01 May What Happend in the First Italian Barbecue Vacation
As the weeks went by, the weather.com link was gaining more and more positions in our browser history. It seemed all too good to be true: among the gloomy boxes of a spring that suddenly returned, remembering its characteristic raininess of the past, a small window of yellow spaces set between Friday morning and Sunday evening delighted with its diversity. With the passing of the days, however, the freakish variability of early predictions seemed incredibly to leave the pace to mature certainties. It was really like that: the Campfire Lodge 2018 would have been blessed by the only three sunny days of the month.
Already from this prelude we could understand how the weekend was preparing to let us write darkly a new page in the album of our best memories. The unknowns were many: the Campfire Lodge was something totally unprecedented until now in Italy and seen very little in the rest of Europe and the world. It was no longer a question of operating a single cater, but of managing all aspects of what we can call a barbecue vacation, an entire weekend where embers and grills would be the focus and where we would see the spark of the electric piezo of the cooker only under the heavy 18 coffee cups moka supplied by Cascina Langa, together with everything concerning the daily life of a hotel structure left us in custody. One day after its conclusion, however, we can say it with certainty and with great pride: the Campfire Lodge was a great success or to put it another way, it was exactly what we wanted it to be: a rub and coal dirty experience, soaked up to the marrow of emotions and pathos.
And it was in a so rich and varied way that it was difficult to describe the feelings that it gave us without expiring in details of the situations that generated them. So we decided to limit ourselves to the story of Campfire Lodge day by day, a chronology of our three days in Denice limiting ourselves to the facts, as a sort of short diary:
We arrived in Denice in the morning. Faustino punctual, I’m late as usual. Cascina Langa is at the top of a hill which can be reached by climbing a series of hairpin bends. As soon as you arrive you can not stop to admire the view that is enjoyed from the overhanging fence, located at the end of the lawn in front of the entrance. You can see the horizon as far as the eye can see over the valley and on a clear day like that you are able to capture every detail, as in front of a giant model: the bell tower of a tiny village miles and miles away, the rows on the opposite side to that of Denice, rivers and roads. All in an silence unreal for those used to the constant background noise of the big cities. Simply beautiful.
Once we have taken possession of the structure and placed all the equipment and work stations is now time to receive the first guests. One of the things I liked most about this Campfire Lodge was the heterogeneity of its guests: there are old friends, as well as people who simply did a course in Grill Academy or even just heard about it, there are groups of friends as families with children, entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers alongside truck drivers and gas stations owners. It came out a really interesting cross-section that made the weekend even richer in experiences and arguments.
The dinner included a tasting of Ireland ribeye in prefreezing, Reverse at 35° C, Reverse at 50° C, Reverse at 100° C as well as a wonderful bullock Fiorentina cooked in the Lodge with herb flavored butter. For lovers of debunking, the final outcome is how often happens in this case, divided: there are those who prefer one, those who prefer the other and others. And this is my opinion the true added value of experimentation and to have so many alternatives: to each his own! To assist us during the cooking, as well as during all those of the weekend, the excellent rub from Sucklebusters, specifically one of its latest creations, 1836. If you do not know it, try it, it’s absolutely worth it. The Queen of Heart, the bitter ale from birrificio Hibu, available on tap throughout the evening, perfectly married the steaks. In order not to miss anything, we have created in the wait, a funny Chicken Wings Party, bowls and bowls of chicken wings seasoned with the smart finishing rub that we had tested in this test. Drinking coffee we crunched peanuts with a few glass of grappa until 2 am, chatting about anything with old and new friends, in a relaxed and festive atmosphere.
In the morning we wake up early. From 9 o’clock guests will begin to go down and everything must be ready: it starts with bacon and eggs with seasoned cheddar on top, cooked on the cast iron plate, croissants, toast and of course a lot of coffee. This is the day when the weather has given its best. A perfectly clear sky and a beautiful spring sun have suggested us to set for lunch under the beautiful pergola located in the farmyard. It is the turn of the churrasco: in addition to the picanha, was the maminha, the fraldinha, the linguiça, the costela, the coraçao de frango marinated in beer and tomato and could not miss a fejoada cooked slowly from the morning in the dutch oven. Splendid ally of us was Rodizio on the new Barktenders trolley designed and built by the good Faustino, who performed for the occasion in an excellent way. The Hibu beer on tap today is the Horatio Nelson, a fresh, fruity and herbaceous California Common. It closes with pineapple with brown sugar and rum, always cooked on the sword.
The afternoon is all over, even helped by the long cooking that characterize the menu of the evening. There is time to take a little sun lying on the cushions of the courtyard and a few games of ping pong and table football. A crispy pork belly, smoked sausages, beef ribs and potatoes and cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar are waiting for dinner. We also add a few pizza and some focaccia cooked in the old oven of the village, heated slowly since the morning. The proximity with Pit Box and Gateway on which we have developed the cooking, suggested to us to dine on the ground floor in what was once the ancient common kitchen, warm welcoming and intimate with the big table placed in front of the large fireplace. It is a dinner to say the least, lustful to which we decide to accompany some local red wine.
The evening is beautiful, the perfect temperature to go out in the yard, turn on the rocket stove and sweetly caramelize the giant marsh mallow, the classic fine dinner that always looks exaggeratedly sweet but at the end nobody can say no to. It’s Saturday night and after coffee we move to the main living room upstairs, where next to the sofas the lit fireplace and a shot of rum were awaiting us. The day has been long and this time we go to sleep decidedly earlier.
In the morning the oven is still warm. A couple of logs, just to make it come back to fire a bit ‘and we are at the ideal temperature for a nice wheel of bread, which will be ready just right for breakfast. Being Sunday, we studied a more elegant menu for lunch. Together with freshly baked focaccia we start with a long and rich cold smoke-themed aperitif made the previous day and night: Smokyr with prosecco and smoked raspberry, cold smoked salmon and duck speck in addition to an indefinite amount of arrosticini and of candy salmon cubes. Probably TOO long: you laugh, joke and have an aperitif in a very pleasant company and time you know, run away. It’s past two o’clock and we have yet to start, so we decide to make of Sunday a unique gigantic meal combining the preparation of lunch and the American barbecue ones of dinner that in the meantime were already almost all in maintenance. We then continued with lobster linguine prepared in the wok on rocket stove, a stratospheric Creekstone Prime Brisket, whiskey flavored roast beef, Kansas City Ribs, pork loin, piglet ham, ember roasted peppers and who knows what else has jumped out from those smokers.
We linger until late afternoon chatting on the table outside under the pergola drinking the welcome home made iced limoncello taken by one of the participants, until the sunny window that fate decided to give at the weekend made us unequivocally understand that his moment, and consequently ours had come, letting fall some timid drops of rain onto the cobblestone paving that leads to the farmyard floor. With regret, we promptly receive the message and begin the sad phase of greetings, kisses and hugs.
One by one our guests took their way home until we stay alone at Campfire Lodge. In a moment we loaded the last things not progressively stored on the van during the weekend and we turned back to take a look at Cascina Langa: appears immaculate and neutral, with no sign of our passage exactly as we found it when we arrived. Only the frame is more melancholy: along with the embers, even the vivid colors of Friday appeared sedated by a sky suddenly returned to its peaceful wait for the summer. Despite this on our face there is a serene smile, the same that we saw on that of people who have decided to participate with us in this adventure.
Dear Campfire Lodge, you have given us unforgettable emotions and a feeling of well-being that we will take in for a long time. It is right that now you go to rest, exactly as we are doing. Recharge yourself well though, because for the 2019 edition we already have in mind a thousand ideas and a thousand projects to return to having fun together, even more and even better. If I were you I would start to set a free space on the calendar.