How to Create a Great Outdoor Dining Experience
Outdoor dining is a given when camping in an RV. We all appreciate burgers on the grill and s’mores over the campfire. Once in a while it’s nice to enjoy an epicurean experience at your picnic table in the woods or by the lake. Why not revel in the bounty of Mother Nature while spending your camping trip in the Great Outdoors?
Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary to treat your significant other to an exceptional dining experience right outside your motorhome door. Surprise him or her with a culinary encounter today. Here’s what you’ll need:
Much of our pleasure in eating outcomes not from the food, but from the change of scenery. Fine dining establishments go out of their way to provide unique backdrops in which to serve their legendary meals. It might be an intimate setting or one of the grandiose proportions. Decide what setting you wish to convey and find a few “props” to set the stage. Romantic venues use music to convey the mood. A fun little “chandelier” hanging from the tree over your picnic table could be just the light you need. Bring out the few nice plates you’ve been saving in the RV, and add a bouquet of wildflowers to the table.
If you are going for a “country” setting, find an inexpensive gingham tablecloth, a picnic basket, and use mason jars for drinks. Or replicate an Italian restaurant with a checked tablecloth, chianti bottle candles, and Italian love songs playing from your phone.
Grand gestures require candles, gilded silverware, classical piano music, and twinkle lights hanging from the trees. The point of a specific setting is to make your loved one feel as though they have entered into a magical outdoor dining experience.
You get the idea. Think about your favorite restaurant and how its environment made you feel welcome and prepared you for indulging in their main course. Then replicate some of those elements at your campsite. Hit on as many of the senses as you can – from music in the background to the sight of romantic lighting and the smell of steak sizzling on the grill. Eventually, you will take care of the taste buds with your menu.
You’ve set the mood, now plan the food! Make the experience last across several courses – from appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts; you can create an evening of palate-pleasing samples. Your food selections should complement one another. A tangy appetizer leads to an understated salad, or a vibrant, spicy entrée finished with subtle dessert to settle the digestive system. In my experience, chocolate of one kind or another is always a welcomed dessert option!
If you are talented in the kitchen, plan a meal to remember for your partner. However, don’t make it so labor-intensive that you don’t get to enjoy the event. Be sure to complete table setting preparations beforehand, with silverware, napkins, serving utensils, dishes, glassware, and condiments. If possible, include your better half in some of the meal prep, like slicing vegetables, warming rolls, or pouring drinks.
Cooking not your forte? Order take out from a favorite restaurant, bring it back to the campsite, and add a little twist of your own before presenting it for dinner. Who wouldn’t like an Olive Garden salad served at a picnic table under the trees? Complete with table settings, candles, and pasta Fagioli presented with grated cheese on top of the steaming soup, chicken parmigiana with spaghetti, and a side of self-roasted asparagus makes a great main course. To finish: a bottle of Merlot that you’ve been saving, and a light serving of tiramisu with an espresso while Dean Martin sings “Volare” in the background. Sounds like my idea of a perfect evening!
After you’ve enjoyed a succulent meal with all of the trimmings, sit under a star-filled sky and revel in the time you spent together. Share secrets around a campfire, or walk hand in hand in the moonlight. Be grateful to have an evening of relaxed conversation and a fine dining experience at a restaurant made just for two.