My buddy Matteo and I have been talking about getting together in the woods and cooking some serious food for quite a while now. Last month, on an oddly warm late October weekend, we finally made it happen.
We decided on Wharton State Forest, as usual, since it is halfway for both of us, and since the weather was so fair we were able to convince our significant others to join the party as well. I showed up first, around 4pm and began setting up everyones sleeping quarters. Sloane and I were in our hammocks, and Mateo and Nicole slept in my tent.
I got a fire going and cracked a beer waiting for the rest of the crew to show up - Sloane had to work late, so we drove separately - which worked out, since my car was full to the brim with all our camping supplies and a ton of gear from the studio.
While I sat silently, watching the fire, I noticed some dark figures lurking around my neighbors campsite, who were being a bit on the loud side, and were in general, pretty obnoxious. It was the state police, in full out swat gear. All of a sudden flashlights were everywhere, and the police poked around their campsite for illegal activities. After 20 minutes or so of hassling, the police left and I approached the neighbors, who I had met when I pulled in, announcing I was not a policeman. They said that they had been told to take all their alcohol and other party supplies for a ride, but they most certainly did not, as they were up until 2 AM that night, and good and drunk when I went back over for a quick visit before I turned in.
Matteo and Nicole arrived around 730, and after our brief hellos we got to work cooking dinner. When I say we, I mean Matteo. I boiled the water for the pasta, and got drinks for everyone.
While we cooked, Sloane arrived and there were more hellos. Everyone was good and hungry, and Mateo did not disappoint with his first dish of the trip. Pasta with scallops and and king trumpet mushrooms. A sauce was quickly made in the pan and it was time to eat!
We finished up dinner, washed the dishes and sat down in front of the fire to catch up and drink some more booze.
Matteo and Nicole were up first the following morning and got a fire burning. Matteo quickly requested I set up the tripod cooking device I had built with his instruction, and I happily obliged. I had figured we would cook breakfast on my camp stove, but he was committed to the campfire cooking, which made for some good early morning images. I again boiled water (my specialty this trip) to make coffee for everyone and grabbed the camera to document what Matteo was preparing.
After breakfast we slowly cleaned up the mess that was made, and got ready for a quick hike. We drove to the park office to register our site and hop onto the Mullica river trail. We had a leisurely walk in the pines, and after an hour or so, turned around so we could get back to camp with enough light to cook and photograph the feast that Mateo had come up with for us. Sloane and Nicole prepared us this beautiful cheese plate for lunch, which we picked at as our chef prepared the main meal.
We had the fire burning by 2:30 and Mateo prepped the chicken and ribs to slowly cook on the highest tiers of the tripod.
Fennel and eggplant were cooked and charred over the fire
Matteo found these incredibly beautiful Corbacci peppers at his local market in Brooklyn. They were the star of the cooking show as he tossed them with olive oil over the open flames. He also added in a couple sliced zucchini squash in a cast iron skillet, directly on the flames. Then some incredible little enokitake mushrooms that he later added to the salad.
Pieces of monkfish were added to the peppers, along with some wine.
Flank steak was the last item to be put on the fire, and we were all getting pretty excited to stuff our faces.
This was hands down the best meal I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying in the woods. Many thanks to Mateo and Nicole for sourcing all the food and coming up with the menu for the weekend. Gotham Greens for all the, well, greens - their packaging also makes great storage containers for leftovers we found out. There was no way we ate all this food in one sitting! We finished up with our meal as the darkness settled in around us. The fire was stoked, wine was poured, pots, pans and utensils were washed, and dessert was served. The final dish of the evening was yogurt with honey and the butternut squash that Mateo had been roasting all afternoon, it was ridiculously good. We drank wine and ate s'mores (with Nutella instead of chocolate bars!) late into the evening, and turned in quite happy with our fireside feast. The following morning I was up early with the sunrise, I'll leave you with some foggy morning views from our last day at Wharton State Forest.