Enough With the Burgers and Hotdogs Already

I won’t lie; I love a big, thick burger fresh of the grill as much as the next guy. And I don’t shy away from a slightly charred hot dog either. But, as convenient as these staples of American backyard grilling may be, wouldn’t it be nice to mix things up now and again?

I’m a firm believer in subtly themed events. I love the idea of a backyard gathering with a tropical mood. My wife likes a spicy Latin theme. Sometimes we like to get back to our roots and welcome our guests with some down-home southern hospitality. Our themes aren’t always regional, either. There have been plenty events centered around seafood or sausages. The point is, we mix it up and so should you. Because, it’s those events where we pull out all the stops that our guests remember most fondly.

Save the burgers and hotdogs for small, quick and easy gatherings. For bigger events, take some time to consider a theme and then decorate and plan meals that are appropriate. It might take you a few tries to master more exotic recipes, but if you get it right you’ll be glad you took the time.

One way we like to spice things up is by serving pineapple salsa with salmon dishes for a sweet, fresh and delicious bite. We use fresh fruit centerpieces our guests can munch on while waiting for their main course and we always go the extra mile and serve clams and mussels fresh from our grocer. It’s our good fortune to live near the coast so all our seafood dishes are fresh.

Speaking of salmon, if you’re considering giving it a try, pickup some cedar planks from your local hardware store. It’s an incredibly aromatic way to prepare fresh salmon on the grill and one of those small touches that add up to make for big events.

And don’t forget about decorations. Throwing a memorable theme party is about more than just the food. Plan decorations that help the event pop. For any event with even the slightest tropical feel, my wife and I always light up garden torches that invite our guests to explore our yard. If we’re serving Mediterranean dishes, we light up the string lights over our patio. When we feel really brave and serve Asian-inspired dishes, we light paper lanterns and place them strategically through our garden and around our patio.

The point is to live a little and have fun. But one word of wisdom; practice before you party. The last thing you want is to tackle a complicated exotic dish only to find you’ve botched it entirely. Have a go at it in advance. Make a smaller portion for you and your family to enjoy. If it’s a hit, you’ve found your main course. If it flops, grab another recipe or pickup another book on backyard grilling and try again.

With a little planning ahead, your next backyard event could be the hit of the season. Your guests will remember you fondly for the effort you went through. But, even though I told you not to, go ahead and keep a few hotdogs and hamburgers in the fridge on standby. There’s no accounting for some people’s tastes and kids will always be shy when it comes to experimenting with new foods.