Feasting By Firelight

Wil Weiss

When the fog rolls into East Hampton’s Northwest Woods, it cloaks everything. By 6 PM, when we gathered at Terra Glamping, the Cedar Point project that opened this season, a thick mist had already settled on the campground. Shot backwards in time, I was, for just a moment, a kid again in Maine, where, for five summers, I was a sleepaway camper just outside of Augusta. Back then, gray, foggy evenings were my milieu.

Of course, this wasn’t sleepaway camp, regardless of the similarities. The air felt August-dense, just like it used to back on Lake Cobbosseecontee, and there was a willful smell of smoke and citronella in the air, the former the consequence of the Chef at Large for Cobram Estate olive oil, Chef Kevin O’Connor’s cooking, all executed on Panoram Imports traditional Argentinian asado-style cookware. Hosted by The Independent and Zachary Weiss, our “dining room” was a long table in a cleared grove of trees, where twinkling bulbs provided light as dark set in. A corner bar served refreshments from Simple Vodka, Bears Fruit Kombucha, Out East rosé, Ardbeg scotch, and Whitley Neill Handcrafted Gin.

Before dark, Chef O’Connor passed around grilled Peeko oysters on wooden planks. Still warm, the briny, plump bivalves came doused with a roast tomato harissa that practically tingled on the tongue. Peeko oysters hail from Little Peconic Bay, the sole oyster from New Suffolk, on the North Fork. Normally, I prefer my oysters raw, and virtually unadorned, but I’d take regular exception for these, which were more of a composed dish. They were smoky and savory — and I could have devoured each one. But, looking at the ducks, pinned between grates, I knew better than to waste too much space.

Eventually, the light disappeared, and we relied on tree-strung bulbs and candlelight and the reflection from our glassware. Once seated, the food, all cooked with ample helpings of Woodland, CA’s Cobram Estate’s artisanal olive oil — the most awarded in the world — arrived to our long table family-style. Chef O’Connor came to introduce the dishes and then went back to tend to the fire, as we turned our attention to the task at hand.

Two-inch-thick flatbreads, slick with olive oil and dusted with a seaweed dukkha, tasted of the fire over which it was cooked. Next came grilled bitter greens with a pepper conserva; a whole-roasted striped bass with a creamy green bean slaw; fatty Long Island duck, skin bursting; creamed corn from Balsam Farms with mushrooms from Open Minded Organics, all topped with local popcorn; and, to close, grilled Amber Waves peaches atop hulking, melting slabs of Mecox Bay Dairy’s Atlantic Mist cheese. That final dish felt decadent in a way that summer is: inexplicably simple, inexplicably delicious.

Each guest received a gift bag to take home, including a bottle of Cobram Estate olive oil, which is an incredible finishing oil: fruity, decadent, elegant. Now perched on my counter, it’s a reminder of an August evening, smoke rising from a campsite, or embers fading as we retreated to our cars, stomachs at capacity. I would have liked nothing more, in fact, than to dance lazily back to a campsite of my own, to relive my own camper days, where a deck of cards and a flashlight was enough indeed. In fact, it was more than enough. But it was time to go.

Into the fog I headed, down the winding road that connects Cedar Point with the rest of Northwest Woods. By the time we left, the campgrounds were quiet. I had forgotten, my camp days so far in the past, how dark changed the landscape of a campground. One thing I’m not likely to forget: that molten Atlantic Mist, salty next to those toothsome, sweet peaches. After all, why would I want to?

To read about the August 24 brunch event, click here.

More from Our Sister Sites