C'mon Baby, Light My Fire

This season there's only one question: restaurant or campsite?
Tasting Table: Campfire Cooking
Specialty charcoal: restaurant or campsite?

It used to be that campfire cooking and restaurant cooking were about as different as can be.

But that is changing: Open wood fire has become the preferred cooking method at many restaurants across the country. Simultaneously, campground methods have become increasingly luxe.

So we’ve developed a new game to play as we eat our way through the smoky haze: restaurant or campsite?

The rules are simple: Just guess from which place a particular item has come. Your choice is either “restaurant” or “campsite.” It may sound easy, but we started second-guessing our judgment when we encountered a gorgeous smoked-bacon-and-potato dish and felt the heat of some specialty hardwood charcoal. You be the judge; click here to play the game.

And because all of this winds up as more delicious eating, everyone’s a winner.

  • Restaurant or Campsite?

    Restaurant or Campsite? Smoked potato with bacon and corn.

  • Answer: Both!

    Answer: Both! When Melissa Perello, chef and owner of Frances in San Francisco, has a rare weekend off, she camps at Steep Ravine in Stinson Beach, California. For an easy dinner, she wraps combinations of fresh produce in aluminum foil and throws these “hobo packs” in the ashes of the campfire to cook slowly. We love her combination of diced potato, bacon and corn gently tossed with salt and pepper.

  • Restaurant or Campsite?

    Restaurant or Campsite? Specialty charcoal such as binchotan (pictured) and Ono.

  • Answer: Restaurant!

    Answer: Restaurant! No standard briquettes, these: Both are hardwood, which creates the slow burn necessary for even cooking. Japanese binchotan ($150 for 20 pounds; click here to buy) is the choice at San Francisco’s Namu Gaji, while Ono ($20 for 20 pounds; click here to buy), traditionally used in Hawaiian luaus, fuels the cooking at Distrito in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • Restaurant or Campsite?

    Restaurant or Campsite?

  • Answer: Campsite!

    Answer: Campsite! The new Moby teardrop trailer comes equipped with a kitchen hatch that will act as theater to your outdoor culinary enterprises. A gas stove, a sink and refrigeration are all available to allow you to bring your favorite recipes to life in a more rustic setting.

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