There is a small island in the Delta Region of Northern California that conjures up wonderful childhood memories for me. It is a simple, yet special location, and the closest I manage to kinda-sorta ‘camping’ – boat camping. While it may not seem like reality, the scope of ‘tents’ range from mega yachts to small sail boats. No cell phones are allowed, and there is only one TV on the island for the guests that make reservations well in advance to stay in the ‘light house’ (there are approximately 4-5 rooms in this locale). There is no grocery store on the island, and guests typically have their own small run-about or take the complimentary ferry over from King Island. This year, as a new addition, we found that there are now weekend bar tenders walking around to take your drink and/or snack bar order – but for the most part you have to bring what you want to eat and drink.
As a child I often wondered if this was anything like all of the posh East Coast spots I had heard the yachties speak about – Maratha’s Vineyard, The Cape, or Newport Rhode Island. Having grown up sailing on San Francisco Bay and taking a few summer sailing camps at the island I have spent a nice amount of time at this hide-away during the summer months. As I have grown-up, my love for this place has also grown deeper. Since returning as an adult, I recall all of the fond times spent with my Dad, Step Mother and brother running around with large bamboo sticks for the bonfire marshmallow roast, swimming endless hours in the pool, writing in my diary, playing dominoes (Dad’s favorite- don’t beat him he just isn’t made for loosing), backgammon, fishing, hunting crawdads (BTW-they like salami or other meat), water skiing, sailing, reading books and listening to music…..the memories abound! I’ll close the chapter on this aspect of memory lane, and not bore you further, as it truly is time to talk food. The focus of this post is on meal planning – while my friend Jane Maynard, of This Week for Dinner, does a great job of posting weekly menus, I felt inspired to share my humble attempt at this camping menu. The menu worked well and we ended up with very few things to take home with pleased fully bellies all around.
Camping doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a bit of gourmet, au contraire.
- dinner: Kobe steak kabobs with zucchini, red bell pepper and Maui onions (the vegetables were bushed with olive oil and rosemary. The meat was seasoned with salt and pepper only), field greens and whole wheat baguette served with a crisp white wine from Portugal
- dessert: watermelon au natural, ice cold
- breakfast: cheesy scrambled eggs with fire roasted veggies and skillet butter toast
- lunch: honey roasted turkey grilled cheese sandwiches
- appetizers: salami with cream cheese, roasted garlic hummus with carrots and celery
- dinner: honey marinated chili chicken breasts; Yukon gold potato/onion herb packets; white corn on the cob brushed with paprika butter; romaine salad with carrots, Capri tomatoes, and home made croutons served with a crisp white wine from Portugal
- dessert: s’mores and coffee
- breakfast: steel cut oatmeal with caramelized bananas served with fresh fruit salad (plums, white peaches, nectarines, apples) oh yes, and left over s’mores because it is vacation!
Upon leaving the island, we drove to our favorite spot in Stockton for lunch and had killer sweet potato fries, decadent milk shakes, delicious burgers with grilled onions and secret sauce- Moo Moo’s Burger Barn.
But when we arrived back home, we just couldn’t let the vacation feeling escape us, so we immediately invited some family over for dinner. The menu was simple, yet fresh and reeked of summer! BBQ’d sword fish, baked potatoes and some fresh greens.
Oh wait, what’s that you say? You wanted a recipe? Well, I had a feeling…but it is summer and I like to keep things on the simple side.
Corn & Black Bean Salad
5 ears of corn, shucked (approx 2 cups)
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
3 TBS cider vinegar
3 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
4 whole bell peppers, sliced in half (this is your serving bowl, parboiling them is a plus if camping equipment permits)
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 lime, juiced
1 (4 oz) container, crumbled Feta (optional)
1/2 cup basil, finely chopped plus additional basil (garnish, optional)
Husk corn and rinse. Heat grill to 350F.
Shuck corn and remove all strings, place in foil and crimp edges tightly to retain moisture. BBQ corn packets for 20 minutes, turn every 10 minutes. Remove corn from foil for the last 10 minutes and allow to brown, turning regularly.
Note: Length of cooking time will vary depending on the tenderness, variety and age of the corn – some types of corn may be done in half the time.
Immediately immerse corn in cold water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob.
In a large-size bowl, add all remaining ingredients and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.
A bit more history I dug up while writing this post that I wanted to share for those of you still interested in learning/reading more about Tinsley Island.
In 1955, the U.S. Coast Guard automated the light and fog horn mechanisms, and the main building of the Carquinez Strait Lighthouse was sold to a private party who, in 1957, moved the building by barge up the Strait to its present position at Elliot Cove, overlooking the scenic marina. Of the seventeen original lighthouse buildings, only two others remain in existence: the St. Francis Yacht Club on Tinsley Island, and the East Brothers lighthouse in San Pablo Bay (now a bed and breakfast establishment). Tinsley Island is located at latitude – longitude coordinates of N 38.0377 and W -121.49578
More great photos and historical information can be found at California’s Majestic Lighthouse’s blog.