Salamandre's winemaker, Wells Shoemaker, has lugged a backpack to remote mountains in the desert, the tropics, the coastal ranges, and of course, the granite peaks of Northern California for 20 years. As the years have passed, the natural harmony of nature, mischief, food, and wine have led to some successful experiments with backcountry cooking, heavily featuring Mediterranean themes. We're pleased to share a few suggestions, with the sheepish acknowledgment that they taste pretty good at home, too!
The following is the list of recipes from our kitchen and from our friends' kitchens:
GOURMET BACKPACKING RECIPES MATCHED TO SALAMANDRE
Overriding Principle: Just because you're sleeping on the ground doesn't mean you shouldn't eat like a caliph.
1. Crummy wine and ordinary oil weigh the same as fine Salamandre wine and extra virgin olive oil. If you're carrying liquids a long way on your back, don't cut corners on quality!
2. Calories are not a concern for backpackers. Be generous with the olive oil. More is better.
3. Commercial freeze dried food is OK these days, but the minor extra weight for fine moist ingredients creates a fabulous reward for your exertion, not to mention a better workout. The few extra ounces for real cheese, balsamic vinegar, capers, an onion, and nuts mean a world of difference in the pot. Fresh herbs travel well for several days, and they can be refreshed in cool water. Sun dried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, dried spices, and Parmesan cheese weigh next to nothing. If you must skimp, at least bring whole garlic!
4. Food purchased in a grocery store is likely to taste better and cost lots less than food purchased in a camping store. Test your creativity on your spouse at home. Don't mention the term "guinea pig" unless you're camping in Peru.
5. Carry moist ingredients in a wide-mouthed soft Nalgene bottle, and eliminate the air space with olive oil. No sense lugging glass and cans in and back out of the mountains. If you plan well, you can pre-mix the choice morsels in one container for one meal.
6. Dried, cured meats like prosciutto and hard sausage handle backpacking well. A small amount adds flavor and interest in the Mediterranean tradition. Unless you crave intimate experiences with E. coli and close encounters with bears, there's not much reward for carrying moist meat. Catch a fish instead.
7. Fully half the weight of a bottle of wine is the glass. Wine, especially red wine, travels well for a week when decanted into a rigid Nalgene bottle. Top it up to the brim, seal tightly, and you'll notice no significant decline in flavor--really!
8. Most good food takes a while to cook and a mood of cheerful anticipation and audience participation. If you're cold, miserable, or impatient, make ramen or freeze dried and try to get some sleep.
9. Wine disappears faster in the mountains than it does on a table. Pack accordingly!