Dusting Off The BBQ with Sebastien & Sheila Centner
As the weather warms up and the days become longer, nothing brings friends and family together quite like a backyard barbecue to signal the start of the summer season.
There is nothing we love more than firing up the grill and inviting friends to join us in the late afternoon so we can enjoy the “golden hour” together.
We recommend keeping to a smaller group of six to eight people for a backyard barbecue, but we suspect it may not be uncommon to have a few last-minute guests bump those numbers up. With our barbecues, we always start planning for a certain number, and invariably Seb gets excited and extends the invite to another couple or two! For this reason, we love to serve a variety of dishes “family-style,” and prepare a bit of extra food – since with family platters, leftover portions can easily be salvaged for the next day.
We often say entertaining as a couple is a bit like a dance: balancing the prep work and day-of tasks between each other. Backyard barbecues are a perfect opportunity to split up entertaining duties, with one person tending to the grill and the other taking care of the guests and handling any last-minute details.
Backyard barbecues are well suited to simple décor, and for this reason we often go with the “less is more” principle and lean towards a rustic outdoor look – no fancy tablecloth needed here! If your backyard permits and you have the right space for it, consider moving your table directly onto the grass, to change things up a bit and give your tablescape a gorgeous natural backdrop.
Since you are already surrounded by the outdoors, colourful florals will tie together the table and the garden with pops of colour. By arranging the florals in large mason jars, you can easily shift them slightly to make room for the larger family-style platters when they arrive at the table.
If you don’t have a rustic wooden table, you can also use rattan charger plates as the foundation of your place setting. These are an inexpensive way to add some natural texture to your table and can be reused often.
It’s always nice to finish things off with little details as we’ve done with the gingham napkins here. Another of our favourite ideas is to tie colourful ribbons around your vases or mason jars.
We always begin the afternoon or early evening with a cocktail as guests arrive, but unlike other parties of ours, we skip serving canapés or snacks (since family-style meals with lots of variety can be a lot of food), and we move directly into dinner.
Serving family-style makes a lot of sense for a barbecue menu since plating individual portions at a grill can be challenging and platters are generally quicker to plate. Also, this way your food will arrive at the table faster… and warmer!
A barbecue menu typically features a pretty heavy protein or main course, so we balance this by serving light and fresh appetizers like our Tomato and Basil Salad dotted with buffalo mozzarella, or the more unique Grilled Peaches and Baguette with fresh Burrata. Both make for a colourful (and perhaps unexpected) start to the meal!
For the main courses, we recommend offering lots of variety, with mixed platters of chicken, steak, and sausage complemented by healthy side dishes like grilled portobello mushroom caps with Chèvre cheese and simply grilled asparagus. All these sides can be cooked on the grill, but if you find you’re getting short on space, they can also be cooked in the oven or on the range in the kitchen.
A Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail that features grapefruit juice, fresh lime and sparkling water or Sprite, finished with a pink grapefruit slice. Refreshing and delicious, this cocktail is a go-to for us when entertaining because the non-alcoholic version tastes just as good as the original.
Everyone loves a parting gift, and what better way to give your guests something to remember the meal by than with a jar of the dry spice rub we used on the chicken course. We used chalkboard paper and white chalk to add guests’ names to the top of each mason jar and then placed them at each setting as place cards.
Well, looks like you are now well-equipped to host the ultimate backyard barbecue, but don’t forget the most important Seb & Sheila tip – make sure to have fun at your own party!
When the host (or hosts) are relaxed and having a good time, so will your guests. Besides, don’t you think you deserve it after making it through another Canadian winter?