It’s been a long time since I went to camp.
There was Brownie day camp in Sioux City, Iowa, where I learned to tie knots, whittle a stick and the untold wonders of jabbing a plump orange with a thick peppermint stick, enthusiastically sucking the sweet juice with the rest of my troop.
There was overnight Girl Scout camp in Sioux City’s Stone Park where for a week I lived in a rustic screened cabin in Sleepy Hollow and mastered the proper way to raise a flag, cook s’mores over a crackling campfire and clean a latrine.
There was the moveable camp experience in my 20’s during RAGBRAI, the pleasurably brutal bike ride/roving party across Iowa. Haphazard tent cities popped up in small towns after throngs of weary riders pedaled miles of hill and dale in scorching July heat, finally succumbing at day’s end to church ladies plying us with homemade cinnamon rolls, Swedish meatballs and blue-ribbon-worthy pies and cakes.
And last Sunday I went to the best kind of day-into-night camp imaginable.
The theme: Howl at the Moon, a reason to gather and sip, sup and celebrate the solstice.
The scene: wish-you-were-here perfect at Julie and Bob Zoller’s Fire Lake Camp in Paola where a post-dinner kayak workout on the lake was just yards away from community dining tables.
The host: a renowned barbeque cook who also happens to be a Kansas City Barbeque Society Certified Barbeque Judge, Duane Daugherty. His alter ego, Mr. Doggity, was stationed at a blazingly hot grill for hours, relaxed and nonchalant, cooking with his signature aplomb and cool confidence.
The guest list: a bunch of food lovers, including one bearing a napkin-lined basket brimming with fresh cheese-and-bacon biscuits to share.
The entertainment: KC’s killer blues band Knock Kneed Sally — nearly upstaged by a flock of resident marching ducks and the Zollers’ towheaded granddaughters dancing on the lawn.
The menu: an amuse bouche of flawlessly smoked salmon drizzled with Olive Tree’s Meyer Lemon Oil followed by succulent chicken thighs and fritters, eye-of-round beef roasts, pork spare ribs, grilled garden-fresh Fire Lake Camp zucchini and tri-color fingerling potatoes with Vidalia onion.
Dolce was simply extravagant: plump, grilled summer blueberries spooned over pound cake with a fluff of whipped cream, best enjoyed in an Adirondack chair, plopped in front of a roaring fire pit.
But it was the celestial finale that sealed this camping excursion: a glorious supermoon dangling over Fire Lake.
Sated, my fellow Fire Lake Campers and I silently watched the golden orb rise and illuminate the night. Reluctantly we broke camp and headed back to the city, the supermoon acting as a GPS to light the roads, our stomachs and spirits well fed.
Wish you were there.
Barbeque cook Duane Daugherty knows how to have a good time—he is a music aficionado, a master barbeque cook, an affable guy in every way. At last Sunday’s “Howl at the Moon” dinner at Fire Lake Camp he shared his love of combining food and friends — a recipe at which, he said, you can never fail. Another foolproof recipe is Daugherty a.k.a. Mr. Doggity’s summer salad. Summer Mixed Field Greens Salad
Mixed field greens with fire-roasted red pepper, red onion, shaved Parmesan and toasted sunflower seeds. Toss with a vinaigrette of three parts Meyer lemon olive oil to one part smoked balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Add garlic medley sea salt, bacon/chipotle sea salt and fresh thyme and toss.
For more information on Fire Lake Camp’s dinners and events, visitfirelakecamp.com. For more information on Mr. Doggity Foods and Olive Tree products visit mrdoggity.com and olivetreekc.com
Kimberly Winter Stern—also known as Kim Dishes—is an award-winning freelance writer and national blogger from Overland Park and co-host with Chef Jasper Mirabile on LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen each Saturday on KCMO 710/103.7FM. She is inspired by the passion, creativity and innovation of chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans who make Kansas City a vibrant center of locavore cuisine.