It’s been a while since we threw a party here at home. The last time was early this year when Speedy’s older brother and his family were visiting from Chicago. Because it was also Alex’s birthday, we decided to make it a double celebration. We had dinner in the garden but did no barbecuing. We were supposed to until we realized that there was far too much food already.
The next time we invite people over, we’re going to have that ultimate backyard barbecue party—even if the party doesn’t take place during the summer. Truth be told, the best time for a barbecue party in this country is between December and February when staying out in the garden, even at midday, is just lovely.
I’ve thought hard about what the ultimate backyard barbecue party should be and I realized that it is much more than what actually goes on the grill. The drinks, the side dishes and dessert are just as important.
For you readers in the United States (and there are so much more of you than readers from the Philippines or elsewhere, according to Google Analytics) who are planning your 4th of July barbecue party, enjoy this list of my hand-picked tips, ideas and recommendations.
First of all, it isn’t smart to start grilling before your guests arrive. If you do, the food will be cold by the time everyone sits down to eat. When serving grilled food, it is best to light the grill after most of your guests have arrived. Serve the food as soon as they are off the grill and keep the grill on so that guests who want second or even third helpings will be assured of hot and newly-grilled food.
The obvious question is what will keep your guests occupied while the food is being grilled?
Serving light summer drinks is a good idea. While beer seems to be de rigueur, providing a few other choices will give your guests a more delightful experience. Serve wine alongside the beer. White sangria with citrus and mint is a great option too. And, for minors and non-alcoholic drinkers, whet their appetites with one or more of these.
Cocktails are always welcome, of course. If there’s someone willing to play bartender for the duration of the party, that is.
Another idea is a punch bowl so that everyone can just serve himself. Oh, it’s so retro, I know. But a punch mixture can be prepared ahead of time and all you need to do is to keep refilling the bowl.
Oh, and do make sure to keep the drinks flowing throughout the meal.
Provide some munchies!
Since you’re already serving drinks, why not munchies to go with the drinks? Nothing complicated—that’s the key.
Prepare some salsa (one kind is good; more is better), scoop into several bowls and strategically position the bowls in several places on the table or tables. Dump a bag (or bags) of tortilla chips or crackers in a huge bowl (or bowls) and place the chips where everyone can just reach for some.
Now that your guests are busily enjoying themselves chit-chatting with each other between sips of their drinks and mouthfuls of chips and salsa, you don’t have to pull your hair out if the grilling takes a little longer than you expected.
On the grill
With your guests happily pre-occupied, it’s time to light up the grill. What are the star or stars of your ultimate backyard barbecue party?
And, yes, sliced pork belly.
In America, it’s steaks, ribs, chops, sausages and burgers. Well, unless you’re Asians in America, in which case, the food will likely be a mix of East and West. That holds true too in former American colonies like the Philippines. Barbecue parties here are never without grilled hotdogs which are served alongside skewered meat and, occasionally, grilled whole fish.
Whatever your choice of meat and whatever your regional orientation, it might help to read these:
On the side
Grilled food is great but too much with nothing on the side can be monotonous and cloying. Any serious foodie will tell you that to properly appreciate any dish, there has to be some contrast both in texture in flavor. That’s what side dishes are for.
Steaks, ribs, chops, sausages and burgers go well with corn muffins, mashed potatoes and grilled corn. But those side dishes will be out of place in a backyard barbecue party in Asia where rice is the irreplaceable partner of anything grilled.
Plain rice is the most convenient to serve but fried rice really elevates the barbecue experience.
What about side salads? Surely, you want to serve some greens too in addition to the carbs.
Whether you’re grilling meat or seafood, coleslaw will go perfectly with it. It’s one of those salads that’s so versatile that it serves as an ideal foil for just about any grilled or fried food.
Macaroni salad is not a green salad, obviously, and it probably belongs better in the previous list. But it is called a salad so I’m putting here. Macaroni salad is always such a crowd pleaser. Add bacon to it and every carnivore will love you for it. There’s a vegetarian present? A smaller serving of Vegetarian Macaroni Salad should do the trick. If you and your guests are on the adventurous side, try Chicken Shrimp Salad With Pasta and Almonds instead.
How about salads with an Asian slant? I’d personally vouch for these three:
Want even more options? See the complete list of salad recipes.
Sweets to cap the meal
So, everyone’s full. How could they not be? Ergo, the best way to serve dessert is to let everyone choose just how small or large the serving should be. What easier way to accomplish that than by serving ice cream?
This brings me back to my childhood and the countless backyard barbecue parties at my grandmother’s house. There were always four varieties of ice cream to choose from for dessert. Well, you don’t need to serve four varieties. Just remember that too exotic flavors are not always child-friendly. Not everyone’s crazy about berries either. But I don’t anyone who doesn’t love chocolate.
And that, dear readers, is my idea of the ultimate backyard barbecue party. I hope you found some inspiration.
Oh, and don’t leave without checking out everything On The Grill.