Saturday, July 14, 2012

Camp Stories: A Weekend in Paradise

There are some traditions in my family that are not to be messed with: Christmas dinner means turkey and fixin's…no suggestions of ham, lamb or other funny business allowed. Same goes for Thanksgiving. And Friday evenings are invariably kicked off with Dave's martinis garnished with Spanish anchovy-stuffed olives.

Instant classic: the Sierra cup martini.

Now it looks like the fourth of July is becoming another don't-mess-with-the-best formula: a minimum of three nights of tent camping with a group of four couples sharing food and drink at what has been officially voted (by us) as a 10-out-of-10 campground, Paradise Creek in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest just north of Carson, Washington.

Classy glassware? Who needs it?

A mere 90 minutes from Portland, it's pretty primitive, meaning no showers, flush toilets or hook-ups for big rigs. But that also means it's devoid of roaring generators, loud music and crowds of marauding children on dirt bikes. Instead the air is filled with the smell of campfire smoke and the sound of the small creek that flows by, and the night sky through the trees is studded with millions of stars.

New classic: Coney sauce.

This year we had dibs on making dinner the first night, so instead of trying to relive the success of last year's campfire posole I decided to try my hand at that hallowed American specialty known as the Coney Island hot dog. What I came up with is definitely a twist on the traditional, but what can you expect from someone who grew up on the left coast?

And the dogs were no Ball Park Franks or even Hebrew National, but a selection from local purveyors Olympic Provisions and Chop. Both types got raves, by the way, though I have to say I really liked the flavor and heft of the Chop dogs. And the sauce is one I'll pull out for a backyard BBQ soon, sided by some potato salad or coleslaw.

Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. lean ground beef
3 lg yellow onions, chopped fine
3 lg cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar
4 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes or hot chile powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
4 c. water

Heat a large Dutch oven on medium heat and add oil. When it shimmers, add ground beef and brown. Add onions and garlic and sauté till tender. Add garlic powder, vinegar, chile powders, cinnamon, cumin, salt and allspice and stir until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Makes about 10 cups of sauce.

Read other Camp Stories in the series: Trout Creek Campground, Shadow Bay at Waldo Lake, LaPine State Park, Indian Crossing Campground, Frog Lake Campground, Patrick's Point State Park, Harris Beach State Park and Moss Creek Campground and last year's trip to Paradise Creek.


Lisa Scholin said...

Just booked spot#29 for trip with the kids early August! I've been dreading trying to find a great spot for our first camping trip, so was so happy to find this great recommendation. Thanks for the tip. :)

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's the best site in the campground. Let me know what you think…and have fun!

Jo said...

Paradise was the first campground I discovered on the WA side after moving to Oregon 22 years ago. The black flies can get cruel in August but die off by October. Just up the road is Goat Rock Wilderness, another great if not more awesome area to find free camp spots, and a bit cooler when the flies are bad at Paradise. And on the way, you'll find some of the best Huckleberry picking in the southern part of Washington state. By the way, last time I camped there, a friend made campfire paella for 6. It was a knockout!

Kathleen Bauer said...

I know we've run into mosquitoes earlier in the year there, a pretty common occurrence in the Gifford Pinchot. And paella is on my list for the next gathering!