By Amy Sherman
Warm weather means days at the beach or the lake, dining al fresco and backyard barbecues. To help make the most of your next get-together here are some tips, simple and delicious recipes and wine pairing ideas. Whether you're a guest or planning the whole shindig we've got you covered. Find a few standbys and you're set for the season!
Tip: Set the mood
Put some batteries in the boom box and put on some sunny music--look for lively compilations of Hawaiian, Caribbean, Latin American or African music that will put everyone in a party mood. Bring along some extra hats and sunscreen to keep guests cool. Have a cooler filled with ice and non-alcoholic beverages for the kids and nondrinkers.Appetizers
Tip: Mix it up!
Start the party off right by having something for everyone. Consider serving a sparkling wine at the beginning of the meal instead of the end; alone or along with a red wine choice. The hearty Poetess Shiraz is wonderful with savory rich starters like Cheddar Cheese Crackers. Serve a variety of nibbles for guests--vegetables, some kind of cracker or bread sticks and something fresh from the oven like this rich but easy-to-make Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Spread the food out to encourage mingling instead of crowding.Grilling
Tip: Prep ahead
Working the grill is a serious job. A week before the party, check to make sure you have enough propane or charcoal briquettes. Make it easier by having everything the grill master needs within reach. Don't forget long-handled tongs, oven mitts, a thermometer, a cooler to keep burgers and chicken cool, a water spray bottle for flare-ups and a cool drink. When it comes to wine, think traditional-- Graeser Simba's Zinfandel is great with the Ultimate Burger and a chardonnay will work with the Dijon Grilled Chicken. For a more exotic fruit and wine pairing, the Christine Andrew Viognier and Mango & Shrimp Kebabs are a festive accompaniment to the usual cookout fare.Vegetarians and Sides
Tip: Variety works for all
If you or others are vegetarians, choose savory satisfying dishes like our Caesar Salad or Penne Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Summer Squash. Make sure at every course from appetizers through main dishes to dessert there are enticing options, not just an afterthought. Keep the Merk Pinot Grigio chilled and serve with the pasta for a crisp & refreshing treat.Potlucks
Tip: Make it easy, make it ahead
Minimize the stress and make something that can be prepared at your leisure. Good bets? These Cheddar Crackers will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to a week. Caesar Salad is a good choice because the dressing and croutons can be made days in advance. For the kitchen phobic, making fruit salad only requires fresh fruit, and a knife. A Vegetable Platter with Dips can also be made the night before and stuck in the fridge until you're ready to go. And it, pairs with lighter whites, like the Merk Pinot Grigio.Kids
Tip: Get them involved
Tip: Lighten up!
Great desserts don't always have to be rich and fattening. Go for something refreshing that provides more variety for your palate like our 2-in-1 Fruit Salad. Cool sparkling wines love strawberries. Even those skipping dessert may enjoy dunking some fruit in their glass and topping it off with some bubbly. Because Cava is generally a dry wine, pairing the Castellblanch Cava with a fruit salad and tart lemon or lime sorbet heightens its flavor.