This Weekend

The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Campfire Everything

Felicia Campbell
As a food editor, eating all kinds of things — both delicious and disastrous — is part of the job description. Not everything that goes into my mouth ends up in a review or article, but some things are just too good not to share.

I heard it was pretty hot last weekend in Phoenix, but I wouldn't know anything about that, because I was a few short hours away hiking, boating, and cooking in the great outdoors in Show Low, Arizona. I don't mean to brag, but as I lounged in my folding chair overlooking the lake, a cool (yes, cool) breeze began rustling through the treetops above me. I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't escape every weekend.

It probably will come as no surprise that my favorite part about camping is the campfire cooking, which has nothing to do with the taste and everything to do with the delicious entertainment of it. Don't get me wrong; it can be pretty damn tasty, too.

On Saturday night we ate "tenderfoot dinners," foil-wrapped packets of chopped onion, pepper, tomato, and ground beef, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Afterward, it was s'mores time.

We fell into two camps: the traditionalists and the innovators.

In a stroke of pure genius, the latter group swapped those hard-to-melt Hershey bars with thick, oozing smears of Nutella to achieve campfire dessert perfection (can you guess which camp I fell into?).

Breakfast on Sunday was slightly more elaborate, featuring fruit salad and a cast-iron fritatta served with charred flatbread and avocado slices.

They say the smoky flavor of wood fire or charcoal is what makes a good steak sing. True as this is, when it comes to the kind of cooking we were doing, the smoke had very little effect on the flavor. But that isn't the point. The appeal of this sort of super-casual food is pretty universal: just look at the menu at the new, fully camp-themed, Uptown Phoenix restaurant, Camp Social, which we previewed last week.

The simple act of cooking outdoors, with everyone gathered around the flames in anticipation, followed by the most casual of alfresco meals, is an experience to savor.

Being outside together, quite simply, makes cooking and eating more fun.

I'll admit, this outdoor fun is a whole lot easier to do up in Show Low, where it is a good 25 degrees cooler, but I'm still feeling inspired to turn on the misters and the grill this weekend right here in the Valley, if only to see if I can recreate that campfire feeling, a little closer to home.

click to enlarge FELICIA CAMPBELL
Felicia Campbell