The Backyard Bon Vivant

The Backyard Bon Vivant

The Gentleman Farmers

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Stars of the TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Sharon Springs, New York 

Known for their Cooking Channel reality show (and for winning the The Amazing Race), Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell are city dwellers-turned-gentlemen farmers who put a sophisticated face on the locavore movement. Their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook (Sterling Epicure, $25) is a love song to local, seasonal eating using heirloom vegetables, and their “Mortgage Lifter” Heirloom Tomato Sauce, named for the variety of tomato it’s made with, helps to support small, family-owned farms. Josh and Brent raise llamas and goats alongside their indispensable resident farmer, John Hall, as well as manage various Beekman 1802 products, including a skin care line, cheese and honey.

A summer breeze is a clean napkin’s (and germaphobe’s) worst nightmare. To secure your lap linens in style, screw in old drawer handles into the wooden picnic table next to each place setting so guests can secure them.


The Scene

Josh and Brent are celebrating Independence Day at the Sharon Springs Town Square, which was damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011. This spring, they and their neighbors helped restore the historic park. When it comes to the table, these stylish farm hands work the shabby chic angle like no one else. The key: Their enviable collection of vintage mix-and-match stoneware and flatware culled from antique stores and flea markets all over the country.

The Menu

If you planted your garden early enough, all the sides on this vegetable-laden menu can come directly from your backyard. Everything but the Bar B Q Chicken can be made a day in advance to keep the focus on the fun and the family. If they’re only feeding a few friends, Josh and Brent will use their own chickens, but for a big crowd they rely on Black Willow Pond Farms in Cobleskill, New York.

Corn Chowder Salad
Bar B Q Chicken with Mortgage Lifter
Bourbon Sauce
Green Bean Slaw 
Pickled Watermelon Rind
Cucumber and Watermelon Salad 
Sour Cherry Clafouti

The Drinks

Josh and Brent like to stand traditional drinks on their head and always use artisanal spirits and ingredients. First up is the Beekman Boys Bourbon Slush, a frosty concoction featuring Hudson Whiskey’s Baby Bourbon, made from 100% New York corn. The Sharon Springs Sling is a mojito-style drink using mint, fresh ginger simple syrup, and Star Vodka. Star is now made in Oregon using only non-GMO corn, but a new distillery is under construction in Sharon Springs, and local heirloom corn will be used in production. To add a little city style, a good old fashioned gin and tonic rounds out the bar menu, using Brooklyn Gin and Q Tonic, a fructose-free mixer from the country’s hippest outer borough.

Beekman Boys Bourbon Slush
¾ cup orange juice
2½ cups lemon juice
2 cups brewed dark tea
2 cups sugar
2 cups Hudson Whiskey Baby   Bourbon

Mix all ingredients and freeze overnight in a wide-mouth glass pitcher or carafe. 

Remove from freezer and let thaw for 5−10 minutes to make it easy to mash into slush with a long-handled fork. 

Pour/scoop into individual glasses that rimmed with sugar. Top this icy treat with a mint sprig and slice of lemon or lime.  Serve before it melts!

The Chef

Shawn Cirkiel
Owner and chef of parkside, olive + june and the backspace in Austin, Texas  

Chef Shawn Cirkiel studied at the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked in some of America’s finest kitchens, but his farm-boy roots shine through when it’s time to host a party. In addition to his Austin, Texas gastropub, parkside, Shawn is the chef-proprietor of two other Austin standouts, the backspace, his pizza joint, and olive & june, a family-style Southern Italian destination, which draws on his father’s Bronx, New York, roots. Shawn doesn’t just spout the word sustainable on his menus: He’s a founding chef and board member of the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers Market in downtown Austin.

Shawn’s summer skirt steak secret: Marinate beef in stout beer. 

Mosquitos are attracted to heat, so dress cool—and burn citronella!

Room temperature should never be 90藲F. Don’t be afraid to chill your red wine on a hot summer day.


The Scene

When the Fourth comes around, Shawn and his wife Bria load up their 1951 red Ford pickup truck and head out to a friend’s ranch and pecan farm in nearby San Saba. They have some some tablecloths from their grandmothers that they like to cover the picnic table with, they use cloth napkins, and pile the food up on antique blue and white dinner plates. July is lavender season in Texas, so they dress the table with lavender sprigs in old bottles, and let the kids add some twigs so they feel like they’re helping. The kids also roam the trees to gather pecans, which Shawn roasts over the fire and then serves as snacks. No matter how hot the day, the party always culminates around the fire pit.

The Menu

Shawn works with John Lash of Farm to Table distributors, which curates every ingredient from local outfits. Bottom line: If you want the best local grub, get to know your farmers.

Convict Hill Stout Beer-Soaked Skirt Steak 
Peach and Basil Agua Fresca 
Summer Potato Salad
Marinated Smoked Chicken with Guajillo Salsa
Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Honey
Charred Corn Salad with Feta and Roasted Peppers
Melon & Lemongrass Salad 
Sweet Pickled Cucumber & Couscous Salad
Grilled Texas Peaches, Root Bear Ice Cream

Melon-Lemongrass Salad
2 cups honeydew melon, balled
2 cups cantaloupe, balled
2 cups blueberries
¼ cup palm sugar
2 stalks lemon grass, crushed
1 teaspoon Thai chili, sliced
1 teaspoon ginger, sliced
¼ cup Thai basil leaves, cleaned
¼ cup mint leaves, cleaned
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and season to taste. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours prior to serving.  

The Drinks

This is a Hill Country casual affair, so don’t go looking for a silver wine bucket. The cooler for the day is a giant vintage Coca-Cola chest, a hand-me-down from Shawn’s uncle. Bending Branch NV Tannat is the choice for the red drinkers. The rich berry-and-plum flavor with touches of tobacco and mesquite match the spicy grilled skirt steak, smoked chicken and charred corn salad. Solaro Estate 2010 Arancia, an Orange Muscat from the Texas High Plains, has clean, tropical fruit and citrus flavors that pairs nicely with the sweet-and-sour notes of the melon & lemongrass salad, and cucumber & couscous salad. 

The Artisanal Purveyor

Lyf Gildersleeve
Owner, Flying Fish Company, a seafood and market in Portland, Oregon

Lyf Gildersleeve’s fish shack, Flying Fish Company, specializes in 100% sustainable seafood, local grass-fed meats, farm-fresh eggs and housemade products. Lyf and his wife Natalie spend July 4th in the backyard with their two young kids and a ton of friends and neighbors who wander over to enjoy the day-long affair. 

Want chemical-free scallops? Thought so. Then only buy dry-packed brands. 

After the grill heats up, brush the grates with olive oil for stick-free fish.


The Scene

Flip-flops and shorts are the outfits of the day, and tables and chairs are set up all over the sprawling yard. While the grownups play corn-hole, the kids play tag. Plastic plates and cutlery are banned—anything that can’t be recycled or composted is unwelcome at this party. Hand-thrown pottery and wooden planks are put to use, and craft beer is the drink of choice.

The Menu

Lyf steals grill recipes from his pal Chef Erika Reagor, who runs the Thrive Pacific food truck. Lyf brings almost everything from  Flying Fish except vegetables, which he and Natalie grow in the yard. The oysters are from Nevor Shellfish and Taylor Shellfish, and even Da Sauce is pedigreed, coming from Sok Sab Bai, a local Cambodian food cart.

Rosse Posse Elk Burgers Topped With Local Goat Feta and Fresh Wasabi
Chef Erika’s Gluten-Free Steelhead Cakes, Tartar Sauce, Grilled Sauvie Island Corn, Cilantro and Roasted Poblanos 
Grilled Alaska Weathervane Scallops Wrapped in House-Smoked Pork Bacon
Local Oregon and Washington Oysters on the Half Shel With Da Sauce 
Cedar Plank Oregon Chinook Salmon topped with Chimichurri Sauce
Oregon Rockfish Tacos with Apple and Napa Cabbage Slaw
Fresh Picked Raspberries and Blackberries with Vanilla Ice Cream 

The Drinks

Portland is the unofficial beer capital of the USA, with over 50 breweries operating within the city limits. Lyf offers his guests a mix of small-batch craft beers and a few from larger operations. Oakshire Brewing’s Overcast Espresso Stout, with rich flavors and coffee notes, is his choice with elk burgers. The spice and herb characters of HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) Organic Lager match the spicy steelhead cakes. Scallops and bacon, with their mix of sea salt and sweetness, call out for the tart and floral notes of the 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s Serious Scrump Dry Cider. Oysters with hot sauce need something to put out the fire, and 10 Barrel Brewing Company India Style Session Ale will do the trick. Ninkasi Brewing Company’s Radiant Summer Ale has a bit of nuttiness and some nice citrus notes that pair perfectly with cedar plank salmon and herb-laden chimichurri. 

Chef Erika’s Bacon-Wrapped Sea Scallops
12 slices thick-cut natural bacon
12 sea scallops
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350藲F.  On cookie sheet, bake the bacon until the strips are golden around the edges but still pliable. This should take 12−15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Soak 12 6-inch bamboo skewers in warm water for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and brush the grates with oil.

Season the scallops on all sides with salt and smoked paprika. Wrap each with a piece of the bacon, securing through the center with skewer. Place the scallops on the grill, turning frequently for about 5−7 minutes. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Garnish each scallop with a dab of butter and a pinch of parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

The Winemaker

Emily Hodson Pelton,
Veritas Vineyard & Winery,
Afton, Virginia

Pliny the Elder gave us the oft-heard saying, “In vino veritas,” or in wine there is truth. Winemaker Emily Hodson Pelton and her parents, Andrew and Patricia Hodson, believe that the truth is in the grapes. After graduating Emory University with a degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology, Emily helped her family set up Veritas, and then switched gears and received a master’s degree in enology from Virginia Tech. Patricia tends the vines and Emily’s focus is crafting terroir-driven wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Bordeaux-style blends.

The Scene

Emily and her family lay out a spread under the ash trees at the Veritas Farmhouse, their circa-1836 bed and breakfast. The vineyard setting in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is perfect for a day of refined but comfortable outdoor entertaining. Tables are covered with crisp linens, and a mix of family china and more recently acquired pieces lay the groundwork for traditional Virginia fare served in elegant wine country style. Mixed bouquets add a dash of color to a restrained palate of whites and pinks.

The Menu

Emily can tell you where all of her food—and recipes—come from. Although she has a thing for fried chicken, she’s sticking with Virginia tradition and barbecuing birds from Timbercreek Organic farm, using a recipe provided by Chef Will Richey of The Whiskey Jar in Charlottesville. Her ham and andouille sausage are from the Rock Barn in Swoope, the chèvre is from her friend Gail Hobbs Paige’s Caromont Farms in Esmont and vegetables are from Planet Earth Diversified Produce in Standardsville. Emily uses locally grown Silver Queen Corn, and Veritas Executive Chef Jonathan Burroughs creates a delicious dessert using peaches from the Saunders Family Farm.

Whiskey Jar Barbeque Chicken
The Rock Barn Fresh Smoked Ham with Bold Rock Hard Cider Glaze 
Potato and Cucumber Salad
Roasted Corn with Diced Smoked Andouille Sausage 
Heirloom Tomato and Caromont Farms Chevre Short Stack 
Grilled Saunders Peaches With Viognier Mint Sorbet

Roasted Corn With Rock Barn Andouille Sausage
6 ears corn
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ pound Rock Barn Smoked Andouille Sausage, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of ½ lime
1½ limes, cut into six wedges

Preheat oven to 400藲F.  Cut kernels from corncobs. Mix corn kernels with olive oil, diced sausage, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15−20 minutes, scraping and turning kernels and sausage over once or twice. Corn should be tender and lightly caramelized.

Spoon corn and sausage into bowl and add lime juice. Serve with lime wedges. Serves 4−6.

The Drinks:

Emily shares her own Veritas wines with her guests. The berry and pepper flavors of Veritas’s 2012 Cabernet Franc are a nice match with the sweet-and-spicy notes of the barbecue chicken. She recommends a slight detour with the Rock Barn ham, pairing Crimson Ridge Vat No 1 Hard Cider, which will work with the smoky sweetness of the ham and its hard cider glaze. Veritas’s 2012 Rosé, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, has smooth flavors of cherry, with soft florality that will complement the balance of sweet, bright and creamy notes of the tomato and chèvre stack. With grilled peaches and Viognier mint sorbet, Emily pairs Veritas’s 2012 Viognier, whose peach and citrus notes are right on with this refreshing dessert. And, since no Southern summer party is complete without a mint julep, Emily makes hers with John J. Bowman Bourbon Whiskey from Fredericksburg.

To make a mint julep, says Emily, “Shake the heck out of some Bourbon and fresh spearmint with some crushed ice. That’s it.”

Start your grilled chicken with indirect heat, but baste with sauce and place it over the coals when it begins to char.

Published on May 21, 2013