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Originally published May 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 31, 2007 at 3:12 AM

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Gather 'round the haute-grub campfire

The tents are spacious; according to reports some are lined with antique saris and Persian carpets, and some feature fluffy down comforters...

Seattle Times Food staff

The tents are spacious; according to reports some are lined with antique saris and Persian carpets, and some feature fluffy down comforters tossed over mattresses that never touch the ground.

It's known as "glamping," or glamorous camping, a British import inspired by A-listers who wanted to be in touch with nature without touching the dirt and dishes. Their needs are catered to in various locales by enterprising adventure groups, and the experience could cost up to $4,000 — for three nights.

The trend is filtering down to the masses throughout the United Kingdom and Canada. Even the traditional Marks & Spencer department store is putting a bit of glamour on its camping gear with pretty portable barbecues and matching tents.

On this side of the pond, Aida Mollenkamp, food editor at chow.com, thinks the increasing stress in our lives has triggered a desire to escape to the outdoors. But she and her staff have focused on the food, not the frills, with a series of recipes and tips they've tagged "haute grub," which merges camping and cuisine into a more accessible style.

Chow's test kitchen is in full swing every day, and recipes published on the site are tested three to five times. But this project had specific goals: The recipes, developed with the car camper in mind, had to be both delicious and easy to make while camping.

So the staff packed up the kitchen equipment and sleeping bags, testing, tasting and refining the recipes several times over campfires in the wild.

And they came up with some winners, such as Boozy Campfire Cheese, a clever twist on baked brie, and a smoky Campfire Trout with Herbs and Bacon — two worthy successors to S'mores and charred hotdogs.

Here are some tips for luxurious but practical campground eating from the editors at chow.com:

Foods

Choose foods that are suitable for open-fire cooking, such as single-serving cuts like small fish, steaks or burgers. This is not the time for turkey.

Make more food than you think you need, and recycle your leftovers and extra ingredients in subsequent meals, such as breakfast bacon in lunchtime sandwiches, or a hot couscous side dish from dinner transformed into a pasta salad for lunch by adding a vinaigrette.

Bring lots of snacks. You can never have enough trail mix and other things to munch on. Stick to items that are not temperature-sensitive or highly perishable. Also, make sure you store things in containers (such as Tupperware) that are harder for nonhuman campsite visitors to open.

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Stick to low-maintenance/no fuss items; stay away from things like desserts that need major assembly or a whole chicken that requires constant tending as it cooks.

The fire

Plan your meal around how the fire burns, and don't be impatient with it. Build it, let it go. Don't cook in direct flames but instead over the hot, smoldering logs that remain after large flames have died down. And remember, the embers are great for whipping up late-night snacks like our campfire cheese.

Useful equipment

• Grilling grate with legs to stand over the fire

• Small cutting board or camping cutting board

• One chef's knife and one small paring knife (clean it well to avoid cross-contamination)

• Camp stove for boiling water or making one-pot meals like pastas and couscous

• Colander for rinsing veggies and fruit

• 2 bus tubs or large plastic boxes

• Sponge/biodegradable soap

• Fireproof skewers

• A standing mesh cover to keep bugs off food

• Two sets of tongs, one for stoking the fire and another for handling the food

• Paper serving plate, paper towels, plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags and trash bags

Be smart about what equipment you bring, and don't bring too much; one measuring cup, one mixing bowl, a cast-iron pan and one pot should just about do it. You'll be able to reuse most items.

Note: Be sure to know the fire restrictions at your camp site and what wildlife you might encounter — some parks advise against preparing aromatic foods for fear of attracting wildlife.

CeCe Sullivan: csullivan@seattletimes.com

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