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Dinner & a Movie: The Great Outdoors

Do you love John Candy as much as I do?  Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, and even Home Alone!  All so good but my favorite Candy movie has to be The Great Outdoors.

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog-2

The Great Outdoors Movie Poster

This movie is so hilarious and epic for me on many levels:

1. John Candy’s drive to have the perfect family vacation rivals that of Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation and epitomizes every American family’s vacation experience on some level.

2. Dan Akyroyd has some of the best one liners in this film–hands down.

3. Similar to #1, this movie is basically a compilation of experiences and stories of my own trips in the Wisconsin northwoods to our lodge.

Here’s a brief summary from Google:

It’s vacation time for outdoorsy Chicago man Chet Ripley (John Candy), along with his wife, Connie (Stephanie Faracy), and their two kids, Buck (Chris Young) and Ben (Ian Giatti). But a serene weekend of fishing at a Wisconsin lakeside cabin gets crashed by Connie’s obnoxious brother-in-law, Roman Craig (Dan Aykroyd), his wife, Kate (Annette Bening), and the couple’s two daughters. As the excursion wears on, the Ripleys find themselves at odds with the stuffy Craig family.

Did you know?

  • While the movie is set in Wisconsin, filming took place in Bass Lake, CA in 1987.
  • The cabin the families stay in was constructed just for the movie.  It was made out of 200-30 ft. logs from Oregon and took six weeks to build.
  • The water skiing scenes were filmed in the fall and the water was only 45°.  I now feel extra bad for John and his stunt double.  Brrr.

The Great Outdoors Water Skiing - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog

  • I’m also 99.9% sure the interior cabin set was reused in Beethoven’s 2nd.  You be the judge:

The Great Outdoors Cabin

There are so many similarities between the events in the movie and my memories at our lodge that I’m pretty confident one of the screenwriters ended up at our place for a beer at some point and got inspired.

Coincidences between my childhood and the film (minor spoiler alert warning):

1. There is a bat.  Indoors.  With dads trying to kill it.

2. Neon Wisconsin beer signs.  Everywhere.  Think Miller Lite, Hamms, Point, Leinenkugels, etc.

3. Raccoons wreaking havoc on the trash.

4. Bear sightings.

5. Meals at a certain famous lumberjack’s shanty.

6. Nights of card games and storytelling.

7. Kids constantly trying to escape the adults to “cruise the town” and be “cool”.

8. Northwoods-only activities of go-karting and horseback riding.  Not to say you can’t do these things back at home but we never did–only in the Wisconsin wilderness.

9. Drinks at the local townie bar complete with assorted taxidermy, wood framed wildlife prints, and endless bottles of beer and booze lining the walls.

What to eat while enjoying this movie?  Well, when we’re up north in the summer our diet basically consists anything grilled, beer, and Dan’s Minocqua Fudge.


Our trip usually starts off with a stop at Dan’s for your own stash of fudge, chocolates, taffy, and bear paws to last you the week.  One of the most heavenly sights is a tray of bear paws.  Never had one?  Check this out.


A sheet tray filled with pecans and topped with massive dollops of caramel and chocolate on top.  Don’t call it an oversized turtle.  It’s a bear paw.  Bears are a big topic in the movie so naturally you’ve gotta have a bear paw for dessert.

Now let’s get back to dinner.  The families eat at Paul Bunyan’s Cupboard in the movie.

The Great Outdoors Paul Bunyan - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog

To us, it’s Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, prominently located at the big intersection in town.


If you want to attempt Paul Bunyan’s Old 96’r Blue Ox steak like John Candy does in the film, you go right ahead.

The Great Outdoors Old 96'r - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog

I would suggest something short of a meat coma and more in the range of a juicy, grilled ribeye.  I’ve coated mine in Northwoods Fire Seasoning from Penzey’s.  Yummy, yummy stuff.

The Great Outdoors - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog

Twice baked potatoes, salad, and a few cold brewski’s round out the meal.

The Great Outdoors - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog-3

Don’t forget a tray of bear paws for dessert.

The Great Outdoors - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog-4

I love this movie so much I want you to have it too.  I’m also throwing in a jar of Northwoods Seasoning and Northwoods Fire Seasoning.

The Great Outdoors - Dinner & a Movie - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickles Blog-5

Enter below to win a DVD of the movie and two jars of Northwoods Seasoning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Already have the movie or just in the mood for a steak and bear paws?

Here are the recipes.

Happy movie night!

Dinner & a Movie: The Great Outdoors

Dinner & a Movie: The Great Outdoors


  • 4 bone-in ribeyes
  • 4 tbsp. Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning
  • Northwoods Salad Dressing
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Bag of mixed greens or spinach
  • Cheese & croutons
  • Twice Baked Potatoes
  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. chives
  • 1/4 c. cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 2 tbsp. milk or cream
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese, divided
  • Salt & pepper
  • Bear Paws
  • 1 lb. pecans
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 3 c. caramel bits


    For Steaks:
  1. Coat each steak with 1 tbsp. seasoning and grill to desired doneness.
  2. For Salad:
  3. Combine vinegar through salt in mason jar and shake to combine. Toss the dressing with greens, cheese, and croutons
  4. For Potatoes:
  5. Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and pierce the potatoes with a fork. Bake on a foil lined baking sheet for 50-60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Slice the potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the potato into a bowl, leaving a thin layer of potato to keep the skins sturdy. Mash the potatoes with the remaining ingredients and 1/4 c. cheese. Scoop the filling back into the skins. Top each potato with the remaining cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
  6. For Bear Paws:
  7. Preheat oven to 375°. Toss the pecans, butter, and salt in a 9x13 pan. Roast for 10 minutes. While the nuts are roasting, melt the chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave. In a separate bowl, melt the caramel bits. Spoon generous dollops of caramel over the pecans. Top each caramel circle with the melted chocolate mixture. Allow to cool then break into separate bear paws.

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