Fine dining in the backcountry of Truckee-Tahoe
Adventure Dining Guide’s owner Michelle Shea has made it her mission to bring culinary expertise to the outdoors by spreading the word about easy-to-make backcountry meals.
Filling her pack with lightweight ingredients and cooking equipment, Shea can hike in enough food to feed roughly 10 people, while miles from civilization.
Since creating her outdoor cooking website, adventurediningguide.com, Shea has hosted a few cooking events around the area where she takes guests out on a hike, and then shows them how to prepare meals in the wilderness.
After partnering with Tahoe City’s Alpenglow Sports for an event during the Summer Mountain Festival, Shea has branched out on her own. She hosted the first of her summer pop-up cooking events on Wednesday, July 19, where participants met her on a hike to upper Dollar Creek for pulled pork sliders, a version of macaroni and cheese made with couscous, and a dessert of chocolate tapioca pudding.
Shea was inspired to start Adventure Dining Guide after her time as a professional snowboarder. While globetrotting to different countries for competitions, she said seeing different cultures and their eating styles prompted her to put away the trail bars and packages of ramen noodles in favor of something a little more extravagant.
After putting together dozens of easy-to-cook backcountry recipes on her website, Shea began hosting pop-up cooking demonstrations to spread the word about outdoor dining.
Using a single-burner Jetboil stove, she began the meal by boiling water from nearby Dollar Creek, and then added in couscous, powdered milk, and olive oil.
“Of course to make mac and cheese, you need a whole bunch of cheese,” she said. “What’s great about cheese in the backcountry is that hard cheese lasts unrefrigerated for a week if you treat it right. If you’re using a Parmesan or a Romero — something that’s really a dense cheese without a lot of water, it will stay fresh for a long time, so you can use it for a lot of great recipes.”
Keeping ingredients from spoiling provides a huge benefit, which is why another of Shea’s backcountry staples is pickled coleslaw.
“I did a ton of research because I wanted to find a way to bring vegetables into the backcountry for a couple of days,” Shea said. “Pickling is an ancient method of preservation, and with the Ziploc container you’re getting that same type of pickling environment if you can remove all of the air from it, because air is what causes bacteria growth. If you remove all of the air and just have the vegetables immersed in the water and the vinegar, then the pickling process is happening. You can do it for a week and not have to refrigerate it as long as it’s never opened and never exposed to air … when you’re done you can drink the pickling liquid, and that’s rehydrating and really awesome for you.”
For the main course of the pop-up dining event Shea whipped up pulled pork sliders on flat bread. Using pork sung — a dehydrated pork product — she added water, a dash of barbecue sauce and seasoning, quickly cooking up the food on the Jetboil for a lightweight meal that could easily feed a handful of people.
The evening was capped off by making chocolate tapioca pudding on the Jetboil stove, and then letting it cool and thicken in the high mountain air for a tasty dessert.
“We’re going to do another (demonstration) at the end of this month, hopefully,” Shea said. “It’s all weather dependent … and the first week in August, date to be determined. If they sign up for the email at adventureguidedining.com, that’s the first people to find out (about future dates).”
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As sunny weather heats up and California begins to lift most mask and capacity restrictions, there’s plenty of activities opening up for families to do this Father’s Day weekend.