Why else would people with perfectly nice homes and kitchens pack up their things to camp, aside from the great truth about the great outdoors: everything tastes better outside.
Luckily, you can recreate some of that magic without having to cook and sleep alfresco – in several different ways. Inspired by the versatility of our endlessly mix-and-matchable table linens, we cornered Henry Roberts and Giles Russell, co-founders of the burgeoning empire of Two Hands, an Australian restaurant and bar (in Tribeca) and cafe (Nolita). With their laid-back style and commitment to fresh, elevated cuisine, we knew they’d be the perfect people to grill (ha!) on outdoor entertaining.
“Anything cooked over a wood fire is always going to taste incredible,” says Giles. “Wood fire cooking has its own flavor element which is impossible to recreate with anything else.”
Henry, who has a farm upstate, is of a similar mind. “I head to my local butcher to pick up a big cut of meat that I can grill on the BBQ or smoke over some apple wood on the fire – my particular butcher has their own homemade spicy BBQ marinate which I pour into the bag the cut of beef comes in, and let that marinate for several hours before cooking.”
Another option? Mix up a batch of what the Aussies call Rissoles. Mince meat mixed with diced onions, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and a raw egg yolk. “It really steps up your burger game,” says Henry, who also recommends slipping a slice of fresh beetroot into a burger.
Of course cookouts don’t just need to be meat-fests: Henry’s quick to plug eggplant and peppers as perfect veggie-accents to your BBQ (easy to roast over the fire, then finish with a pinch of sea salt and pepper and a slosh of some quality extra virgin olive oil.)
The truth is: barbeques never get old, and everyone loves them. It’s the spirit of the 4th of July without the ear-splitting fireworks going off every five minutes. Just add beer. Henry loves Montauk Summer Ale, or any other easy-drinking Lager – as long as it’s ice cold.
Placemats (1 per guest, and 1 extra to serve as a trivet for platters)
Dinner plates (1 per guest – and no need to accent with salad plate. No one wants a small dish at a BBQ.)
Flatware set (1 per guest)
Cocktail napkins (twice as many as number of guests; people will start using these as plates)
Pilsner glasses, obviously.
Small serving bowls for hot dog accoutrements.
Low serving bowl for grilled veggies.
Don’t have the time for BBQ but have 20 minutes for a grocery run? You’ve got a party. Embrace the idea of a well-set cheese and charcuterie board and you’re looking at an easy and impressive event. You crave maximum impact for minimum lift, and setting the table with some beautifully-appointed cheese boards does the trick. Pair with wine served from a decanter and you’re in business.
Henry’s go-to for nailing the easy grab-and-go fest? Some simple, fresh, and irresistible bruschetta. Start with fresh, quality ingredients (tomatoes off the vine, basil straight from the garden if you can) and a good loaf of sourdough you can slice up and rub with a halved garlic clove for some extra magic.
Accent it with olives and charred artichoke hearts and you’ve got a delicious, quick to pull together, and slightly addictive crowd-pleaser.
Cheese board set (2 for a party of 6 sets you up with ample room for your spread and knives for 6 different cheeses)
A table runner in white or natural (high contrast against the boards)
Cocktail napkins (1 per guest with extras on hand in case of spills)
Red wine glasses (1 per guest)