Late-summer in Bend means forest fire season, which puts a temporary freeze on your plans for cuddling by the campfire and roasting hot dogs over an open flame. Right now, all campfires (including charcoal and pellet fires) are prohibited on public and private lands across our bone-dry high desert landscape.
So what’s a campfire lover to do when visiting Bend in late-August and early-September? Here are five ways to get your fix.
Sample some smoky sips
If you can’t enjoy the warmth and aesthetic appeal of a campfire, you can at least enjoy the essence in liquid form.
A relative newcomer to Bend’s culinary scene, Bos Taurus boasts a cocktail guaranteed to give you those feel-good campfire vibes. The Smoked Bos Manhattan features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke. Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. It’s the next best thing to cuddling beside an open flame under the stars.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, pick up a bottle of Smoke Tea Liqueur from Thomas & Sons Distillery (an offshoot of Townshend’s Tea). Described as “a campfire in a bottle,” it gets its flavor from pine-smoked Lapsang Souchong black tea (which is blended with vanilla bean, South African rooibos, and Pacific Northwest blackberry honey). You’ll find a number of cocktail recipes on their website, though I’m partial to sipping it neat as an after-dinner liqueur. You’ll find it in most Bend liquor stores, or at the Townshend’s Tea location in downtown Bend.
If you really want to get serious, Ginger’s Kitchenware in the Old Mill District carries the Fortessa Cocktail Smoking box—a small appliance designed to infuse cocktails and food with a savory, smoky flavor. Cheers!
Spice it up
Craving the flavor of campfire-cooked cuisine, minus the campfire?
Savory Spice sells multiple smoked spices that are great for giving everything from Bloody Marys to grilled chicken and burgers a great smoky taste.
It’s a gas
Pubs along the Bend Ale Trail are famous for their cozy fire pits, but those open fire bans apply to them, too. A few—like Riverbend Brewing, with its cool, contemporary-looking fire feature—have gas-powered flames that aren’t subject to the ban. Step out onto their patio in the evening hours and enjoy a pint of their Oregonized Love IPA.
Several Bend eateries and shopping areas also boast gas and propane-powered fire pits. In the Old Mill District, you’ll find a massive gas-powered fire pit outside Greg’s Grill, three smaller pits beside Anthony’s, another small pit beside the Naked Winery tasting room, and several vertical fire structures at Pastini Pastaria. While current smoke levels from area wildfires make outdoor dining inadvisable right this moment, expect that to change as soon as blazes are under control and our air quality returns to normal.
Have your s’mores and eat ‘em, too
One of the best things about camping is the magical combination of toasty marshmallows sandwiched between crisp graham crackers and oh-so-perfectly melted chocolate.
If you can’t shake your s’mores craving, drive to Brasada Ranch where you can cap off your meal at Range or Ranch House with gourmet s’mores delivered right to your table.
These are no ordinary s’mores, mind you. They feature locally-made chocolate from Goody’s Chocolates and marshmallows made fresh daily by Brasada Ranch’s award-winning chef. He also makes the graham crackers from scratch with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and honey.
Want to smell like campfire?
Wind conditions and the tireless toil of firefighters across our region means smoke conditions in Bend are changing constantly. That said, it’s been a hazy couple of weeks in Central Oregon, and doctors have advised folks to be watchful of air quality (especially if you have asthma, emphysema, or other similar health conditions).
Keep an eye on the Department of Environmental Quality website to assess whether current conditions make it wise for you venture into Bend’s outdoors on any given day.
If you decide to head out, there’s a good chance a fifteen minute walk around the block will leave your clothes and hair smelling delightfully like a campfire. It’s almost like camping, right?
But if that’s not your jam, check out this blog post featuring 13 fabulous indoorsy activities to enjoy in Bend until our air is fresh and clean once more.