First things first: Step away from that grill. You heard us! It’s not time to cover it yet, unless it’s already snowing where you are. It’s time to get cozy outside, but not completely retreat indoors. Here’s how to do it in style.
1. Create a Cozy Environment
Don’t have a giant, blazing fire pit? Not a problem. Sometimes it’s the idea of heat as much as big flames that helps keep everyone cozy. So break out the cashmere throws, cushions and cozy chairs. (We have heated chairs; amazing.) You’ve also got heat lamps, lanterns, giant candles, electric candles, little strung lights, you name it as options. Think: Outdoor music and al fresco films. Let the little ones watch them to keep them out of your hair during cocktail hour; show outdoor movies for the olds when the littles go to bed. (If you have the stamina, let them watch the sunset, which is blissfully early right now in much of America.)
2. Offer Warm Drinks
It’s Irish coffee weather, folks. Serve warm drinks, or those that bridge summer and autumn beautifully. You can make a giant batch of hot chocolate, cider or hot toddies and keep it hot in this outdoor crock. And we’ve got the insulated vessels you need. Want warming wine, especially options that are grill-friendly? Lighter reds like a Grenache can be well-suited to pork dishes. A robust Argentine red blend, also from our wine club, stands up well to steaks.
3. Have a Grilled Comfort Food Menu
Is it just us, or do people get hungrier (and thus, hangrier) when the mercury drops? Have a menu at the ready. And think ahead: Keep food warm in a low or turned-off grill, or in chafing dishes on an outdoor sideboard. Make your cheeseboard, a salad and dessert ahead of time. Offer bread on its own cutting board with a knife and a crock of soft butter sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.
The cheeseboard is the lazy host’s friend. If you’re having people over “just for drinks” and you then spring this on them, you’re a hero. A god among men and women.
Hearty Grilled Main
Sometimes a cheeseboard curbs an appetite. Other times it whets them. So if your grill is right there, prepare for people to want to tuck into it. Consider a slow-roasted pork loin with cipollini onions. A grilled rib eye with mushroom sauce. A super low-and-slow smoked pork shoulder with a mustard-brown sugar rub. Classic brisket. (Who turns down the invite for BBQ brisket? No one, that’s who.)
Grilled Sides & Make-Ahead Salads
Think: warming notes, warming veggies, and make-ahead dishes. (There must be some sort of produce to accompany all that cheese and meat!) Think: grilled winter squash with spiced butter and hazelnuts or a make-ahead, no-wilt pomegranate and Brussels sprouts salad.
For dessert, let the farmers’ market be your guide. Consider our five-star apple galette. It involves a food-processor dough, and is just a dreamboat.