One of my most memorable experiences last summer in Israel was a Friday night dinner at the home of a few local Tel Avivians. I've thought about that evening a great deal since, mostly because it was such a lesson in hospitality. There we were, a traveling group of food writers, invited to eat a homemade dinner prepared especially for us. We were strangers to our hosts, and yet the evening turned out to be an intimate, welcoming affair — all due, I think, to three things, which are also great entertaining ideas for anyone:
When I was on a food tour in Israel last summer, I attended a Sabbath dinner hosted by three young architects/designers. These Friday night dinners with friends were weekly affairs for them, a nod to the tradition of their culture but more about celebrating food and friendship. The dinner was held in a stone-walled courtyard outside their apartment in Tel Aviv, and when we arrived, the first thing we saw was the menu for that night's dinner written in chalk on the courtyard wall!
Our first house, a perfect 1927 bungalow, had an enormous yard, easily twice the area of the house. "We love the outdoors," we said to ourselves, envisioning croquet parties on the lawn, along with more athletic pursuits. And picnics! We would have picnics. As it happens, we do love the outdoors, but the maintenance? Not so much. The lawn overwhelmed us. Even the minimal upkeep of the mower was challenging. Our next house was twice as large, with less than half the lawn.
The wall-mounted Wallbanger liquor cabinet by Loll is an outdoor bartender's friend. The hinged panel door opens to reveal plenty of space to store bottles, while a built in shelf is perfect for holding tools, glassware, and other bar essentials. The door also doubles as a work station!
What should you pack in your picnic basket? Yes, a few leftovers, a quick tossed salad, a baguette and some cheese will make anyone happy, but with just slightly more planning you can develop a flexible picnic menu that'll work for you every time. Mark Bittman has a system for this which he divides into four categories: dips, poached food, raw or pickled food and beverages.
When it gets too hot to eat inside, take it outside! Summer picnics are a lovely way to while away a warm weather day. But once you've made your sandwiches and salads, how do you transport them to the park? Here are 10 options, from simple woven baskets to more deluxe dining setups:
We love raised bed and container gardening for growing your own veggies in small outdoor spaces, and this project by Linsey Hasenbank combines the two by planting a salad garden in old wooden wine boxes:
Impromptu picnics. Sharing something you made at home with others, sometimes total strangers. Lingering a little longer than usual. These are the things of summer, and when you just can't bear to host a gathering inside your house any longer, it's time to take it outdoors and onto the blanket. It's time for a picnic club.
Grilling out is great fun, but it doesn't mean you want to look at your grill every time you're enjoying your patio or outdoor space. We just have a utilitarian grill cover that's primarily for protecting the grill, but we'd go for this if money were no object: