For many of us, summer is synonymous with barbeque. It is the season of outdoor cooking, and since the window for doing this is a relatively short one in Portland, you have to take advantage of it while it lasts and do it right. Here are a few tips to host a memorably epic BBQ.
Being prepared doesn’t just mean having ice, plates and cutlery, extra toilet paper and mosquito repellent on hand (though, yes, of course, make sure you have all those things for your guests). Spruce up your backyard with some simple white twinkle lights or lanterns and perhaps citronella candles to ward off unwelcome eaters. Being prepared also means being inclusive. You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can have awesome edible options for all. No one wants to be the difficult person limited to picking at the token hummus and pita platter. And the good thing about planning for diverse taste buds, is that it forces you to be creative—even Uncle Meat & Potatoes can appreciate that.
First things first, while the grill is warming up, make sure you have beverages and munchies on hand. Corn tortilla chips, veggies and an array of dips are perfect. Give them a little added flare by throwing mango chunks into the salsa or guacamole, put some sun-dried tomatoes in the hummus, and never underestimate the people-pleasing power of sliced watermelon. Beverages mean not just booze, but a decent non-alcoholic option. Sparkling water and a fruit juice are a pretty tasty safe bet. When you’re filling up the cooler with hard drinks, PBR and a local IPA or cider are choice. And a decent dry white wine is always delicious on a hot day. If you want to go all out, have the fixings to make one decent cocktail—mojitos and margaritas with fresh fruit are killer.
Nail the Classics
When it comes to the menu, make sure you have the main course on lockdown. Yes, that probably means protein, but that can range from your standard slab of beef to a gluten-free veggie concoction. Embrace it. Give your go-tos a little facelift. This doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, throw some chopped apples, onions, and a drizzle of maple syrup in with the ground beef before making your patties. If you’re doing a true BBQ, make your sauce or give that brisket a good rub. Instead of buying some frozen soy-excuse of a burger, have fun making your own. Quinoa, black beans, sweet potatoes and even beets make fantastic burger bases that will impress the picky vegan and the die-hard carnivore.
Grill the Ungrillable
Burgers and dogs are great. But to really go the culinary distance, think about putting stuff on the open flame that might not seem obvious. The great thing about grilling is that you don’t have to get fancy and complicated with recipes. Keep it simple. Try a grilled Caesar salad. Slice open a head of romaine, brush it with some oil, salt and pepper, place it face down on the grill for a few minutes (keep an eye on it!) and when it’s wilted just enough to be tender, take it off and sprinkle with some parmesan (or “rawmesan”) and a slice of lemon. Or how about dessert? Forgo slaving away over oven-baked cookies or cakes. Instead, throw some fruit like pineapple, mango, apricots or peaches on the grill. Top off with some whip cream or your frozen vanilla treat of choice and it’s the perfect, refreshing post-feast sweet that everyone can enjoy.
Eating and mingling is always the main attraction, but have some other activities available for the extroverts. This could be anything from cornhole to badminton to leaving out a few decks of playing cards. Depending on the crowd (and presence of children/parents), an inappropriate round of Cards Against Humanity can make a lively addition to your shindig. And don’t forget about music. Take the time to put together at least one decent playlist so you can focus on your friends without running to your iPod every other song.
Finally, one sure-fire way to throw an unforgettable backyard party, while relieving some of the hosting pressure, is to ask everyone to bring something, anything! People always bring something they are stoked to consume. It will ensure a gustatory smorgasbord fit for hipster foodies and kale-phobic company alike!