Nothings says “bring on summer” like a barbecue party, and few pleasures in life can compare to the joy of cooking and eating out of doors. When organizing a barbecue party, do as much prep work in advance as possible, so when guests arrive, you have nothing left to do but grill and socialize. Make sure to fill your yard with tables and chairs, so every guest will have a comfortable place to sit and eat. And remember, a barbecue party doesn’t have to take place in your own backyard. You can also host a barbecue at a local beach, park or other natural setting.
A barbecue party provides a superb opportunity to have a little fun. If you’re hosting a traditional, Texas-inspired barbecue, print your party details on cactus, cowboy boot, blue jean or map of Texas cut-outs. You can also hunt down prefab invitations in interesting, barbecue related shapes, such as grill lids, hamburgers or hotdogs. Don’t forget to specify that this is an out-of-doors event, request extra tables and chairs if necessary, and include a rain date or a backup plan if desired.
Outline paths with river stones or candles in tin buckets, and hang lights or lanterns from tree branches. If you have room, set up a tent or canopy and place citronella candles or Tiki torches nearby to keep those pesky mosquitoes away.
Tall tin buckets filled with sunflowers or daisies make for lovely barbecue party centrepieces and look especially nice when placed on a table that’s been laid with a checkered or gingham tablecloth. If you’re going for a look that’s a little less country, fill tall, clear, cylindrical vases with water and line the bottom with decorative rocks. Choose gerbera daisies, pansies or even wheatgrass for these sleek floral centrepieces.
Go for music that will make your guests remember delightful summers-gone-by and anticipate the many wonderful summers still to come. Some albums to add to your CD changer or MP3 player:
• I’m a Mountain or Songs for Clem – Sarah Harmer
• Fields of Gold (Best of) – Sting
• Hits – Joni Mitchell
• The Big Chill (Soundtrack)
• Sundown or Gord’s Gold – Gordon Lightfoot
• Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
• Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos
• Younger than Yesterday – The Byrds
Serve specialty beers and a selection of wines designed to match the flavours of the food you’re serving. Keep these in large tin buckets filled with ice. Mix up a few refreshing non-alcoholic “mocktails,” too, such as cranberry, pineapple and lime juice mixed with soda. Don’t forget to place pitchers of ice water with slices of lemon, lime or cucumber on all the tables to keep guests hydrated on hot days.
Plan a simple yet delicious barbecue menu that will give you plenty of opportunity to show off your grilling prowess and keep you out of the kitchen. Delicious items to try:
• Grilled fruit, such as peaches and pears
• Grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, tomatoes, radicchio and baby artichokes
• Grilled shrimp
• Grilled whole fish
• Grilled steaks
• Grilled beef tenderloin
• Rotisserie chicken
• Grilled pork
For a change of pace, make your own grill sauces, marinades and salad dressings. Stay away from creamy concoctions that will spoil in the sun. A good rule of thumb for barbecuing and a must for food safety reasons: keep cold foods cool with ice packs, coolers and shade, and hot foods hot with hot plates and foil.
Entertaining outside means plenty of activity possibilities, such as co-ed volleyball, badminton, horseshoes, three-legged races, water balloon wars and more. The adventurous can hold hot sauce tasting contests or pie eating championships, too! Don’t forget – the process of grilling can itself become a competition, so don’t be afraid to relinquish those tongs. Just look at the bright side: it means less work for you!
Gift your guests with homemade barbecue or hot sauces in sterilized glass jars or bottles, labelled with your house recipe if you so desire. You can also print out a few of your own recipes to give out upon request, or send guests home with grilled leftovers for dinner the next day.