Rules of the Woods

Camping ain’t what it used to be. And I’ve also grown older and more accustomed to certain pleasures and creature comforts that should always travel with you. Wine and good food are just two of those feel-good requirements (read about those here). Hardcover books may be third on the list.

Obviously, car camping is different than roughing it, where you have to physically haul everything, from your roof to your kitchen, from civilized point “a” to remote wilderness point “b”. Yet regardless of where or how you camp, I think there are three solid rules, or call them guidelines, for a more pleasurable experience.


Effortless Decadence

Keep meals simple. Use big, rich flavours and quality ingredients. Never leave home without Parmesan cheese, good quality extra-virgin olive oil and quality sea salt. When in doubt, pack more wine than food.


Be a Minimalist

Keep flavour profiles pure and try to make every meal in just 1 pot. Less is more!  Focus on 3 flavour notes. Remember how good the holy trinity of onion, garlic and wine taste?


Cook with Wood

Physically, cooking over an open fire just makes you feel better. It also adds an aromatic, smoky flavourful essence to whatever you’re cooking. This isn’t smoking though; it’s merely cooking over a smoldering fire. The flavour and aroma will be subtler than smoked food. You might even notice it more once the food cools down. It’s OK not to eat it piping hot.


I was reminded of these rules on a recent trip to Seaview, Washington. We camped at the oddly named Cape Disappointment (a state park). Nothing disappointing here though, it was a glorious site—nestled by the ocean, where the turbulent Columbia River meets the ocean. There were two lighthouses to explore, easy access to bike trails, and the park is right next door to good surfing on Long Beach. Plus, I went with some wine makers from Oregon, so the beverages were stellar.

Turns out it was also the right time to buy some local clams. And since I love nothing more than to grill anything over a wood fire, I was elated to drag out the big ol’ black bottomed, cast-iron pot, pour myself some Oregon Chardonnay and get to it.


Disappointment Clams


Olive oil and butter

6 garlic cloves

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 lbs. clams

2 cups (500 ml) white wine

1 baguette

Sea salt and freshly grated Parmesan



Once the fire starts to burn down, place a cast-iron Dutch oven on the grill grate. When hot, add a knob of butter and generously coat pan with oil. Add garlic and onion. Stir often, until teasingly fragrant and the onion is really, really soft. This may take a while, depending on the heat level of the fire.


Stir in clams and pour in wine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice baguette in half lengthwise. Cut into smaller, manageable pieces, and grill until toasty. When done, top with think slices of butter (thick slabs work even better!) and liberally sprinkle with sea salt. Grate fresh Parmesan overtop, if you have it.


Once most of the clams have opened, remove from heat. Let stand, covered for 1 min. to let residual heat finish cooking the unopened ones. Place pot on the table  (or ground!) and dunk in grilled buttery bread. Spoons are optional! Top up your wine glasses and revel in the great outdoors.

Written By:

Let’s get to know each other: I’m a food writer, recipe developer and food stylist. I love to cook. I really love to eat. Better yet, it’s my pleasure to make it look good too. I am the consummate table-setter: I adore ...

Comments are closed.