Take the stress out of hosting a barbecue with these expert tips and tricks …
“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start”, believed the late chef Anthony Bourdain, and if summer has one defining scent, for many it would be that of burning coals and smoked meat at sunset. Fun fact: a Finnish company has actually bottled this “fresh off the grill” in a unisex Eau de Grill scent.
For others, however, the idea of a barbecue fills them with dread. But even if you’re not a bona fide grill master, it’s possible to host and serve a haute barbecue experience with a few tips from the experts and a few tricks, that makes the preparations easier.
Firstly, take the stress out of the catering arrangements by ordering one of the no-fuss barbecue boxes from The Butler’s Pantry. These are packed with top quality Irish meats from McLoughlins Craft Butchers, complete with accompaniments and sauces. The “BBQ for Four”, €55, for example, includes four Angus beef burgers made with sea salt and cracked black pepper, plus six Irish chicken skewers marinated in olive oil and fresh herbs. These are accompanied by brioche burger buns, a tangy chimichurri sauce made from fresh parsley, coriander, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and chilli (perfect for barbecued lamb and beef), as well as a smoked chipotle aioli, which has a deep smoky flavour and is the perfect accompaniment to barbecued chicken. There’s also a family size Mexican-style corn on the cob (comprising eight pieces) which have been chargrilled and are ready to be heated and then drizzled with coriander aioli and fresh lime. In addition, there are chargrilled steamed baby potatoes, ready to be heated and finished with some herb and paprika butter.
With minimum prep required on the actual day, these barbecue boxes allow busy hosts more time to enjoy the sunshine. There’s also a “Back Garden BBQ”, €110, which feeds eight, and for a full-scale party, its “Feed the Crew BBQ”, €210, will impress even the most demanding of guests.
The barbecue packs can be delivered nationwide. If ordered by 10am on Tuesday, they will be delivered by courier on Friday. All the food is prepared by hand by experienced chefs and bakers in Bray, Co Wicklow, using only the finest, seasonal ingredients. The Butler’s Pantry also offers a sommelier-curated range of fine wines which are the perfect accompaniment for the food at your party, which can also be delivered nationwide.
Once the food and wine orders have been placed, it’s important to set the scene and create a sense of atmosphere. One idea is to think of your garden and patio like an open plan room and use zoning strategies to get the most out of your space. Then think about table settings. Who better to ask for advice than a trio of Irish tablescaping professionals?
Samantha Ashe, founder of Hostaro Tableware, advises: “Depending on the size of your gathering, consider a buffet style barbecue, especially if you are inviting larger numbers. I always suggest creating a station or table for plates, napkins, cutlery, and glassware and of course all the salads, and condiments. Depending on the size of your party you may not have one table for all your guests. That’s ok, the most important thing is to have a seat for everyone and somewhere they can place their plate and drinks.”
Ashe also says that if opting for a theme, from tropical to American, don’t do it in half measures: “Go all out right down to the cocktail suggestions.” As for dressing the table, Ashe tries to give a few different dimensions to the table, so that nothing looks flat. “Layer your table with different textures including placemats or charger plates, glassware, candles and a centrepiece. Choose a colourful tablecloth that can withstand different sauces! I love to bring out my rattan charger plates which give a nice contrast to dinner plates. I also tend to use coloured water glasses to complement my theme and have stemless wine glasses from Luigi Bormioli for barbecues which are more resilient to breakages.”
Ashe is conscious that not everyone will have the ideal backdrop of foliage and flowers. If so, draw the eye away from your garden and onto your table by adding a pop of colour that complements your tableware. “Hydrangeas are one of my favourites. Keep the height of your vase low so your guests can see each other and see the food on the table. I also like to add fruit to the table for some colour, like lemons. It’s an easy, affordable way to bring a pop of colour to your table. I also bring elements from the garden, placing a sprig of mint or lavender on each place setting.” Ambiance is key for any type of meal and Ashe says lighting is important if the barbecue takes place in the evening. “Hang fairy lights or festoon lights around the space you’re hosting. Bring votive candles or lanterns that can allow your candles to light in the garden.”
Tara O’Connor, founder of The Designed Table, is a barbecue devotee. She likes to use a mix of natural elements for her tables, which are usually dressed in fun check or striped table linen. “When barbecuing there are usually lots of condiments and salads on the table, so rather than having too many floral arrangements, I always recommend having one medium vase in the centre or else use smaller bud vases that won’t take up too much room.” Most importantly if hosting an evening barbecue, O’Connor says, “It’s a good idea to leave blankets on the back of each guest’s chair in case it gets cold later.”
Rebecca Roe, creative director of Hedgeroe Home, has one key tip. “I like to swap out my ceramic plates for more outdoor friendly melamine, that way you don’t need to worry about breakages!” Just because they are melamine doesn’t mean they can’t look stylish too, as many new designs are both practical and pretty. Do think about waterproof table lamps and lanterns too.
Need to Know: The Butler’s Pantry has eleven shops around Dublin and an ever-evolving online shop. All food is prepared by its team of chefs and bakers using the best ingredients without the use of additives or preserves in its central kitchen in Bray, Co Wicklow. To discover how The Butler’s Pantry can help with all your party needs, visit www.thebutlerspantry.ie.