It’s July, and it’s hot. But that doesn’t mean the party has to stop.
The guys at The Table Set are handling the heat each in their own way. From beer floats at The Surly Goat, to ‘fourthajuly’ and the weddings that seem to be everywhere. When the weather is hot the parties heat up. So hang your piñata from the nearest tree and let’s get cool.
Heat means many things to many people. And some people love it. Andy recently piled on the peppers with the hottest taco you can imagine. Guisados Tacos in Los Angeles is known for a taco piled high with red hot chili peppers. More peppers than you ever heard of. It was a delicious (if challenging) taste sensation and Andy is game for more heat. So Greg contacted Frieda’s Specialty Produce looking to bring on that heat. He knows it’s the place to get all kinds of peppers from the mildest shishito all the way through to ghastly ghost peppers and beyond. The thing about peppers is this– they’re more than just hot. They have flavors that range from ‘green’ and crunchy through floral and smoky. Andy tastes as many as his tongue can handle while Nathan and Greg look on (in sympathy).
When it’s hot people like to take the party outside. But when it’s super hot nobody wants to work too hard. So why not take the party to the backyard? A Patio Picnic is a cool way to heat up your summer entertaining. A picnic can be the most casual of parties, which is why they’re great when the weather gets warm. Invite some neighbors, a few close friends and keep things leisurely. As far as party props, a Patio Picnic doesn’t require much. Grab a few colorful blankets to throw on the ground. Cover patio furniture with more blankets. Ask guests to bring a blanket of their own, and with very little effort you have eclectic, colorful picnic right at your feet. Which is where the guys are encouraging the guests to sit. Right on the ground.
The menu choices for a Patio Picnic are broad (because your kitchen is not too far away). But Nathan knows a party gets started once the guests have something cool to quench that heat. For this Patio Picnic the guys want to keep things simple. Pitcher drinks are a great way to do just that. Make them ahead and store them in the refrigerator. Alcoholic choices like creative gimlets are fun. Greg has a Green Tea Gimlet in his new book Savory Cocktails that are a snap to make by the pitcherful. But non-alcoholic choices keep you cool just the same. The classic summertime thirst quencher is iced tea. Greg’s version of Summer Tea is different than the sweet tea from his childhood, and even easier to make. Just take a couple of bags of plain old black tea. Lipton is fine. Add to those a few more bags of tea, Greg suggests something herbal and something sweet. The secret to this ‘kitchen cupboard’ recipe is to use whatever you have handy, as long as it includes a single bag of mint tea. Not enough to make it taste like a Tic-Tac, just enough to cool the tongue almost imperceptibly. No sugar needed– it’s the best Summer Tea Greg knows.
But this is a party and Nathan knows what guests crave. He re-envisions a classic shandy (beer and lemonade) as a refreshing hot weather tipple with a sweet and savory twist. He uses fresh juice from fresh cherries. The concoction is surprisingly light and just a little sweet. Guaranteed to beat the heat.
Once the guests have a shandy in hand the guys take this Patio Picnic slow. Greg brings out a riff on that classic salad known as the Wedge Salad. Only this wedge is a great big hunk of juicy summertime watermelon. It’s dressed in classic wedge style with a Feta Buttermilk Dressing and garnished with mint. Little melon balls stand in for the cherry tomatoes you might expect on the iceberg version, making this wedge a great big hunk of cool. The recipe can be found on his blog Sippity Sup.
But the wedge is not the only salad you’ll see at this Patio Picnic. There’s a simple salad of arugula and fresh from the farmers market grape tomatoes dressed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette. The salad is simple (and green) because Andy has something in mind that’s sure to tempt you from your diet. Corn Dogs. But these corn dogs aren’t like the corn dogs you remember from the dog days of summers past. These are gourmet corn dogs. One made with beef and one made with spicy lamb Merguez sausages. The dipping sauces are special too. Fig ketchup and fig mustard. But the heat in this menu doesn’t stop there. Andy’s fried up a batch of okra. It’s perfect summer fare. It’s crusted in grits and served with a hot as heck ghost chili aioli. Pile on as much as you dare.
But sometimes the ‘heat’ of the moment is best expressed in how you choose to cool down. How about a popsicle? Nathan breaks out the sticks and cools this party down with Melon and Cayenne Paletas. Sure they’re cool but they bring some heat too. It’s summer after all.