Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Throw Down: Summer Barbecue

Summer's here and your friends are clamoring for a barbecue. Here's your guide to keeping it classy, making sure your guests leave with full stomachs and no weird tan lines.

Safety First:
Here are a few emergency items you'll be glad you thought to bring outside. If you grill a lot, consider storing these in a handy go-kit.
  • Wet wipes or some antibacterial soap. It's bad enough that you got dragged through the mud in tug-of-war, the last thing you want now is dirty fingerprints all over your hot dog bun.
  • Sunblock. Having some on hand is extra-thoughtful. Personally, since I am so white that I could get a sunburn from eating a bag of Salsa Verde Doritos, I swear by Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free 50 SPF. My boyfriend prefers the spray-on waterproof sport sunblock. Either way - having a bottle on hand helps your guests make it home with no regrets.
  • Bug deterrents. Start with a bug bomb - they're surprisingly effective, especially on a day with little wind. I recommend Raid Yard Guard Mosquito Fogger. I don't know if I can vouch for the claim that it "keeps bugs away up to 6 hours!" but like dandruff shampoo, you only notice it when it stops working. So far this summer my outdoor events have been remarkably bugless. For those whose veins seem to be full of mosquito aphrodisiac, have some bug spray on hand. Try OFF! Family Care (just be sure to apply away from the grill, people! This stuff is flammable). And if the party is going to push on through the 6-hour warranty, invest in some citronella candles.
Set-up:
Quite simply, you need many folding chairs - Ikea makes these which are great - and at least 2 tables - one for food, one for drinks. You need a garbage can. And unless you want to chase people out of your yard and run around packing things up as the dusk thickens, consider investing in some lighting.

Strings of paper lanterns are elegant and so popular right now. However, they require an electrical outlet, and I don't know how fancypants your backyard is. Sun jars are a cool alternative - they store up solar energy all day, and glow on into the evening. The most low-tech option is placing votives in waxed paper bags. Weight the bags down first and don't be stingy with the kitty litter; little airborne bags of flame are considered a declaration of war in most countries.

Ok, on to the fun stuff!

If I had put a tablecloth on this, you never would
have known it was a crappy old stereo box.
Games:
If you have serious acreage, go nuts!  Set up a volleyball net, bring out a bocce set, or put that red-meat aggression to good use with dodgeball or a watergun fight. For smaller spaces, Mexican train dominoes are great since they won't blow away too easily.

If you're tempted to bring a frisbee, see if you can remember a time when a barbecue frisbee game did not end with an innocent bystander getting whacked in the head while eating. You can't. Barbecues and frisbee are like rival sports fans when each has had a beer too many. Keep them separated!

Sample Menu:
In addition to burgers and dogs and sausages, reserve a little grill space for veggie burgers and buns. Set up a tray of sliced cheese, veggies and condiments - think beyond the usual ketchup and mustard and try some sauces with a little kick, savory flavor, or creamy deliciousness - like the guacamole recipe below.

For dessert, nothing could be simpler than a big ol' watermelon - don't forget to bring the knife. If you've got little ones coming, bake up a tray of brownies straight from the box, and buy a can of Pillsbury Easy-Frost icing - we are living in the future, and it is glorious.

Try these recipes for sides if you want to win hostess of the year:


Featured cocktail: Joey's sangria
Click here for the recipe!

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