This is the fifth year we have made a pilgrimage to Pine River, MN to drop Griffin at Trout Lake Camp on the Lower Whitefish chain. Idyllic, rustic, active, well fed and free from parental rule for a week, he hangs out with other boys his age, plans his days how he wants and brings enough money to keep himself in ice cream and pop for the whole week. Our only rule on these car trips is to stop at Blackbeard’s Mini Golf in Brainerd to play a round, although today, with temps hovering around 97 degrees, I dropped the two of them off and went to Kohls to look for……anything. I didn’t care what, but I wasn’t interested in mini golf.
We spent about a half an hour at Trout Lake Camp with Griffin before succumbing to the oppresive heat and heading back to the A/C in the car. I pray for them all that the weather breaks by Tuesday as predicted. Their cabin is nice, big windows for cross breezes, but it’s still really darn hot.
I think that no trip should be done through Brainerd without stopping at Moreys Fish Market and Grille. It’s a tiny little store absolutely crammed full of gourmet foods, sauces, crackers, artisan breads, cheeses, seafood and tons of other goodies. There is an extensive counter of smoked fish, an olive bar, a herring bar, (this is Northern MN, ya know!!) a deli, a coffee counter with espresso, all the happenin’ food magazines and plenty of napkins to catch the drool. Plus tables all around for folks to enjoy any number of fish goodies. I wanted some food for the road, I was hungry and unwilling to think about eating in some roadside dive whose menu looks no different than the outfit down the street. I walked the aisles at least three times before finally making my selections; A chunk of dill Havarti cheese, a half pound smoked salmon nuggets, a chunk of smoked trout, a half pound green cerignoli olives, a fourth pound of smoked salmon spread, a bag of three grain chips from Plockys and a bag of cheese/oregano cracker strips. I grabbed two napkin with utensils rolled in them and we ran through the broiler to the car. I couldn’t even wait to get on the road and went diving into the smoked salmon nuggets while Mike filled the gas tank; their sharp, smoky bite spread out over my whole mouth, curling it’s woodsy scent into my nose; my head filling with massive and happy sighs. I spread everything out on my lap as best I could, fished Griffin’s Boy Scout knife from the back seat and we dug in. The salmon spread was out of this world, wood smoked fish just bursting with flavor, chasing a slightly sweet and tangy after taste. It was perfect with the Plockys chips and the cracker strips, which were just loaded with chunks of baked cheese and splotches of oven dried herb. The salmon, oh my…..it was divine, gloriously flavorful and perfectly cooked, leaving barely a hint of oil on my fingers and taking my senses by storm. The trout was meticulously cooked as well, it’s texture was more oily and it’s mild taste was offset by just a hint of it’s smoky exterior. I piled the trout on a cracker with a slice of cheese and handed them to Mike where they promptly disappeared. We scooped into the salmon spread and gnawed through the rich, winey and buttery flesh of the olives, scraping the pits with our teeth to get the last sensational bites. Meanwhile, the parched and desolately dry North country flew by our windows, and good music poured from the speakers. Our immediate hunger was satiated in time, and the remains of our repast were wrapped well and tucked behind the shadiest seat. The temp never fell below 95 degrees outside, and inside, the A/C hummed heartily while we sat in that glorious stupefecation that follows an amazing meal; tummies content, and our favorite person by our side. Road trip food should always be this good, shared with someone you love while God’s country, still beautiful despite all it’s burnt glory, slips by your window and the music fills your soul.