Fairytale settings do exist.
Among the pines of Flagstaff, Arizona, down a winding path of knobby trees and twinkle lights, an adventure awaits. A table donned with garland and candles sits in a forest clearing. Soft light and music animate the area as guests start to trickle in.
Cloth & Flame dinner parties ask you to take the path less paved by taking you on an interactive dining experience. The company, helmed by Olivia Laux and Matthew Cooley, aims at a hands-on, high-end celebration of nature. With a wilderness backdrop, guests are thrown into wide-open spaces that remind them of how beautiful our natural world can be. Co-founders Olivia and Matthew want diners to come away with a new appreciation for nature and, in turn, conserve it. They achieve this by picking epic spots to host the dinners (Sedona, Big Sur, Portland) and bringing natural elements into the decor and setting. At every turn, there is a new way to appreciate the earthy setting. Through a partnership with the National Parks Services, Cloth & Flame are able to find spots that really capture the essence of the location.
We attended the Flagstaff Wilderness Dinner on August 19. Situated in the Arizona Nordic Village, among the twilit pines, our dinner was the first ever Flagstaff Cloth & Flame event. Olivia and Matt like to choose wide open venues but they wanted this particular event to be in place that emphasized the distinctiveness of Flagstaff, which is why they chose the Arizona Nordic Village.
The food is prepared on site and they bring in a local restaurant to cater the event. The meal features foods grown and raised in the area and wine sourced from an in-state vineyard. The meal was cooked by Flag favorite, Shift Kitchen. Chefs Joe and Dara are highly regarded among the community and have a reputation for crafting locally driven dishes and showing people that Flagstaff is more than a sleepy mountain town. Their menu did not disappoint! The seven-course meal featured Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with tomatoes from Abbey Lee Farms, Braised Short Ribs, Arizona Stone Fruit Cobbler, and more (see the full menu below).
What stood out about the experience is how easy it was to feel a sense of community with the other guests. The open environment facilitates openness. In a matter of minutes, strangers become friends. The family style serving nudges you to get to know your neighbor at the table, as does the wine! By the end of the four-hour dinner, everyone is satiated with good food, laughter, and company.
A final and compelling touch to the evening is that 10% of the proceeds go towards a local land trust or non-profit. After spending time communing with others in the wilderness, giving back in this way feels…well, natural.
“Indulge with purpose – 10% of all proceeds from this dinner benefit the Sonoran Institute. So you can help secure the future of our inimitable wilderness areas by enjoying them now.”
Our menu for the night:
Masa Gougere // Anazazi Bean Hummus
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho crema // coriander
Roasted Mushroom Pate truffle oil // focaccia
Charred Romaine bagna cauda // pecorino
Summer Squash and Cucumber puffed lentils // tahini
Braised Short Rib fingerlings // kalimotxo
Arizona Stone Fruit Cobbler quinoa streusel // chantilly
For more information on Cloth & Flame visit their website and check out their sister company, Float Balloon Tours.
Misty is the owner and founder of Green Suitcase Travel. She is a consultant, travel writer, and all around travel maven. When she is not traversing the world, spreading the news about sustainable travel, she is in Tucson, Arizona enjoying the desert.