Nothing says summer quite like kicking back with friends over some good eats and chilled beverages on a warm summer night. With stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as your backdrop, ready the grill and don your “Kiss the Cook!” apron for your next backyard soirée. With holiday weekends fast approaching, take note of our entertaining tips and recipes to help inspire your planning.
setting the mood al fresco
Create a warm and inviting ambiance with cozy seating adorned with festive throw pillows and Mexican blankets if someone gets chilly. Decorate the table with craft paper as an alternative to a tablecloth, festive melamine dinnerware, mini pots of succulents or rosemary nosegays, and colorful cotton napkins. Douse the lights and decorate the scene with tea lights, globed candles of different heights, twinkling fairy garland and light the outdoor fireplace. Finally, choose one of Spotify’s BBQ Summer playlists to set the tone and add to the fun. Putting your guests at ease allows them to relax and savor the moment.
what to serve
Since you have set the mood, mingling over a signature cocktail such as an Aperol Spritz, a chilled glass of rosé, or a craft beer will be ideal at the start of the evening. Serve simple small bites such as bright, seasonal strawberries and/or cherry tomatoes with basil and mozzarella (secure with toothpicks) to dip in nicely aged balsamic vinegar. Since we are grilling out, prepare skewers of grilled shrimp and lemon ahead of time and serve with a feta-dill sauce (click here for recipe on foodandwine.com).
When it comes to the main course, BBQ is always a winner especially when it comes to wine and beer pairings. Ribs are easy, and our recipe is a fan favorite. However, if you want a little less mess, go with a brisket or burgers on the grill. For sides, a grilled peach, Vidalia onion and bacon salad is divine along with a favorite corn bread. For an easy dessert, individually fill small glasses or espresso cups with gelato. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve and top with a sprig of fresh mint.
For beverages, pork and rosé are great pairings, but if you prefer to serve a red try a zinfandel or pinot noir. For beer lovers offer a local golden IPA to pair with your pork. For other food pairings, consult seriouseats.com.
tools of the trade
The Charcoal Weber for the Traditionalist:
Nothing beats the taste of charcoal and Weber is known in the industry to make a quality, long-lasting charcoal grill. Prices range from $50 to $3000, but capacity can sometimes be a problem when buying the less expensive versions. Weber offers multiple sizes and upgrades and the price goes up accordingly. Light your charcoal with an electric starter or all natural grill starters to avoid the chemical taste imparted by lighter fluid.
The Gas Grill for the “No Fuss” Cook:
Looking for something easy, go for the gas grill. According to TopTenReviews.com, Weber Genesis II gets the best reviews for its grill space, price and heating consistency. Despite its hefty price tag ($1200 and up), the Napoleon Mirage is recommended for its quality construction with stainless steel burners that provide heat consistency, an infrared back burner for rotisserie and infrared side burner for searing meats.
The Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe for the Serious Food Enthusiast:
These round ceramic grills/smokers are well constructed and will last a lifetime. Using better lump charcoal, it is all about temperature control with these popular grills for fast or slow cooking. There is an initial learning curve and a considerable investment, but users swear by the results. Since both cook all types of food from pizza to smoked meats to veggies, they make an ideal all-in-one choice. Note: In the event you get strong winds at your mountain home, these heavily weighted grills will stay put while a gas grill could skip across your deck unless secured (this writer has witnessed it!).
For great grilling accessories, shop Amazon for Elizabeth Karmel’s BBQ tools. We especially love her long handled silicone basting brush and burger press.
GOOD TO GO!
If you want to take the night off from cooking, “take away” the hog from anyone of these local haunts. Don’t worry you can still wear the Kiss the Cook apron and no one will know you didn’t do the cooking!
On the Side BBQ
Cashiers Farmers Market
78 Highway 64 East
Cashiers, NC 28717
In addition to sandwiches piled high with pulled pork, smoked brisket, smoked turkey and more, On the Side BBQ also serves up Carolina Chicken, Ribs by the Rack, Pulled Pork, Smoked Sliced Brisket and Smoked Sliced Turkey Breast by the pound. Famous for their flavorful sauces, you should try them all! True to its name, the sides at On the Side BBQ are worthy of your attention, as well, featuring barbecue-complementing classics like baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.
Mountain Fresh Grocery & Wine Market
521 East Main Street, Highlands, NC 28741
Located at the end of the main drag in Downtown Highlands, Mountain Fresh Grocery offers a barbecue feast as part of its “Summer Dinners To Go” Menu. On Saturdays, patrons can take home a fully prepared meal for four featuring tender hand rubbed pork butt, pit-smoked overnight and pulled to order served with coleslaw, apple-bacon baked beans and yeast rolls. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, it is best to call ahead to reserve your order. Make sure to pick up one of their handmade desserts too- your guests will appreciate it!