Ah, June! The warm sun on your shoulders, the green landscape, the blue sky punctuated with fluffy white clouds … it is almost too perfect that Father’s Day takes place in mid-June (this Sunday!), the last holiday before the official first day of summer (June 21). It is almost as if Father’s Day was designed for backyard barbecues and picnics. And while Father’s Day actually falls on the third Sunday in June because Sonora Dodd (the person credited with starting Father’s Day) established the day in honor of her father’s birthday on June 5, dads and grills fit perfectly together.
Hosting a Father’s Day barbecue is a little trickier when you live in an apartment, but it is worth the extra planning. If your apartment community has grilling and picnic areas, ask if you can reserve one for Father’s Day. If that isn’t possible, find a local park and reserve a picnic area there. If you can, try to find a park on the water (ocean, lake, or even a riverside park). This will give guests a chance to cool off and have fun while waiting for the grilling to be completed.
Send out invitations. Yes, barbecues are informal gatherings, but it’s still a good idea to send something a week or so in advance. It can be an informal email, a cute Evite, or a traditional invitation, just be sure to include anything you want guests to bring along, such as bathing suits and towels if you’ll be poolside or at the beach, picnic blankets, or chairs. If you want them to contribute to the party, you can request they bring drinks, a side dish, appetizers, dessert, etc. Include instructions on where to park (your apartment’s guest parking area) or where to meet (the address of the park and the location of the barbecue area).
Plan ahead. You’ll want to marinate steaks and chicken (separately!) in their respective marinades the day before in the refrigerator, make a batch of strawberry sauce (mix strawberries with sugar and a dash of lemon juice and store it in the fridge), freeze fresh fruit (such as blueberries and raspberries) and water in ice cube trays, make potato salad, etc.
Prepare for transport. If you are headed to a park, make a checklist now of everything you want to bring: coolers packed with ice, picnic blankets, paper plates, cups, napkins, plastic utensils, and so on. If you are having other guests bring items, double-check to make sure they are still bringing what you asked for. If you are using the apartment community’s picnic area, try to bring what you can ahead of time so you aren’t constantly running back to your apartment during the barbecue.
Plan some games. The barbecue isn’t just about the food – it is also about the fun. Consider horseshoes, bocce, and badminton. Also bring a football and a Frisbee.
Playing all of those games is going to make guests hungry, so plan a few snacks for guests to munch on before the barbecue. Chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, and vegetable trays will all be appreciated.
Don’t forget the drinks! While beer is often the preferred barbecue beverage, you’ll want to have plenty of options for all of your guests – wine, water, soda, iced tea, lemonade, and fruit juice. Give your guests the frozen-fruit ice cubes to add to drinks to make them a little more festive.
Consider the unexpected. Pack a first-aid kit (filled with tweezers, bandages, antibacterial cream, etc.) and bring it along. You may also want to pack extra sunscreen for those guests who forget theirs, umbrellas or a plastic tarp in case of rain, and bug repellant.
Be safe! Raw meat should be kept away from all other food. Things like potato salad and coleslaw should be kept in the cooler on ice until ready to serve. Cook ground beef to at least 155 degrees and chicken to 165 degrees.
Remember the veggies. The burgers, steaks, brats, and dogs are the stars of any barbecue, but you’ll want sides, as well. Grill quartered heads of romaine lettuce and then drizzle them with olive oil and parmesan cheese or grill some thick-sliced zucchini and squash. For the vegetarians in the crowd, grill some Portobello mushrooms (they make great “burgers!”).
Don’t forget the condiments! The usual suspects are ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish. Consider adding a few non-traditional condiments, such as hot sauce, barbecue sauce, sauerkraut, and mayonnaise.
End with dessert! Great desserts for outdoor parties include parfaits, ice cream or other frozen treats, and pies. If you want to keep the grill going (but just barely – it should be low), add slices of angel food cake (grill just enough to add that BBQ flavor). Take the cake off the grill and top with the strawberry mixture you made at home and a dollop of whipped cream.
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