Dinner And Drinks At The Gravel Bar And Grill
Published: August 25th, 2016
By: Josh Sheldon

Anyone who has had a child knows how little free time you have as a couple, especially the first months of your baby’s life. It is so nice when you can finally get out and enjoy each other’s company uninterrupted. A dinner date is the best way to get out and enjoy dinner, some drinks and some alone time.

To my faithful readers, who I appreciate so greatly, something probably smells a bit fishy already. You got me. Being as addicted to the outdoors as I am, most of you probably couldn’t see me heading out to the local steak house, or out of town for dinner. Luckily, for me, my love enjoys wild places as much as I do, so it was easy to plan a date that wouldn’t require a tip, well, other than don’t forget the bug spray.

Not all dates require the same amount of work and organization. To some going out for dinner and a movie is great, but what did you really put into the preparations yourself? I choose to live outside the box, which in most cases requires a bit more skill and tact. Planning, organizing and time management must all flow together smoothly, or you will run out of time, forget something or be miserable. Over time, I have become pretty proficient at making outdoor cooking as easy as indoor. In some cases, I feel the meal will taste better just because of the difference in preparation.

Rather than take the expedient route, I chose to make our first date out, after having the baby, special. I was up already to feed him at 3 a.m. so I decided to get an early start. I pulled out the inner loins from every deer I took last season which had been hoarded away in the freezer for a special occasion, none better than now, so I got right to work. I thaw them in hot tap water, but leave them in the zipper bag. It only takes 15 minutes to a half an hour to completely soften them and in the meantime I prepare the marinade. For the best venison steaks ever, try this recipe: Add one egg per cup of vegetable oil. In a mixer or blender, whip the combination until it makes mayonnaise. Then, mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl. I like to use a tablespoon of pepper and Montana steak seasoning along with a salt free seasoning and any other season I choose. Mince whole onion and half a clove of garlic; put it in a large bowl with the wet mix. Add the dry seasonings and ½ to 1 cup of cider vinegar, depending on how much you like it. Stir in steaks to make sure all surfaces have been coated and let sit at least five hours.

I then got the camping grill cleaned and drying and started to organize the boat. By now, you are probably on to me. I got a cooler cleaned and packed with all the dinner essentials and prepared breakfast. When I woke her up, I filled her in on the date plan so she had time to prepare. We were headed down the Chenango with everything needed to have an awesome dinner on the gravel bar of our choice.

The float was calm and relaxing up until right before we were about to get out for dinner. The water was up a bit from recent rains and was moving a bit faster than it had been; I took a small channel which takes a bit of tricky maneuvering to get past. There is a large stump on the left side and a log jam on the right. This creates a pinch point which isn’t much more than five feet wide. As we approached it I hit the left sidewall with my oar, which centers you in the channel and I have done several times this summer already. Unlike the other times, my oar stuck into the wet soil and had to be tugged free. This action caused the canoe, which is 12 feet long, to head broadside to the small gap. She had no clue how dangerous the situation could have been, but I was able to get straightened back up at the last second and avoid being rolled or “tacoing” the canoe.

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We ended up at the sand bar only a minute or two after our hairy situation. I pulled all the kindling, twigs and sticks from the front of the canoe, which had been collected from my lawn after the strong storm had knocked them down. It was pretty much a prebuilt fire. I lit it and in minutes was loading small broken pieces of wood that were retrieved from a nearby log jam into the fire. As the wood broke down into coals, I threw in four aluminum foil wrapped pieces of sweet corn into the fire and placed the grill. Boy, did the steaks cook fast. The fire pit was built in the sand left behind after pitching all the larger stones to the side and held heat great. Half way through grilling, I dip the venison back into the marinade and finish them, to prevent drying.

We ate the steaks and corn, which were both about the best you could ever ask for. Before we knew it, the sun had set and we had to make way to our pickup point. Like many enjoyable moments in life, it was over way too soon. We both can’t wait for the next trip to the bar.

Good wishes, and because I don’t drink, the only time you see me at a bar, is when it’s a gravel bar.