. Camping fare gets an instant upgrade with elevated ingredients such as farmstand berries and vegetables, real maple syrup and artisan chocolate bars.
Wine accordingly. To add an authentic “sense of place” to the menu and complement the diverse dishes you’ll be serving, pack a variety of California wines. If you’re hiking to a picnic spot and need to travel light, transfer the contents of glass bottles into collapsible and resealable wine containers, or opt for wines packaged in cans or cartons.
Recipes and Wine Pairings
Wine Institute offers recipes for easy-yet-elevated dishes for your next camping excursion, along with Mollenkamp’s recommendations for California wine pairings.
- Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Tomato-Corn Salsa, Guacamole and Lime
- The floral aromatics, citrus elements and spice of California Gewürztraminer are a perfect match for this fresh and flavorful dish. A California Sauvignon Blanc is another great option.
- Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Mint and Toasted Pita
- This Greek-style salad topped with char-grilled chicken and a bright lemon vinaigrette calls for an oaked California Chardonnay or dry sparkling wine.
- Grass-Fed Burger with Avocado and Chipotle Mayonnaise
- Take grilled burgers to new heights with lean grass-fed beef, chipotle-spiced mayo and creamy avocado—paired with a California Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Grilled Watermelon with Salad Greens and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- A sparkling California rosé or a light rosé of Grenache are ideal complements to this savory-sweet dish.
- Grilled Peaches Drizzled with an Aged Balsamic Reduction
- Grilled peaches are a great dessert for cooling off on warm summer nights—especially when they’re served with a California Chardonnay, Viognier or Chenin Blanc.
- Camping wouldn’t be the same without this favorite combination of graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and chocolate (no recipe required!). Enjoy the warm gooeyness with a California Port, Lodi Zinfandel or California sparkling rosé
For more recipes, visit DiscoverCaliforniaWines.
Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group for 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiates and advocates state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization works to promote the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable winegrowing and a partnership with the Visit California tourism organization to showcase California’s wine and food offerings and the state as a top travel destination. Wine Institute also has an export program for California Wines which represents 95 percent of U.S. wine exports.