It's that time of the year again. Teachers can barely contain their students because the whiff of summer is in the air. And come this weekend, we'll be kicking off the season with Memorial Day BBQs. The air will be thick with smoke and the squealing sound of children, as pools will open their doors across the country.
Sometimes in an attempt to make their party stand out, hosts eschew tradition. But Memorial Day is a perfect example of why some traditions exist. People want to be outside after a long winter, and soak it up before heat and humidity set in. A BBQ is perfect. But how can yours stand out, and properly kick off summer like no one else?
Step Up to the Plate
Parties will be awash in paper plates and red Solo cups this weekend. Why not step it up a notch and use real plateware? You can even mix and match colorful dishes to make it less formal, even playful. This sustainable option means less waste and less space being taken up in landfills. Will it mean more time at the dishwasher? Yes. But you're sending a clear message to your guests: they're worth it.
Grocery stores are stocked with BBQ sauces made cheaply with high fructose corn syrup. Those in the know will grab Sweet Baby Ray's, which is usually the only good option. But why not go for a fresh new sauce that will have even your most polite guests licking their fingers? Ladles and Linens carries the Virginia-based brand Clark & Hopkins. Their zesty Bloody Mary mix and BBQ sauces equal sticky fingers around the table.
The Reason for the Season
When was the last time you went to a Memorial Day BBQ that actually acknowledged the meaning of the holiday? Not that the party should be a somber affair. In fact, there are positive ways to remind people of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Have guests make toasts to friends or family in the military, or share a story about them. If there are children at the party, gather them up, show them photos of people in military uniform and teach them to thank these soldiers for their service. Serve oysters on a gorgeous porcelain dish, and call it the Pearl Harbor Platter. Make your grilled burger "extra tough" with jalapenos or hot sauce, and call it "The General Patton."
Don't Hate the Player
Nothing screams "Party's Over!" more than guests wandering inside for your remote control. Keep the party engaging by busting out some classic summertime/field day games! Adults and children alike love to be competitive, though adults need a little more coaxing than children at first. You know what will embolden them? Prizes, like gift cards! So fill up those balloons for a good old-fashioned water balloon toss; race while balancing an egg on your spoon. And folks, I'm not above a good game of musical chairs.
Top it Off
Famous hostess and writer Nora Ephron wrote a lot about entertaining, and stressed the fact that that people love to play with their food. There is something fun about the communal activity of fondue or Korean BBQ. Build a toppings bar that goes beyond ketchup and mustard. Once, for a bonfire I hosted, I scanned my fridge and pantry for out-of-the-box topping ideas, and the options filled an entire table (pictured above). If you're grilling hot dogs or burgers, consider what you already have. My toppings included caramelized onions, cranberry chutney, crushed pineapple and homemade habanero sauce. Guests compared notes and enjoyed strange combinations.
A rule of thumb when entertaining is to always ask yourself, "Why be boring?" And with that, your summer kick-off will be one for the books.