Everything happened in Borgo Condè
At the very moment the Campfire was born, it was “different”. Different from the common concept of “Barbecue”. Different from a normal vacation. Unlike anything else seen up to that point. It is therefore logical that, now in its fourth edition, it continues to evolve and mature in accordance with its own identity. And once again, in this Autumn Edition 2020, Campfire has managed to be different and this is probably the best compliment that could be given to it.
There are several different gastronomic themes proposed in the lunches and dinners as well as the recipes, each time completely new, created for the occasion and prepared entirely on site and also the topics of the seminars are different, entirely innovative and unique in their kind. But this is always true, and it can be said for every previous edition. The one that has just finished, on the other hand, will be remembered as the edition that was able to be further “different”, marking a new stage in the growth process that Campfire has been able to sustain over the years..
But let’s go on by order. This 2020 is the first year in which in the wake of the extraordinary feedback obtained, I decided to double the Campfire by adding an additional spring appointment to the traditional autumn one and certainly I could not had chosen a more complicated year to do it. The damned Covid has made the spring edition incredibly complicated, blocked by the lockdown in March and then reprogrammed several times before being transformed into a never seen before, summer version a whole week long, and this autumn edition too, kept uncertain until the last moment by the restrictions of the two consecutive DCPM of the preceding weeks. The fact of having managed to carry out our project in the midst of the infinite organizational difficulties that have arisen, is certainly a source of great satisfaction for us.
And this project included the first big news: the two Campfires scheduled on the calendar take on two slightly different profiles in order to offer themselves in two different conditions of use, in fact. The spring appointment is more informal and bucolic, more suitable for families for the large controlled spaces available and for the greater availability of sports and play facilities and which for this reason is hosted by the rustic and warm atmosphere of the Grande Prato in Castelfiorentino. The autumn appointment instead intentionally takes a step towards a more precious atmosphere even while respecting the warm and welcoming imprinting at the base of the Campfire concept and thus addressing more to an adult audience. The choice fell on Borgo Condé, a Wine Resort located on the top of a hill immersed in the countryside of Forlì in splendid Romagna, with a literally breathtaking view of the vineyards from which its unmissable wines are made, further enlivened by the warm colors of autumn.
It is a welcoming and muffled structure, played on the theme of “rustic with style”, in which you can feel at home after 2 minutes staying but of which you inevitably end up appreciating the level of luxury category services that characterize its elegant rooms or the fully equipped SPA available to Campfire Lodge guests at a special rate. The area dedicated to the event was a large room surrounded on three sides by splendid windows on the rows below as far as the eye can see, with the swimming pool on the side that framed the choreographic cooking area in sight, in which the Ofyr and wood-burning braziers reigned supreme.
Everything was certainly enhanced by a weather that for the umpteenth time proved to be a Campfire’s friend. The initial disastrous forecasts that had prepared us for a weekend under the flood slowly softened, opening first on a Friday and then also on a Sunday to a light warm autumn sun. This was not enough, even Saturday ended up pardoning us, turning into a more than acceptable cloudy day and limiting rainfall to a few drops in the afternoon, in a moment in which they did not cause any discomfort.
The location was not the only novelty, however. In previous editions it was customary for the dishes on the menus to be illustrated verbally as they came out in the dining room, a bit like we used to do during our creative dinners. However, we realized by talking with the guests how it would have been much more effective and informative for the participants to have a greater expectation and awareness on such particular dishes and combinations, in order to be able to appreciate them at the moment of tasting. In this Autumn Edition therefore, at the very moment of sitting down at the table, you could find the descriptive menu of the entire dinner, with the only exception of Franca’s Dessert® on which we wanted to generate the so-called “wow effect” and immodestly we believe we have succeeded. The gastronomic events had always had a strong thematic orientation but in this edition we also wanted to add an important environmental and choreographic characterization, which was completely revisited at every lunch or dinner. Finally, a consolidated custom at the end of each Campfire was a rain of more than legitimate requests to have the recipes that had been most successful. After all, it was largely understandable: they had paid for that experience and since they was unedited recipes there was no other way to get them. We have therefore decided to give a Recipe Book to each participant at the end of the event with ingredients and instructions for the realization of each dish presented.
Anyway let’s see together in more detail everything that happened during the weekend in Borgo Condè.
The meeting in the late afternoon of Friday after the guests have progressively arrived and have taken possession of their room, has become the pleasant appointment for an aperitif with friends so to begin to enter the gastronomic mood of the event. In this case we have decided to stay extremely simple, paying homage to the structure that hosted us. Some bottles of a surprising San Giovese Rosè accompanied some bruschetta seared on Ofyr and focaccia made on the new OONI pellet pizza ovens, all seasoned with Rub101 and the very pleasant Olive Oil by the estate, which is produced exclusively for the Condè’s family and is not marketed but which has been exceptionally made available for Campfire guests.
The room was set up entirely like a corner of Bavaria, ready to host the first thematic menu which was in fact inspired by a creative reinterpretation of the typical dishes of an Oktober Fest. The cockerel marinated with Dunkel Beer and Soy Sauce or the artisanal Weisswurst brought directly from South Tyrol through our friend Haymo, smoked and accompanied with a reduction of Porter Beer and Chestnut Honey rocked, but surprisingly the dish that generated the most astonishment would seem to have been the Pretzel Cheeseballs on a plated onion Obatzer cream. To celebrate the first evening we decided to pay homage to the participants with a personalized ceramic beer mug with the new Campfire logo printed on it which kept the legendary Hibu Trinken Beer available on tap, constantly fresh. And the Franca’s Dessert®? A very original sweet dumpling made with smoked ricotta and chocolate accompanied by its pear and coffee sauce, simple and delicious.
The day ends with the usual round of bitters, spirits and signature liqueurs available to guests before slowly saying goodbye by midnight in compliance with the obligations imposed on us by the new DCPM, with a last look at the unreal panorama that we have faced, barely illuminated by the thousand lights of all the villages included by the view enjoyed from Borgo Condè.
Another Campfire classic is the breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes prepared on Ofyr, accompanied by Franca with its spectacular persimmon sauce. Then we get to the heart of the program: sushi chef Nuccio Brancato awaits the participants in the first weekend seminar with a nice 10kg tuna, ready to illustrate how to section a tuna fish into its main cuts, illustrating the characteristics and main uses of each. There was no lack of small goodies such as freshly prepared nigiri, smoked tuna head with cheeks or grilled offal.
In the meantime, our guests from Xplore Tour Operator and Lost in Food join us, also representing Air Canada, Delegation of Quebec, Canadian Sports & Fishing, and Maple Joe for the lunch dedicated to the reinterpretation of the original recipes of Canadian cuisine. Baby potatoes poutine with Primo Sale and Salsa Verde or by the Sesame Bagel with Maple cold smoked Salmon and capers Sour Cream are very welcome, but the success went to the turmeric and sunflower bun with Peameal Canadian Bacon (the one wrapped in corn flour, to understand) enriched by a reduction of Kriek beer, Franca in this appointment delighted us with a trio of foams to seek out all the taste shades and colors of a Cheesecake dedicated to the combination of peaty whiskey and orange.
In the afternoon seminar the good Federico Dal Lago takes the chair, illustrating a lot of more and less known aspects that characterize the marbling in beef and in particular its relationship with grilling and plating. In order not to miss anything, he went for a tasting of 3 Kg of Chuck Flap, comparing a top marbled Black Angus with a still excellent national beef. Immediately afterwards, Borgo Condè offered the possibility of a very interesting and passionate visit to its cellars, the real pride of the estate.
Dinner is delayed by half an hour to maintain the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere of the event and to avoid tour de force rhythms. Despite this, the curiosity towards one of the most engaging themes of this edition prompted many participants to reach the room earlier for a chat with us holding a beer in hand, in front of the reverberations of the ofyr reflected by the pouring water of the waterfall in the swimming pool. This is in fact the dinner dedicated to Dia de Los Muertos, the cheerful and “appetizing” Mexican day of the dead. The entree of the Pibipollo on Shiso leaf, the Tamales of semolina and smoked rabbit or the Enchilada Philly Steak were more than well accepted, but the winner of the evening was the Mole with Bitter Chocolate and Rum on Riso al Salto, requested in encore by practically the whole room. The Franca’s Dessert® is very cute and original: an inverted cheesecake, with the crust on the outside, in the shape of a calavera, to stay on topic.
It closes with the usual and last round of spirits for this fourth edition of Campfire Lodge and the appointment is set for the day after, the final one of the event.
After the inevitable good morning sanctioned by the passage on the rich breakfast buffet, further embellished by Franca with a bread cake with dried nuts, we proceed with a seminar so long-awaited because it was originally foreseen in the summer edition and then postponed due to lack of compatibility with August temperatures: the deepening on cold smoking techniques. Together with the participants we analyzed the factors that influence the choice between wet and dry brine, the period of stay in brine or the relationship between humidity and smoking, without, of course, missing salmon or cheese tastings accompanied by freshly prepared focaccia on OONI ovens.
For the final lunch we thought of something really special: an authentic cook out, the traditional North Carolina hangout, naturally based on old style barbecue which in that region means only one thing: Whole Hog! We therefore asked our friend Paolo from BBQ Lab for help to create an original pit for the occasion that could contain a whole hog and that would allow it to be turned on itself easily. There were more than a thousand unknowns on a device we did not know and which was mounted and switched on for the first time precisely for that cooking, yet thanks also to the impeccable supervision of our Eduard Marchesi who monitored the “baby” all night, the The result was exactly what we expected: crispy rind and meat pulled literally under the eyes of the astonished attendants. As usual, everything has been reinterpreted by seasoning the meat with an Italianized North Carolina acetate sauce with Balsamic Vinegar.
We all then sit down at the table to arrive at the time to taste our efforts. Certainly the Whole Hog was the master but it was also the most awaited preparation and therefore probably in the end they surprised more dishes such as the sweet potato salad with Roquefort dressing and sunflower seeds or the Corn Bread with Stracchino and jalapeño. The Franca’s Dessert® in this round was even more focused on the theme, proposing a spectacular Pecan Pie tart whose persistence accompanied all the guests during the due thanks to all the staff for really going out of their way, even more than in others editions, to all the sponsors for having gone far beyond their role as mere “financiers” by intervening in an extremely proactive way to help organize a “complicated” edition and not least to all the participants for always being so “close” to the event and for showing us once again how much they care about this appointment that has now become recurring in the barbecue world and beyond.
The history of Campfire remains constantly evolving and each edition is proposed in an ever new and updated guise with increasingly intriguing gastronomic themes and seminars that are more and more interesting. The next appointment is already set for the Spring Edition 2021 and this time it is the turn to return to Castelfiorentino. If you want to know more, connect to the official event’s page!