Food and the outdoors have always been intertwined in Emma Frisch’s life. Growing up, she spent summers on the trail near her home in Connecticut or holidays with her family in the Italian Dolomites, enjoying spectacular nature and her mother’s inspired cooking.
Now, after several years working as a chef and being immersed in the hospitality industry, Frisch, the co-founder of Firelight Camps, a Rev: Ithaca Startup Works member company, has found the perfect vehicle for merging those two interests. On April 10, she will publish “Feast by Firelight: Simple Recipes for Camping, Cabins, and the Great Outdoors,” a new cookbook containing 75 recipes for cooking outside, including many recipes she has invented over the years for Firelight events and impromptu fireside meals.
“The cookbook is the merging of all my passions—food, community, and the great outdoors—under one tent, so to speak,” said Frisch. “I’ve been immersed in food for a long time, but it wasn’t until Firelight that I was able to figure out my point of view–which really boils down to being surrounded with good people and preparing great meals, often in a simple way over the campfire.”
Firelight Camps was founded by Frisch and her husband Bobby (MBA ’13, Sustainable Global Enterprise) in 2014, after the latter received his graduate degree in management from Cornell University. Located near Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, NY, the camp offers a “glamping” experience, in which guests enjoy the outdoors—typically hiking at Buttermilk or Taughannock falls and lakeside wine tasting—while also relaxing in one of the camp’s nineteen plush, safari-style tents.
The idea for Firelight came to the couple several years ago as they were moving back to the states from Nicaragua, where they’d spent five years running a hotel and restaurant.
“We knew we wanted to start another hotel concept, but something that would be even closer to the ground and more ecofriendly,” said Frisch.
As they were thinking up their next idea during Bobby’s graduate studies, they stumbled upon the concept of “glamping” through a good friend, who at the time was creating makeshift, upscale campsites at music festivals across the United States.
“Seeing that gave us the idea for a hotel made up entirely of tents, which for us, as outdoors people—I’m a rock climber and a former guide—made so much sense as a way to help people get around the campfire together,” she explained.
After initially looking at locating their hotel in the Hudson Valley to be closer to New York City, they decided to stay in the Finger Lakes following Bobby’s graduation.
“We had already built community here and we really loved the area,” she said. “We see huge potential for the Finger Lakes. It’s booming, in terms of the culinary and craft beverage scene, and the outdoor tourism is amazing. So we decided to take what we thought was a risk at the time, by not being within two hours of a major city. But it has gone so well; we’ve seen extremely high demand.”
That demand is reflected in the fact that Firelight Camps is currently fully booked during the upcoming summer months, when visitors will come from New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Toronto and several other locations near and far to experience the Finger Lakes’ dynamism and natural beauty.
“The region has changed,” Frisch said. “So many new businesses have been created since we opened. I see the caliber of the area rising up to meet metropolitan standards, while retaining the uniqueness of the Finger Lakes, that authentic back-to-the-roots vibe that so many urban people are seeking.”
Feast by Firelight features a wide range of recipes, drawing from different periods of Frisch’s life and tying in themes of homegrown and outdoor cooking that have developed through the hotel. While it is difficult for Frisch to single out recipes, she highlighted a couple that are her favorites— the Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Bowl (recipe below) and Fire Licked Skirt Steak with Mammas Salsa Verde.
“The breakfast bowl is so easy and delicious, and a total crowd pleaser,” she said. “It’s something that people can really adapt to their palette, and it’s a nice variation on power oatmeal.”
Referring to the steak, she added: “The sauce that I use is my mom’s recipe, which was originally featured in Bon Appetit the year I was born (1984). It’s an Italian recipe that’s been passed down in our family. The fire-licked steak and sauce was one of the first things I made for guests at Firelight on a whim, and it’s very reflective of the kinds of recipes I’m trying to create: simple, quick and easy, without sacrificing flavor.”
Like many Rev member companies, the couple’s Cornell connections run deep. In addition to Bobby’s graduate studies, he previously served as an eLab fellow, helping run the program for entrepreneur-minded students. Meanwhile, Emma has worked with the Cornell Agricultural Sciences Department and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and the two have been involved professionally and socially with the local entrepreneurship scene for years. When Rev officially opened in 2013, it was natural that they’d become a part of the community. Frisch said that the support from fellow entrepreneurs in Ithaca is encouraging to them as they lay the groundwork for their second property, which they hope to open in the Catskills in 2019 or 2020.
“Rev has been amazing,” said Frisch. “We always say that no matter how big we grow, we always want to be working at Rev.” She laughs. “It’s such a wonderful community and has been so supportive helping us get the word out. We love connecting with other entrepreneurs and learning about other businesses. There’s a like-minded community here, and it’s wonderful to feel that entrepreneurial spirit and energy, which keeps you going when you take this alternative path.”
Please join Emma Frisch in celebrating the publishing of “Feast by Firelight” at the official launch party at Ithaca Beer Co. on Sunday April 14 from 1-4pm. Attendees will have the very first taste of the recipes inside and be able to purchase a signed copy of the cookbook.
COCONUT-QUINOA BREAKFAST BOWL WITH LEMON AND BLUEBERRIES
prep: 10 minutes cook: 20 minutes yield: 4 servings
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or a mix
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
3⁄4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably sel gris)
1 cup fresh blueberries or other seasonal fruit
1 cup quinoa (see Note)
11⁄4 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (Note: Use whole coconut milk, full of good fat and flavor. Light coconut milk has added water.)
2 tablespoons honey
Good-bye, oatmeal. Hello, quinoa breakfast bowl. Inspired by a recipe from cookbook author Heidi Swanson, this healthful, energizing, protein-rich breakfast masquerades as a decadent dish you’ll want to eat all day! It’s fun to set up a toppings buffet so each camper can make his or her own bowl. If traveling light, you can substitute dried fruit for fresh fruit. Bring a can of coconut milk, and save extra for adding to coffee or drizzling over Firelight Quinoa Granola Clusters (page 40).
PREP Preheat the oven to 325°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the nuts, coconut oil, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt and spread in a single layer. Toast in the oven until the nuts turn caramel brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a second baking sheet and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks.
- Transfer the prepared nuts and the berries to small bowls with spoons for self-serving, or serve directly out of the containers.
- In a medium pot, combine the quinoa, water, and 3⁄4 cup of the coconut milk. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 12 minutes. Quickly uncover the pot and stir the quinoa to check if it’s done; the liquid should be completely absorbed and the quinoa full and fluffy. If needed, continue to cook for 1 to 3 minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and cover the pot to keep warm.
- Just before serving, drizzle the remaining 1⁄4 cup coconut milk and the honey into the quinoa and stir to combine. Using a Microplane, grate lemon zest over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Spoon into campers’ bowls and let each camper top their quinoa with blueberries and toasted nuts. Store leftovers in an airtight container, chilled, for up to 5 days.
Note: Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponin. Nowadays, most quinoa is prerinsed to remove the saponin, but to maximize flavor and be sure it’s not bitter, follow these steps:
In a pan over medium heat, toast the quinoa until they start popping and smell roasted, 5 to 8 minutes. Then, rinse in a fine-mesh strainer before using.
*Reprinted with permission from Feast by Firelight, text and illustrations copyright © 2018 by Emma Frisch. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.