What you feed your clients can go a long way into making or breaking a trip. I feel that the quality of your food shows your clients how much effort you have put into the trip. With this most recent trip I enlisted the help of my father-in-law Frank. For those of you that know Frank this will not surprise you. The day before the trip I planned on going out onto the lake to scout and to check temperatures and flows coming out of the river. I planned on only being gone in the morning so I could begin cooking at a reasonable time. Well by the time I came home the baked beans were in the oven and the smell was amazing. At that point I was at ease with how the food would come out. Frank always talks about wanting to be a cook at a lodge and I do not think that that would be a bad idea. I for sure will be enlisting his help in the future.
We planned on cooking a fish chowder for this trip as well. After spending the morning on the lake with the cool temperatures and wind I know I would appreciate a warm chowder or stew to keep my spirits up. The big issue in my house when it comes to fish or fish smell is my wife. She hates anything to do with the smell of fish. Kind of a funny situation as I am a fishing guide. Been dealing with that our whole relationship. No worries except for the time when she had to use my truck and I forgot to tell her that I had a brook trout on the floor board on the passenger side that I was about to take out. The look on her face kind of made me chuckle until I saw that other look on her face and I cleaned the whole truck for her. I love my wife. Best thing in my life. So I will work around this.
A simple solution to the aforementioned problem was to cook the chowder outside on my two burner propane stove at the entrance to my garage. As I did not have a lake trout to add to my chowder I wanted to make a better stock. I added the carcass of the salmon I had filleted for the chowder and just added water. On a hard boil it was no time before I had a nice broth and had cooked off the rest of the meat along the smaller bones. The rest of the chowder consisted of haddock, potatoes, salt pork and heavy cream. There are other parts to this recipe, but you will have to come along on a trip with me to find out the rest. Not many anglers like the taste of lake trout, but I have begun to appreciate the quality of the meat for a chowder. It took me a long time to bring myself to cook another one as when I was a kid my brother and I steamed one like we did for salmon. I can still remember the awful taste of mud and the sheer disappointment of wasting a nice fish. That type of memory stays with you for a while. It really was a disaster.
This chowder came out very nicely and we even had my neighbors come over and give it a try. I loved having them over to try something that was very important to me. They both gave their approval and the chowder was set. Chowder only gets better the longer it is before you eat it. That was my hope at least for this trip. Next were the skillet biscuits. One would not think that just a few ingredients put together would be so delicious, but these turned out wonderful. Just remember after you take them out of the oven they are still cooking so as not to burn the bottoms. Lastly spread a thin layer of butter on them to take them over the top.
One would ask if the hours of prep are worth it just for a brief moment in the trip. I would say that this could make or break the trip. Bad food would leave a lasting negative memory for any trip. Even if the fishing was tremendous there would always be the effect of the food. I will have to say even though I am always focused on how the fishing will be for my clients I stress an exponential amount about how the food will turn out and be received. This past trip did not disappoint. After being tossed around the lake with high winds and large swells it was nice to get out of the wind and dig into some warm delicious food. You know the food is good when everyone gets really quiet for a longer than normal time and even after eating there is a satiated look on our faces. I would say it was a good meal when my clients said I should begin offering guided nap trips as we all could have taken naps after the meal. I might just look into that in the future.