Have you ever been glamping? This is quite a growing nation-wide trend, this “glamorous camping”, where you are out in the wilderness but have some of the creature comforts of home. Like a real bed with real pillows and real bedding. You might be in a tent or it might be a rustic cabin, but it’s usually outfitted beautifully and has a luxury feel to it. It has a real floor and plenty of protection from the bugs. And the rain, if it comes to that. Sometimes these glamping resorts take the whole experience to the next level, offering spa treatments and fine food and wine. It’s “camping lite”, if you will. Camping for people who hate camping but love to travel and explore the outdoors. Or camping for people who love to camp but don’t mind a little luxury and comfort either.
I got a chance to experience glamping first hand recently at the lovely Firelight Camps in Ithaca, NY. I was there at the invitation of al fresco®, best known for their chicken sausages, although they have many other great products as well. They set up a wonderful event for 10 bloggers that included a 2-night stay in the gorgeously furnished tents, plenty of great food and drink, and a massage at the La Tourelle spa. Sounds lovely, right? But I had my work cut out for me, because the trip also included an Iron Chef-style cooking competition where my partner and I had to create both a breakfast and dinner recipe over a hot grill on a VERY hot and muggy East Coast summer day. That was no easy feat and I will admit to feeling a little apprehensive about that part of the festivities, but it ended up being such a blast and everyone had a great time. No, we didn’t win, but cooking under pressure like that with a limited set of ingredients sparked my creativity and I was so pleased with our on-the-fly recipes.
I’d never been to the Finger Lakes region of New York and I was very taken with the landscape. Steep hills and deep green valleys, with lakes, rivers and some of the most striking waterfalls. It was a beautiful backdrop to our glamping and competitive cooking experience. Our first evening was spent chatting on the lovely back patio of Northstar, a casual restaurant devoted to locally sourced and sustainably raised ingredients. I had some of the best chicken wings of my life there and I now need to attempt a home version to share with you.
The next morning dawned bright and early and very, very hot. We glampers broke into our teams and worked at creating our first recipe, a breakfast dish that included the al fresco® breakfast sausages. Other ingredients were limited but there was still plenty to choose from, so Melissa of ConsumerQueen and I settled on Grilled Breakfast-Stuffed Avocados with Spicy Berry Salsa. This was a perfect recipe for any glampers with dietary restrictions, as it was gluten-free, low carb and primal. It could even be paleo if one were to leave the cheese off the top of the avocados. The second part of the competition was a little more challenging, as each team was given a basket of ingredients that all had to be used in our creation. Our basket contained oranges, mustard greens, fennel, pearl onions and thyme. We ended up creating a gorgeous Grilled Panzanella Salad with Grilled Citrus Thyme Vinaigrette. This was not a low carb friendly dish, but with a little tweaking, it might be made over. The host of our competition was Firelight Camps owner and Food Network Star finalist Emma Frisch, and our judges included the head chefs of Northstar, Frank Purazzi, and La Tourelle, Angelina Tagliavento, as well as the marketing director of al fresco, Sarah Crowley.
After cooking for several hours over hot grills in the blazing sun, we were due for a little cooling off. Our wonderful al fresco hosts drove us over to a local waterfall and swimming hole where we all gladly suited up and jumped in to the cool water. That first dive might have been the most refreshing of my life! Then it was back to camp for some food, wine, and great company. All in all, it was a delightful first glamping experience and one I’d certainly be eager to repeat. Many thanks to al fresco and Firelight Camps for hosting such a fun event. Oh, and did I mention that the bed in my tent was even MORE comfortable than my own bed at home? Now that’s the way to glamp!
And since al fresco® is all about making healthy meals easy, I am showcasing their fully cooked chicken sausage in a great summer grilling recipe. Whether you’re glamping, camping or just whipping something up at home, this recipe is quick, easy and full of great flavours.
Many thanks to the wonderful team at al fresco® (Molly, Sarah, Sarah, Jarrod and Katie!) for hosting this glamping event. All of my travel and accommodations were provided by Al Fresco. All opinions, recipes, thoughts and photography are my own.