Camping, Kayaking & ‘que on the Russian River 5

Mrs. B and I moved from Boulder, Colorado to Northern California in 2009 to pursue a career in the wine industry. I was a finalist in Murphy Goode’s Really Goode Job competition. Through that whole competition we met some fellow contestants who have since become good friends over the past three years.

Two people we met through Really Goode Job in 2009 were Frank Gutierrez and his wife, Anita Gouloomian. Together, the four of us have moved from afar to put down roots in wine country. Frank landed a dream job of working at Caymus as a Film maker. Mrs. B has become the global social media manager for Symantec. Anita and I have worked together on various projects. Suffice to say, we’ve all taken to Northern California like a bunch of fishes to water.

In what’s turning into an annual camping tradition, all four of us got together for a weekend on the Russian River. Since we all moved here, we’ve camped near Monterey Bay in 2010 (followed by whale watching), we’ve camped in Mendocino in 2011 (with a skunk) and now along the Russian River in 2012.

This year we brought the usual selection of food and drink to enjoy to the campground. I thought I’d share what we had and how to make it.

 Day 1: Grilled Tri Tip Sandwich’s

Frank said he’d bring some Belle Glos Clark & Telegraphe Vineyard Pinot Noir from Wagner Family wines. To match the rich, jammy character of the wine I decided to smoke a TriTip ahead of time and bring it to the camp site.

First thing I did is season a Tri Tip with my favorite BBQ rub, then smoked it for about two and a half hours, which was 30 minutes less than needed, then seared it on the grill on high heat for about two minutes each side just to form the outer crust. I did that knowing the meat would continue to cook a bit after removing from heat and at the campground.

I wrapped the Trip Tip in foil and packed it in the cooler so it would stop cooking internally and preserve juices. At the campsite we started a fire and put the foil wrapped Tri Tip on the grate turning occasionally to even out heat.

After cooking the Tri Tip on the campfire for about 15 minutes, I removed from the heat and sliced it open to make sure it was cooked to the right temperature.

I then thinly sliced the Trip Tip so it would be easier to bite into after it was on the sandwich.

We assembled the sandwich’s by brushing some bread slices with olive oil, then layered the thinly sliced Tri Tip on the bread with slices of Provolone cheese. We wrapped each sandwich with foil and placed it on the fire for a few minutes. Not too long otherwise the sandwich will burn.

While the sandwich’s cooked we enjoyed the Belle Glos in anticipation of what was about to come off the fire. The meat already had a bit of a smoky character from smoking at home, but the campfire added a bit of smokiness to the entire sandwhich. I liked the Belle Glos because smoky flavors can be a good contrast to the flavors of a ripe Pinot Noir.

When the sandwich’s were done we took them off the fire and unwrapped. This is where you can accessorize with your favorite accoutrements like chipotle mayo, sliced pickles or dijon mustard. Your choice! The beauty of our first meal was most of the work was done ahead of time at home. You can eat really well when camping, it just takes a little planning and preparation.

Day 2: Kayaking and Russian River Brewing

We woke up and went for a trip down the Russian River via Kayak. The sky was blue, the water was calm, life was in balance. Northern California was revealing its true magic, and it was only 30 minutes outside of Santa Rosa. The river meanders through winding twists and turns of pine tree lined embankments. The quiet lucidity of drifting down the Russian River was interrupted by the call of an occasional Blue Heron or mother duck calling out to her babies as they made their way down the river along side the drifting kayaks.

Around every bend was another magnificent postcard photo of nature. You’ve never seen so many plants crammed into every square inch of soil until you’ve seen the sides of the Russian River from a kayak. An hour goes by pretty fast, which is how long our kayak rental lasted. Before we knew it, we were drifting back down river to the rental place. We worked up quite an appetite so we made our way to Russian River Brewing Company for lunch.

Russian River Pub is a roadside joint you pass on the way to Guerneville, 20 minutes outside Santa Rosa, CA. The  vibe is that of a biker bar, the beers are decent but the food is beyond what you’d expect.

I opted for French Dip, which was one of the best French Dips I’ve had anywhere. Soft French bakery style bread with a little crunch enveloped succulent slices of beef and melted Provolone cheese. Kinda reminded me of dinner!

Frank and Anita’s new pup, Wall-E took to camping no problem.

Frank and Wall-E

We made it back to the camp site and decided to stay put for the night. A bottle of Domaine Carneros Blanc de Noir started off night #2 on the right foot. Anita had an idea of spiral cut beef franks. As she cut the dogs, we sampled tastes from Terra Valentine’s Riesling to Castello de Tafalla’s Spanish Rosé.

Anita’s spiral cut dogs were a new twist on an old favorite. Campfire heat makes its way into the inside of the spiral cut dog giving the entire hot dog a grilled, smoky texture. Think of the surface area to heat ratio—when it’s a good thing, it’s really good.

As much as I like trying to find wine pairings for every meal, sometimes a nice cold beer hits the spot. The best part of the weekend was chillin’ with good friends. It puts a big ol’ smile on my face to think about where we all were three years ago when we met and where we are now. It just validates what we already know—there’s nothing like good friends, good food, good wine and good conversation.

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