Backyard Entertaining

Summon your most festive friends, and embrace your primal urge to cook over an open flame  barbecue season is now upon us.

Memorial Day Weekend has traditionally been the season opener for backyard entertaining. Since it’s probably been a few months since your last barbecue, we’ve got some tips to make your soiree top-notch. Preparation is everything. If a glimpse beyond your back door reveals a dilapidated wicker couch and leaves floating across a cloudy pool, then now is a good time to reevaluate your outdoor decor. Refurbish as needed, but resist the impulse to do a dramatic overhaul. Just make sure that you have sufficient lighting and seating before hosting guests. The day before your event, sort out your pest control needs and prep your menu. The morning of your event, mix your cocktails, arrange your charcuterie and set up your patio games. As your guests arrive, be on the lookout for an introverted but detail-oriented individual who is comfortable around fire, and recruit him or her to be your grill master so you can be free to mingle unfettered.

 

 

Don’t Let Flies and Mosquitos Put A Damper on Your Festivities

Several hours before your guests arrive, check on your pest control situation. Flies and mosquitoes have a way of showing up unannounced, and there’s nothing worse than seeing your friends slapping at bugs or scratching welts on their arms and legs. Place citronella candles strategically around the perimeter of your patio, and spray a non-toxic insect repellent like Eagle Watch Mosquito Eliminator on wood and fabric surfaces (or you can make one yourself using a blend of essential oils.)

LA JOLIE MUSE
Citronella Candles
$24.99, amazon.com

Eagle Watch
Natural Mosquito Repellent
$10.47, amazon.com

Place a child-safe repellent, anti-itch spray and sunscreen on a side table so guests can help themselves as needed.  And just in case you do get a pesky bite, Benadryl spray offers trusted relief.

Babyganics
DEET-free Insect Repellent
$17.08, amazon.com

La Roche-Posay
Anthelios 60 Sunscreen
$26.99, amazon.com

Benadryl
Itch Relief Spray
$5.46, amazon.com

 

Prep Your Food In Advance So You’ll Be Ready
When It’s Time To Party

Don’t goad yourself into thinking that you’ll have time to prepare your side dishes after the guests arrive, while the meat is grilling. You’ll inevitably end up cornered by a friend with a salacious story to tell, and your side dishes won’t make it to the table until it’s time for dessert. Preparing your marinated salads a day in advance gives the flavors time to meld, but don’t dress your green salad until just before serving or you’ll end up with a wilted mess. Depending on the eating habits of your guests (Are there vegans among you?), it’s a good idea to prepare several different salads in advance to keep things simple at mealtime. A salad spread that includes classics like Pasta Salad and Potato Salad, and healthy options like Tabbouleh, Black Eyed Peas and a Green Salad will give the omnivores among you plenty of options, and will also accommodate those who are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo.

If you’re serving chicken, a 24-hour marinade in the refrigerator is optimal. Be sure there is gas for the grill (or charcoal), and have your tools and meat platter ready to go. If you’re serving burgers and hotdogs, have ample buns and condiments on hand so you don’t have to run to the store during the party.

FoodSaver
Vacuum Seal Marinator, $21.99
Vacuum Sealing System, $141.11, amazon.com

All-Clad
Stainless Steel 4-Piece
BBQ Tool Set
$144, bloomingdales.com

Nordic Ware
Indoor/Outdoor
Grill N’ Serve Plate
$19.95, amazon.com

The Morning of the Party

Before your first guest arrives, you should have upbeat music playing, a buffet table set up in the shade with room for your serving dishes and disposable cutlery, napkins and plates. Leafily’s Palm Leaf Plates are far more elegant than paper or styrofoam, and they’re completely biodegradable.

Leafily
Palm Leaf Plates
$17.95, amazon.com

World Centric
100% Biodegradable Napkins
$33.49, amazon.com

Happy Planet Now
Disposable Wooden Cutlery
$23.99, amazon.com

 

 

Set out an attractive cheese and charcuterie tray so early arrivals can snack while they’re waiting for dinner.

Bambüsi
Bamboo Cheese Board
with Cutlery Set
$59.99, amazon.com

An ample cooler with a selection of craft beers and a few pitchers filled with premade signature cocktails are enough to keep the conversation flowing without a rapid descent into bacchanalia. Also, prepare a large dispenser filled with iced water and slices of fresh cucumbers so your guests can stay hydrated throughout the day.

Artland
Oasis Beverage Dispenser
$100, macys.com

Reed & Barton
Soho Round Pitchers
$150, bloomingdales.com

Vivocci
Unbreakable Wine Glasses
$13.95, amazon.com

Let the Games Begin

After the guests have eaten, while the plates are being cleared, it’s a good time to get active. A pick-up game of soccer or a selection of backyard games gives guests an easy pretext for mingling. Consider your available terrain and set up the games within view of the dining area, but outside the pathway of diners.

Bocce should be played on a sandy or grassy stretch that is at least 30 feet long.

EastPoint
Sports Resin Bocce Set
$62.71, amazon.com

Horseshoes must be set up in a corner with no danger of an outside player walking into a throw.

St. Pierre
Professional Horseshoes Complete Set
$59.95, amazon.com

Ideally, a croquet court should be 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, but you can scale down.

Crown Sporting Goods
Deluxe Croquet Set
$59.99, amazon.com

For darts, there should be about eight feet between the toeline and the board.

Ignat Games
Dartboard Kit
$54.72, amazon.com

While your guests are tallying their scores, set out a giant bowl of Banana Pudding (recipe below) and a tray of fresh fruit. Then turn the music up, and summon everyone to the dance floor.  The calendar tells us that summer is as long as the other three seasons, but it always feels so much shorter, so we’ve got to enjoy every minute of it.

Check out these recipes and get cooking!

Memorial Day Chicken Marinade

Classic Macaroni Salad

Memorial Day Potato Salad

Middle Eastern Tabbouleh

Black Eyed Pea Salad

Banana Pudding

Mojitos by the Pitcher

Margaritas by the Pitcher

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