The colorful fireworks and fun-filled celebrations associated with the 4th of July may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still host a summer barbecue compete with food, friends and laughs. With summer in full swing, July in full swing, we’re ready to shift out of the pace of high excitement, and just enjoy a lazy summer day with a more intimate gathering. Bring together a few friends you missed during the holiday for an elegant little deck or patio barbecue – simple, but special.
Hosting a small gathering allows you to spring for a few filet mignons and good bottles of wine. Serve stuffed potatoes and a spectacular tossed salad along with a selection of a couple of the season’s best wines.
Your resident grill master probably well knows what to do with the filets. If not, just Google how to grill filet mignon to make sure you’re not skipping any important steps. Splurge on your favorite high quality steak sauce for these simple, but fabulous, steaks. Add a pretty garnish to support your barbecue’s claim to elegance – maybe just a celery stick and a cherry tomato, nothing too elaborate. Although they’re filets, try to keep it casually beautiful, not over-the-top.
Unless you have a favorite, just use this recipe from the Saveur site, originally offered in the New York Times. Or, find another option in this class of stuffed potato recipes, such as one that features an outcome with white toppings and minced bits of ingredients that all complement steak and salad.
Don’t choose one with yellow cheese on top or large chunky ingredients as garnishes on top for this occasion, as these can overpower the presentation of your petite steaks, and make an imbalanced overall presentation of the meal on the plate.
Spectacular Summer Salad
Prepare and serve in a large bowl for self-serve salad.
- Start with Green leaf lettuce and Red leaf lettuce – leave out the thick, hard, white pieces close to the core.
- Add two small cucumbers, peeled and cut into quarter-sized pieces.
- Throw in your favorite tomatoes, cut and add amount to your taste.
- Toss in an abundance of fresh avocado bits.
- Add three boiled egg whites, cut to quarter-size.
- Toss with vinegar, your favorite olive oil, salt and pepper, all to taste. Or, offer a selection of dressings, including a unique one purchased from a local restaurant or shop.
- Leave out the shredded carrots, unless you just can’t live without them. Add an orange or yellow sweet tomato, cut to quarter-sized pieces instead.
Barbecue Wine Selections
Your wine shop expert will guide you on the reds and burgundies. Maybe serve a dry red, (but not bone dry) and a sweeter burgundy, but not syrupy one. If you’re at a loss and your wine guide is noncommittal, try these recommendations:
Dry: Try the Cabernet Sauvignon for a sound choice of dry red.
Sweet: A fun option for sweet burgundy is to go all the way with Mogen David Concord. It’s very syrupy, but instead of serving it straight, take advantage of this creative opportunity.
- Cut the Concord with Ginger ale or Sierra Mist and load it with ice for a refreshing summertime wine cooler.
- Garnishes add an aesthetic bonus. Try just a couple of large dark grapes on a beverage skewer in your freshly made wine coolers.
Sun tea: For non-wine drinkers, provide abundant unsweet sun tea. Garnish with lemon slices.
Soft flavored water: For everyone, have soft cold water on hand, bottled if necessary. Include a couple of juice options for flavoring. Garnish for presentation and aroma; orange slices or pineapple wedges on beverage skewers will do.
Lime Sherbet: For a fresh and easy, but elegant special summer barbecue-appropriate dessert option, just prepare a basic lime sherbet with bits of shaved sweet chocolate and a strawberry on top.
Finger Foods (hors d’oeuvres)
Fresh Vege Tray: Just serve a huge platter of sectioned vege chunks for dipping in dressing. Use bite-sized tender celery sticks, carrot sticks, cauliflower bits, broccoli bits and cherry tomatoes.
Caviar on French Toast (Optional): Splurge on a little white and black caviar. Toast a few pieces of French bread, and cut them into roughly square shapes. Enjoy the imprecise shapes. They add interest. Load a little dollop of caviar (don’t spread it) onto each square and place them on a pretty plate.
For color, if you wish, add a very tiny chip of the outer shell of cherry tomato. Scoop out the watery insides. Drain very, very well before placing atop the hors d’oeuvres. These are for color, not flavor. But, it’s worth the trouble to tie in your caviar with your festive summer theme.
Fresh Fruit Bowl: Just keep a huge bowl of assorted fresh fruit on the table for the kids to grab.
Melba Toast Chips: Fill a bowl with garlic dark melba toast chips from the supermarket.
A charming, colorful faint-nod-to-a-picnic theme will enhance the elegance of your fillet lunch barbecue. Here are some tips:
- Use a checkered or plaid picnic table cloth in bright summer colors, like red and white, yellow and white, or green and white. Or, decorate with whatever matches your home décor and your preferred aesthetic.
- Use your daily-use beverage glasses, no paper cups. Optional: Use canning jars for beverage glasses.
- Provide large, comfortable white paper napkins.
- Employ your daily-use flatware, skip the plastic flatware.
- Employ your daily-use tableware instead of paper plates.
- Opt to use glass serving dishes instead of store packaging or plastic bowls on the table. (If you buy your vege and dip tray already prepared from the supermarket, transfer the food onto a glass platter. It’s worth it to preserve the integrity of your elegant presentation.)
- For an early afternoon event, just add more vases of fresh flowers at aesthetically strategic locations.
- String some inexpensive white strands of LED lights around the area, if your event will go on into the evening.
- Don’t forget to turn on low-key, sentimental summertime music from a good sound system with auto-sequencing. Avoid using ambience-killing faulty radios.
NOTE: In case of breakage, keep all glassware away from grass play areas for safety to prevent children later stepping or kneeling on undetected broken pieces.
Barbecue-Themed Guest Gift Bags
Keep it simple. Don’t overdo this; just send everyone home with an extra serving of dessert. Buy Styrofoam containers for these. Or, use white or colorful paper containers with lids.
Formal invites are optional, but fun, and call attention to the intention for the occasion to be a special one. Print the menu inside a lovely, summery paper invitation or present the menu on a beautiful, elegant e-invitation.
Activities for Kids and Adults
- Washers, or Bean Bag Toss
- Best Bubble Blowing
- Junior Jeopardy
Regular summer barbecue wear.
Tips for the elegant summer barbecue hosts
This simple steak, potato, and salad meal, with wine and a bowl of sherbet is as simple as a summer barbecue can really be. And, the extra-simple, no-perspiration, summer barbecue-appropriate games add some whimsy and excitement to event. The little but vivid extras add up to pull together a colorful, elegant presentation.
Ultimately, mood is everything. So recognize that it’s a team effort, and get full commitment on delegation of responsibilities. Remember to ask guests about any food allergies before you start your planning, and provide food substitutes as necessary.
Pamper yourselves as hosts by ensuring that you have absolutely everything you need by sundown the day before. That allows time to run out for missing supplies prior to the day-of. And, team up on all the vegetable cutting. These small, but essential measures will go far to keep stress down. Beyond that, breathe, don’t forget the music, and remember to enjoy your guests and your accomplishment.