From Camp Food To Glamp Food

Sure, the idea of cooking over a campfire can sound romantic — but really think about it. Step one: you’ll need to light a fire. For the semi-capable outdoors men, this should be a walk in the park. Well, except for the fact that you’ll most likely need to haul in your own firewood, and that’s if the area you’re camping in allows campfires in the first place. Next up: the food. Depending on how gourmet you want to get (a can of beans and a hot dog just won’t cut it), you’ll need to plan a campfire friendly menu and bring all the supplies with you, most likely in a heavy cooler. Exhausted yet? Don’t worry, I won’t even talk about the pots, pans, utensils and how to clean them all after they’re dirty. The answer to your camp cooking dilemma — glamping.

Yes — while roughing it on your own in the woods (including cooking your own meals) can be a rewarding experience, why not elevate your next camping trip to a glamping trip and sit back and relax while your camp butler toasts you the perfect marshmallow for your s’more. And yes, I just said camp butler.

Now that I have your attention, here are just four (of endless) glamping dining experiences worth salivating over. But proceed with caution; you’re likely to never pull out that old camp stove again after reading about these:

The Resort at Paws Up, a 35,000 acre ranch in southwestern Montana, is a culinary beacon within one of America’s most wild settings. Aside from the series of culinary events which Paws Up put on every year, like Montana Master Grillers and Montana Master Chefs, the property offers dining experiences that’ll “wow” even the most seasoned glamper. During warm weather months, you’ll be treated to a massive buffet lunch at Chuck Wagon, an outdoor dining are set along the crystal clear Blackfoot River, where chefs smoke and grill every kind of meat imaginable. Back at your luxury campsite, your camp chef will whip up a gourmet dinner and your camp butler will toast you the perfect marshmallow for your s’more.

Australia’s outback is one of the world’s most unforgiving places — except if you’re staying at Longitude 131. As the outback’s premier luxury glamping destination, Longitude 131 offers plush accommodations, views of Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock, the sacred site for resident Aboriginals) and one of Australia’s most memorable dining experiences. Dinner at Table 131° will find you and your dining partner sitting at a private outdoor table while the sun sets, candles flicker and one of the most stunning starry skies reveals itself above you. While it may be hard to concentrate on the food, you’ll be treated to a delicious three course meal and plenty of fine Australian wine.

Nestled deep in the Costa Rican rainforest, Finca Bellavista is comprised of a series of tree houses located high in the tree tops where guests zoom by on zip lines and local flora and fauna serve as entertainment. But back on the ground, Finca Bellavista takes their food seriously. To get in touch with mother earth (as if living in a tree wasn’t enough) you’ll be able to tour and tend to the property’s substantial gardens with a resident gardener. After harvesting a selection of the day’s bounty, you’ll then head to the community kitchen for a cooking class where a chef will teach you how to make empanadas, picadillo, soups and more using your garden fresh ingredients.

It’s no surprise that Four Seasons Bora Bora, a resort that is synonymous with the word honeymoon, is home to some of the world’s most romantic dining experiences. While private dining can be arranged in your over-water bungalow or on a secluded stretch of beach, for the most romantic dinner in the South Pacific you’ll want to choose the Four Seasons Bora Bora’s private island dinner experience. You and that special someone will be rowed by canoe to a small private island where champagne and canapés await. As the sun sets, you’ll be treated to a decadent meal created specifically by the Executive Chef after a previously arranged personal consultation. And as if the night couldn’t get any more spectacular, you’ll end your meal watching a private Polynesian fire dance performance.

Photo Credits: The Resort at Paws Up, Longitude 131, Finca Bellavista by Anders Berch, Four Seasons Bora Bora.

Montana Master Chefs at The Resort at Paws Up

There are certain destinations that have topped the culinary bucket lists of countless travelers for decades. Perhaps somewhat cliché, that list includes Tokyo for the finest sushi, Paris for the most buttery croissants, Buenos Aires for flawless sirloin steak, New York City for the best pizza, and this list goes on.

Then there’s Montana, known for its delicious…wait, what exactly is Montana known for? Sure Montana may not be top of mind when planning your culinary pilgrimages, but it should be — especially if The Resort at Paws Up has anything to do with it.

While any given day in Montana provides plenty of opportunities to devour some of America’s tastiest and most perfectly prepared beef, bison and elk, as well as endless huckleberry creations like buckwheat pancakes with huckleberry syrup, The Resort at Paws Up’s program of world class culinary events will provide the extra incentive you’ll need to get on a plane to Missoula.

About The Resort at Paws Up

paws up resort exterior

Set on 37,000 acres in southwestern Montana, The Resort at Paws Up is a luxury working cattle ranch perhaps best known for its apartment-sized glamping “tents.” But there’s also the palatial Wilderness Estates (aka big log homes), 10 miles of the legendary Blackfoot River and endless activities, like rappelling, ATVing, horseback riding, fly fishing and sport clay shooting. Essentially, it’s the incarnation of your childhood wild west imaginings, except with king-sized beds, spa treatments and champagne.

Montana Master Chefs


While The Resort at Paws Up’s kitchen is usually under the command of the talented and creative Chef Ben Jones (formerly of The Peninsula Chicago), there is one weekend a year where a new crop of America’s best chefs take the reins — and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

For Montana Master Chefs, held every year at the end of September, the resort flies in select contestants who have competed on the show Top Chef, to cook for and entertain guests. This year, top chefs included Kelly Liken, Brooke Willamson, Elizabeth Binder and Ariane Duarte, who split into pairs and created incredible three course dinners on the first two nights of the program (Thursday and Friday). Each course was paired with carefully selected wine which was presented by the winemakers themselves. The weekend also included a feast of a lunch at Chuck Wagon, an outdoor dining area set along the Blackfoot River which featured lamb shanks cooked over a campfire, bison chili, cornbread, grilled vegetables and so much more.


But the centerpiece of the Montana Master Chefs weekend was the Top Chef-style cook-off competition which pitted three of the chefs (this year’s contenders were Kelly Liken, Brooke Willamson, Elizabeth Binder) against one and other in a battle royal. With a sous chef selected from the audience and a big timer on the wall counting down, chefs endured challenges like having to take shots of whisky (twice), not being able to speak and cooking with one hand.


Each chef prepared an appetizer, entree and dessert and presented it to a panel of three judges, which included me (it was a really good day). One plate from each course was then auctioned off to the highest bidding member of the audience by a professional cattle auctioneer. The owners of the ranch then doubled, and in one case tripled, the winning bids, resulting in over $14,000 being raised for the Missoula Food Bank.

A highlight from the competition: elk being the secret ingredient in the entree round. In all three chefs’ creations, it was prepared perfectly rare and served like a piece of art.

More Culinary Events

Montana Master Grillers – Every year over Memorial Day weekend, Paws Up turns into most American males’ idea of heaven. Chefs specializing in grilling and BBQ cooking, smokologists, brewers, winemakers and distillers descend upon the resort to treat guests to grilled lunches and dinners, craft beer, wine and bourbon. Sign me up.

Oktoberfeast – In between cattle drives and fly fishing, you’ll try your hand at sauerkraut making and charcuterie preparation, drink all the local craft beer you want and chow down on German-inspired dinners.

Upper Crust – Run every October over Columbus Day weekend, guests will spend their days learning to make the perfect pie and baking a variety of delicious cookies under the guidance of expert pastry chefs. Of course, there’ll still be plenty of time to head out on adventures and to pig out on your crusty creations.

Long Table Dinners – These three, one-night events held in June, July and August, bring guests together at a single long (very long) table set in unique, outdoor locations around the ranch. You’ll dine on a meal made of local ingredients and meet the purveyors of the meal’s food and drink at a pre-dinner farmer’s market.

Extreme Outdoors

Sitting on a beach. Walking tours. Visiting Museums.

Did simply reading that first line nearly put you to sleep? I nearly feel asleep writing it. Let’s try this again.

Helicopter rides. White water rafting. Off-roading.

If reading that line spiked your heart rate, I’d reckon you’re longing for a good old fashioned outdoor adventure. But not just any romp in the wilderness, you fancy something a little more extreme. Well my thrill-seeking friend, you are far from alone.

In fact, more travelers than ever before are ditching their Mai Tais, walking shoes and audio guides for water bottles, hiking boots and helmets as they seek out the thrills of adventure travel. This thirst for heart-pounding activities has turned adventure travel into a $263 billion a year industry (that doesn’t include the $82 billion spent on related adventure gear, apparel and accessories) and the fastest growing segment of the leisure travel industry according to a 2013 study conducted by George Washington University.

While extreme outdoor adventure can, in some cases, be found near traditional hotels, why would you just dip your toe into the great outdoors when you could jump all the way in? Why drive into nature for only a few hours when you could stay, eat, sleep, and play in nature 24-hours a day?

That’s where glamping comes in. With glamping, you can experience the comforts of a hotel, all while being within the epicenter of the outdoor adventures you’re seeking. And the sounds of crickets, babbling brooks and crackling campfires, those won’t be coming from a sound machine.

So to get you thinking about your wild escape, here are just a few epic outdoor activities and a sampling of properties that’ll let you release your inner adrenaline junky like never before.

Helicopter Adventures

PHOTO 1 Image Credit “Nimmo Bay Website”

For the ultimate in helicopter adventures, look no further than Nimmo Bay, a tiny, family-owned wilderness resort located in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Here, you can heli fly fish, heli kayak, heli stand up paddle board, heli hike or just heli picnic. What exactly does that mean? It means you and your provided gear will be picked up by a chopper and flown to remote and pristine locations to fly fish, kayak, paddle board, hike or dine. Now that’s extreme!


PHOTO 2 Image Credit “The Resort at Paws Up Website”

Picture this: you’re standing on the edge of a 170 foot cliff, the Blackfoot River tumbles by below and beyond that, a picture perfect Montana valley-scape. This is the scene for your rappelling adventure at The Resort at Paws Up. With harness and ropes secure, you turn around, back facing the 170 drop below, and take your first step off and down the cliff. A few leaps and bounds later, you’ll be at the bottom smiling from ear to ear ready to do it again.

Hot Air Ballooning

PHOTO 3 Image Credit “Mahali Mzuri Website”

The views on the ground at Sir Richard Branson’s safari camp, Mahali Mzuri, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve are legendary (from the comfort of your tent’s balcony you’ll see giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and more). But gently and quietly float hundreds of feet above the ground in a hot air balloon at sunrise, and this landscape, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring, will truly get your heart racing like never before.


PHOTO 4 Image Credit “ Brush Creek Ranch Website”

If your idea of a extreme outdoor adventure calls for a little more firepower, then hunting at Wyoming’s The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is for you. Amidst massages and fine dining, you can head out into the 30,000 acre property with expert guides to hunt for ducks, deer, antelope, elk and more. The trill of the hunt never felt this good.

River & Ocean Kayaking

PHOTO 5 Image Credit:Credit “Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Website”

While Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located on west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has it all (from heli adventures, to rock climbing, to fishing and horseback riding), don’t pass up the opportunity to hone your kayaking skills under the supervision of expert guides. Whether you want to learn to navigate small rapids or paddle in search of bears, whales and eagles, you’ll end your day feeling even more confident for tomorrow’s extreme adventures.

Main Image Credit:“ Brush Creek Ranch Website”