Summer evokes the freedom of childhood, a carefree time when spirited days indulging in the outdoors seemed to stretch on forever. As adults, we seek every opportunity to recapture the simple pleasures of youth: when the sky is clear and the sun is bright, making sand castles, napping in fresh-cut grass, setting up lemonade stands and eating wild strawberries.
Recreating childhood memories has its charms, but it’s even better to create new traditions. A glorious blue sky and a gentle breeze are the only reasons necessary to invite your family and friends to join you as you go outside and play, eat, drink and celebrate summer.
On the following pages, we’ll share the joys of a traditional, New England-themed 4th of July clambake, a sleek urban rooftop soiree, a picture-perfect Provençal-style picnic and an upscale camping party. And because no celebration would be complete without wine pairings, killer cocktails, fine food, an inviting table and mood-setting music, we’ll tell you everything you need to know—and everything you need to buy—to throw an unforgettable outdoor celebration.
Urban Rooftop Party
It’s easy to get lost in the city. Towering buildings cast shadows, pedestrians fight for personal space and often, views of cars stuck in traffic eclipse any glimpse of nature.
But on a rooftop, everything changes. “Height gives perspective. The lay of the land suddenly makes sense,” says Shelley Armistead, general manager of Soho House West Hollywood, which has 360-degree views of snow-capped mountains, skyscrapers and the sea. Whether it’s taking in a nature-meets-city Los Angeles swath, glimpsing the glittering nighttime skyscrapers of Manhattan or savoring a sparkling Chicago shoreline, the right kind of rooftop marries memorable views with a slick city spread.
Urban Rooftop Menu
From WP24 Restaurant & Lounge by Wolfgang Puck in downtown Los Angeles, Executive Chef Sara Johannes suggests modern Chinese cuisine that is on par with breathtaking aerial views.
Miniature Kurobuta “Red Pork” Bao Buns
Pink Grapefruit Hamachi Ceviche with Avocado and Pink Peppercorns
Thai Beef Salad with Glass Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Toasted Peanut and Mint
Sugarcane Grilled Prawns with Julienned Mango, Green Papaya and Thai Basil
Colorado Lamb Chops with Cilantro-Mint Vinaigrette
Grilled Rockfish with Pineapple Sambal and Coconut Curried Crab Ragout
Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Fried Ginger and Citrus-Shallot Ponzu Sauce
Green Tea Financier with Strawberries
Roasted Almond Panna Cotta with Lychee Gelee and Dragonfruit
Slow Cooked Pork Belly Bao Buns
Courtesy of Sara Johannes, Chef de Cuisine of WP24 Restaurant and Lounge
For pork belly:
2½-pound pork belly
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup rice wine
2 tablespoons black peppercorn
5 star anise seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons whole cloves
4 each dried Arbol chilies
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
Prepare pork belly: Scrub pork belly with kosher salt and rice vinegar. Let stand for ½ hour. Wash and dry the belly. Cut into 4 equally sized pieces. Place pieces in a deep pan and cover with water. Add all ingredients. Braise belly in oven at 325°F for 3–4 hours, or until a fork releases easily from the meat. When meat is done, carefully remove pieces from the braising liquid and cool on a rack. Chill completely before cutting into slices.
For Chinese BBQ sauce:
1 cup hoisin
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced scallions
2 tablespoons five spice powder
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
To make Chinese BBQ sauce: Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Strain and set aside.
For pork belly finish:
Thinly sliced cucumber
To finish: Trim off ends of pork and discard. Cut remaining pork belly into slices 1-inch by 2-inch pieces. Crisp the slices in a pan with vegetable oil until golden. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour 2 ounces of sauce over the belly. Remove pan from heat. Steam Bao buns until soft, approximately 2 minutes if precooked, 6 minutes if dough is raw. Place a piece of pork in the center of the bun. Top with cucumber, scallion and cilantro. Serves 4 as an appetizer, or 15-20 as an hors d’oeuvre.
Toasted Almond Panna Cotta with Lychee Gelée
Courtesy of Sally Camacho, pastry chef of WP24
For Toasted Almond Panna Cotta:
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces sugar
8 ounces natural sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons gelatin, powdered
¼ cup water
To make panna cotta: In saucepan, scald cream, milk and sugar. Remove from heat. Add almonds. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup water. When gelatin is spongy, place bowl over a simmer water bath (bain-marie) until gelatin melts. Stir into cream mixture. In blender, purée cream mixture; strain through fine strainer. Divide mixture equally between 12 small bowls or ramekins. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or until firm.
For lychee gelée:
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
1 cup lychee juice
Dragon fruit or lychees, as needed
Sprinkle gelatin over lychee juice. Allow gelatin to bloom for 15 minutes. Place mixture in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and transfer mixture to a container and place in the refrigerator to firm and set, about 4 hours.
To finsh: Cut lychee gelee into medium cubes. Place a few cubes of gelée onto each panna cotta. To finish, garnish dessert with sliced pieces of dragon fruit or lychees. Serves 12.
Urban Rooftop Décor
Afternoon views are stunning, but urban rooftops really sizzle once the sun sets. For maximum drama when entertaining at night, Armistead recommends hanging vintage mirrors on the walls and using amber lights to create the illusion of being surrounded by the electric energy of the city. It’s heady stuff, so stay grounded by setting the table with substantial glasses, solid plates and heavy linen napkins rolled into rings. And always have throws on hand for when the temperature drops at night. Soho House uses cashmere, but cotton will do the job, too.
Keep your wine or Champagne bottles close at hand and cool for up to three hours in this double-walled iceless wine bottle chiller. Its sleek style matches the modern tone of an urban gathering. $19.95 at wineenthusiast.com
Urban Rooftop Playlist
Chuck P, music supervisor and KCRW LA DJ, recommends Chill with Dubstep from James Blake, LCD Soundsystem, Feist and Lykke Li. Classic New Order and Madonna, or new music from MNDR, Rainbow Arabia and Creep turn any rooftop into an outdoor club. Crank old-school hip hop from Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang Clan, The Pharcyde, Snoop Dog, and Public Enemy.
Urban Rooftop Wine Recommendations
Start the party with a sparkling wine from Argentina or Brazil, then move on to an Austrian Grüner Veltliner or a Cheverny from the France’s Loire Valley—both can handle the spice with grace. For red wine drinkers, choose a light red from another little-known French appellation, like Arbois or Côtes du Jura; for a full-bodied red, pour something from Puglia, Sicily or Sardinia.
Urban Rooftop Cocktail
Allan Katz, general manager of Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles, combines chili-infused cachaça with refreshing cucumbers to create a cocktail that is simultaneously hot and insanely cool.
2 ounces chili-infused Leblon Cachaça*
1 ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce turbinado sugar simple syrup
1 inch of sliced cucumbers
Smoked salt and pepper
Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Muddle, add ice and shake well. Pour into a double old fashioned glass. Add a pinch of smoked salt and a half-twist of the pepper grinder on the surface of the cocktail.
*Chili-Infused Leblon Cachaça Recipe:
Coarsely chop one Anaheim pepper and three Serrano peppers. Place seeds and skins in a stainless steel or glass container. Add one liter of Leblon Cachaça. Infuse for three hours. Strain and pour into a bottle.
Picnic in Provence
In Provence, it is not unusual for a driver to be so overcome by the way the sun casts its ethereal light on the hills and vines that the most logical response is to stop the car and have an impromptu picnic. Judith Warburton, co-owner of Lavender Blue in Cazenovia, NY, has been known to do just that while in Provence, sourcing linens for her store. As a result, she’s perfected the art of picnicking in style.
Provençal Picnic Menu
Bouchon in Yountville, CA is located in a region (Napa wine country) that has a similar climate and culinary sensibility to Provence. Chef de Cuisine Michael Sandoval recommends the following, drawn from Bouchon’s upcoming Provence regional menu.
An open-faced pizza-like onion tart topped with anchovies and olives
Legumes à la Bagna Cauda
Fresh garden vegetables with an anchovy aioli
Artichauts à la Barigoule
Globe artichokes cooked in a white wine, marinated in Champagne vinaigrette and finished with fresh thyme and parsley
Herbes de Provence-marinated mushrooms, roasted eggplant and peppers with garden arugula
Navettes de Marseille
Cookies made of lemon or orange, sometimes flavored with lavender, or pretty French treats like macaroons.
Small diamond-shaped confections featuring fruity almond paste on a thin film of azymes or matzah
Provençal Picnic Décor
You can buy everything you need for a picnic at any of the local markets, says Warburton. Crusty bread, olives, charcuterie, cheese, a cheese board and a Laguiole folding knife with a corkscrew for your wine. In France, flowers are as necessary as bread, so a simple sunflower placed in the center of a picnic blanket is an authentic decoration. Choose a lavender-colored blanket to create a soothing field of color, and use napkins with a cigale motif, neutral plates by a local potter and mismatched vintage silver. Dining on the ground means an uneven surface, so Warburton recommends using spikes that go in the ground and stabilize your wine bottle and glasses. C’est parfait! Now drink and enjoy the view.
Balance your wine bottle and glasses above the grass by pushing these clever stainless steel Steady Sticks into the ground. $24.95 for a three piece set that includes bottle stick and two stemware sticks.
Provençal Picnic Playlist
Go French of course, says Chuck, choosing Pierre Michelot for jazz and Charles Aznavour—France’s Frank Sinatra—for slow dances. Café de Paris compilations contain enough music for a leisurely afternoon party: Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Tino Rossi & Edith Piaf. For a fresh take on French swing, try Les Chauds Lapins.
Also consider rosés from other parts of France—the Loire and the Rhône in particular—and other parts of the globe. Rosados from Spain, Rosatos from Italy, even domestic dry rosés will work. For red and white options, look to Provence, Languedoc- Roussillon and the Rhône, while if your preferences run to bubbly, crémants from Languedoc, Burgundy and Alsace are less expensive than Champagne and just as versatile.
Provençal Picnic Cocktail
Created by Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas of Employees Only in New York, this apéritif evokes the elegant perfume of the air in Provence. The secret is to infuse gin and vermouth with lavender and herbes de Provence, respectively.
2 ounces Employees Only lavender-infused Plymouth Gin
1¼ ounces Employees Only Vermouth de Provence
¾ ounce Cointreau
1 orange twist, for garnish
Pour gin, vermouth and Cointreau into a mixing glass. Add large ice cubes. Stir for 40 revolutions. Strain into a chilled Champagne coupe glass. Garnish with orange twist.
Fourth of July Beach Clambake
Clambakes are one of the oldest, most classic beach parties, and a perfect way to celebrate a balmy summer 4th of July holiday. Native Americans created the cooking technique we suggest, which requires digging a pit in the sand, filling it with stones, starting a fire, then, once the stones and sand radiate heat, topping the pit with seaweed and fresh shellfish. While the food slowly cooks, guests swim, sun and sip cocktails, eagerly anticipating the first bite of lobster dipped in drawn butter.
Those who’d rather spend the Fourth of July chilling out instead of digging pits and carrying stones across the beach ask a caterer like Woodman’s of Essex, MA—who shared this classic menu— to do the heavy lifting.
New England clam chowder
Jumbo poached shrimp with lemon wedges and horseradish cocktail sauce
Contents of the Clambake:
Soft shell clams
Corn on the cob
Hot, drawn butter for lobsters and steamers
Lemon wedges for shellfish
Apple pie with cheddar cheese or ice cream
“Lobster, corn and shellfish are so gorgeous that you want to showcase the food, not clutter the table,” advises Jane Miller, interior designer and owner of J.E.M. Furnishings in Boston. Miller’s philosophy is to keep clambakes simple. Use enamelware, sturdy glasses and an oilcoth in a neutral color to protect the table and provide easy clean-up. Anchor the tablecloth with stones from the sea and substantial lanterns that won’t tip over. Gusts of wind are inevitable, so use a covered beverage jar with a spigot to protect your party punch from sand. Because clambakes are messy, your guests will appreciate aprons filled with the necessary tools: lobster crackers, seafood picks and wet-naps.
Chuck P. suggests classic rock for the ultimate beach music experience : Van Halen (pre-Sammy), Aerosmith (pre-facelifts), The Who, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin. Bob Marley belongs wherever there’s surf and sand. “Best of” classic rock and reggae compilations from Rhino Records or Blood & Fire offer maximum variety.
Clambake Wine Recommendations:
California Chardonnays (keep the theme domestic for the 4th) are weighty enough to work, but play around with other choices as well, like fragrant Washington Rieslings, crisp Virginia rosés and lively sparklers from New York’s Finger Lakes.
The Magic Word
Misty Kalkofen, a bartender at Drink in Boston, recently debuted this refreshing summer punch. Crisp and floral, it has a hint of sweetness and a pop of palate-reviving acidity.
24 ounces Siete Leguas
9 ounces St-Germain
6 ounces Aperol
6 ounces fresh-squeezed Lemon juice, finely strained
18 ounces J.K.’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Orchard Hard Cider
1 thinly sliced lemon, for garnish
Mix all ingredients in a large container filled with large ice cubes.
Kalkofen recommends leaving a stirrer in the container so guests can recombine ingredients, which will settle between pours.
If J.K. Scrumpy’s is not available, substitute with a slightly sweet hard cider. Serves 12
“The night sky in Big Sur is so immediate, intimate and vast,” says Wanda Straw, Restaurant Manager of Post Ranch Inn, as she points out her favorite spot for an outdoor upscale camping party. “And the stars! The Milky Way is so prominent that you feel like you can reach out and scoop it.”
Wherever you are, spending all night gathered around the campfire is a classic way to take full advantage of park-friendly summer nights. To transform a plain picnic table into a haven for outdoor dreaming, drinking and dining, Straw shares a few tips.
Michelle Wojtowicz and Philip Wojtowicz of Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant cook on a wood-fired grill every day, so they are authorities on gourmet campfire cuisine. Refer to The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook to make many of these recipes at your next summer campfire.
Grilled oysters with Champagne mignonette
Mâche with citrus, avocado, almonds, and grapefruit dressing
Grilled mackerel paired with sliced heirloom tomatoes and shaved fennel
Brown butter rhubarb bars
Brownies and blondies
Images of 1950s and ’60s era families striking out on family trips in the Airstream and creating fun meals on the go are a slice of American history, and can be recreated with class. Bring retro cool to the campground with mid-century modern-inspired linens, plates and flatware with colorful handles. Bold prints in orange, yellow and green mirror poppies, lemons and green mountainsides. For wine glasses, go for elegant but break-resistant choices.
Create a “dining room” by stringing rope from tree to tree, then accent the periphery with flameless votive candles. For the table, votive holders with patterns punched out create a mini Milky Way on the tablecloth. Lemons cut with their branches attached make a sculptural centerpiece and are a convenient way to store fruit for your Grilled Vodka Lemonade.
Dock Boggs, Bob Dylan, the American Anthology of Folk Music, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack beckon guests to gather ’round the campfire, says Chuck. Sing along with country from Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Patsy Cline. For a contemporary take on that high lonesome sound, play Abigail Washburn and Frank Fairfield.
Go rugged with hearty New World wines like Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, California Zinfandel or Petite Sirah or South African Pinotage. All of these are friends of smoke and the grill. Old World picks include hearty reds from such varied regions as Spain’s Priorat, France’s Languedoc-Roussillon and Rhône Valley, Hungary’s Villány, and Greece.
Grilled Vodka Lemonade
Litty Mathew, spirits maker and cofounder of GreenBar Collective in Monrovia, CA, provided the inspiration for this recipe. Briefly grilling sliced lemon before shaking with ice releases citrus oils, enhancing the flavor of this campfire spin on a summer classic.
½ lemon, sliced into 3 wheels
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ounce freshly squeezed Lemon juice
2 ounces TRU Organic Vodka
1½ ounces soda water
Mint, for garnish
Grill lemon wheels for 30 seconds on each side. Alternate layering grilled lemon and sugar in a shaker. Allow sugar to dissolve. Place lemon juice, vodka and ice in container. Shake well to chill. Pour entire contents of shaker into a double oldfashioned glass. Top with soda water. Stir to combine. Garnish with mint.