Ready to see the beauty in the everyday? Why not try grilling out in style? Just a few added touches can create a relaxing, coastal ambience for you and your guests. After all, with all of our connectivity using technology nowadays, sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to get together face to face.
Set the Stage.
The warm summer evening air will beckon you to get outdoors and entice you to invite over a few friends. Set your cell phone on Bluetooth and put on your favorite Pandora station to set the mood and welcome your guests.
Your table will look beautiful covered in a natural runner. Dress the table with décor inspired by the coast – rich aquas and blues along with eclectic pieces that have hints of the shore. Coral, shells and other elements found in the sea add a spark of coastal fun! If you venture outside, you can use lanterns or seashells, each with a citronella candle inside to create a warm and inviting atmosphere while keeping the bugs at bay! Farm fresh flowers add a pop of color to finish the look.
Bust out the good china, cloth napkins and silverware – forget the paper plates and plastic forks. We all have serving pieces that never see the light of day. Why not dust them off and put them to use? Use the good glasses too, or opt for upscale plastic drinkware (the glasses you see aren’t glass). Your special touches will be happily received and remembered.
Throw on a long summer dress or pair an off-the-shoulder blouse with skinny jeans and sandals to match the scene. Your hair can be let down loose or tied up in a ponytail depending on the heat. Set off the look with fun, dangly earrings.
Prepping and cooking together lets you create something as a group. You can have a drink, converse, catch up and listen to the day’s events, all while working together to prepare a delicious meal.
Let your guests in on your vision for the menu in advance, and make it interactive by asking guests to bring something to share. Whether it’s a cheese spread or a bottle of wine, each contribution makes your gathering unique and helps with the cost of your coastal dinner.
Set up a tantalizing cheese plate on a board or platter with offerings like brie, stilton, manchego, cheddar and blue. I like to include both sweet and savory cheeses to appeal to everyone’s tastes. Accompaniments can include: honeycomb, fig or blueberry jam, macadamia nuts, pistachios, assorted berries and dried fruits, all with water crackers or a crusty baguette served alongside. Honey and jam can be put in small bowls beside the cheese board or spooned directly on the board. Place the crackers or baguette in a larger bowl or small basket nearby.
I love a simple butter lettuce, cherry tomato and avocado salad. You can mix up an easy olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, crack a little salt and pepper over it and you’re done. Adding a touch of dijon mustard to the dressing adds a bit more character.
Prep burgers by using ground lamb instead of beef for a nice twist on a classic. Add salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary to the lamb and mix it all up. Shape into patties, grill, and top with goat or feta cheese. Serve with avocado, lettuce and tomato on a toasted potato roll or ciabatta, and you’re about to enjoy one good burger. Caramelized onion would make a nice relish on top too, and if you’re entertaining vegetarians, they’ll appreciate a veggie burger or two.
You can also cook vegetables like carrots, turnips, brussels sprouts and sweet summer corn or squash on the grill or in the oven as your side – simply dress them with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and then wrap them in foil and place on grill until browned. For corn, I like to roast with a pat of butter, salt, pepper, cilantro and parmesan cheese. Sweet potato fries are another fabulous side dish in case anyone craves a starch. They can be cooked in the oven, placed in a basket and dressed in sea salt.
A small scoop of walnut gelato or vanilla ice cream would be the perfect touch. Pair with a drizzle of chocolate fudge and a dollop of whipping cream and you’ve made a summertime favorite – the sundae, perfectly portioned. Add a warm brownie or cookie to it, and you’ve got a crowd pleaser. A sweet sorbet paired with a fresh fruit topping would also be delightful for a coastal themed party.
Serve your meal with a variety of wines, like a chilled pinot grigio or rosé, along with a red or two to complement your lamb burgers — pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon are both lovely choices. Your guests will choose the wine that best suits their palate, so it’s nice to have a variety.
For those that prefer something non-alcoholic, grab a bottle or two of the beautiful Belvoir Fruit Farms Organic Lemonades. My personal favorites are the Elderflower Pressé Lemonade and the Elderflower & Rose Lemonade. You can find them in the Health Food section of your local grocery.
Serve plenty of water to keep everyone refreshed throughout the evening. Drink dispensers or pitchers of cool water infused with cucumber slices will add elegance and style as well as much needed hydration for you and your guests. I also find it fun to add a tea or coffee course nearing the end of the evening to perk guests up for their ride home. Tea and coffee can be served with or after dessert.
After dinner, gather over a game, cards or a movie to keep the fun going and simply enjoy the breath of summer as much as you can. It’s a fun time of year. Get outside and enjoy it. Have fun grilling and remember to eat, drink and be merry – the coastal way.
Jaclyn Meadows is a local artist and traveler with an enthusiasm for living life beautifully! Follow her journeys on Instagram @twiggyjacqua and her blog at chezjacqua.com.
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