Time to make the most of the warmth of a late August day, because, yes, September looms on the horizon. The tail end of summer provides the perfect occasion for al fresco dining, for food that is light and summery and local, accompanied by the perfectly matching beverage. My imagination is stirred by this weather into a portfolio of dining scenarios and, since I am definitely no Natalie MacLean, I have asked our favorite Go Cooking sommelier, Peter Kline from Bacchus Sommelier Services, to help me out with some suggestions.
For instance, how about lunch on a shady, wide veranda (if you are lucky enough to own one)? You have invited your very best friends to join you in this cool and breezy spot and so the conversation is lively, gossipy and laced with laughter. You might serve a cold soup, a shrimp salad with avocado, corn and tomato, sesame pita toasts and a variety of sorbets or gelatos. Peter suggests a rosé — Malivoire Lady Bug Rosé, LCBO 559088, $15.95 which, I see the LCBO says is medium bodied and dry and such a pretty colour you’ll want to use your very best crystal wine glasses.
Okay, the scene changes and it’s your turn to have the neighbourhood backyard barbecue. Let’s hope it’s a hot and humid day and, if you have a pool, it will be filled with splashing and cavorting neighbours and kids. Make sure that you have lots of napkins available and eschew the soggy paper plates for some good quality plastic. You are the barbecue king/queen and are grilling steaks, hamburgers and hotdogs but also veggies coated with olive oil, salt and pepper. There are platters of sliced tomatoes with basil and balsamic, and spring onions and cold watermelon slices and a big fruit salad. For dessert — how about some “homemade” fruit pies with ice cream — you can buy them at the market. Two suggestions from Peter to quench your thirst: Are You Game Shiraz, LCBO #327320, 16.95, and, if you are really want to impress the neighbours, a few bottles of Kilikanoon, The Medley GSM, #675256, $27.95, both hearty wines from Australia.
And, now for something completely different: an elegant picnic beside a waterfall (I know you can find a decent waterfall in Hamilton). This should be just the two of you — think Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief.” The conversation is rife with sly and wicked innuendo, and a wicker hamper and a convertible would be charming accessories. You are nibbling on paté on baguettes, cold fried chicken, Alsatian potato salad (see recipe below), pastries and lemon tarts. In the film, the duo are drinking cold beer, which would be just fine. But Peter’s choices are much more elegant: Dopff and Irion Crystal d’Alsace Sylvaner, LCBO 35667, $12.95, light and crisp or De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Rosé Brut, LCBO 211466, light and fruity, $19.30.
Less elegant and more crowd pleasing is a picnic on the beach. Most Canadian beaches do not allow you to make fires without permits, so for this you will need some cool friends and a big cooler. Pack the cooler with food that won’t wilt or disintegrate — green bean and cherry tomato salad, cold poached chicken breasts with tarragon mayonnaise, rice salad with lemon and pine nuts, sand cookies or butter tarts. And wait until the sun passes its zenith before you start to eat. It would be nice if someone could play an instrument, but a boom box is fine. Peter’s choices: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc #35386 on sale at $19.95 (I can vouch for this but it is the only one of Peter’s choices that I am personally acquainted with) or, if you prefer a red, G. Marquis The Silver Line Pinot Noir #258673, $19.95, from Magnotta Winery. Actually, it would be nice to have both …
And what is more poignant or memory enhancing than those last few weekends at the cottage? You are serving brunch to house guests, family or friends — maybe on a screened in porch or even on your own dock beside a clear and glassy northern lake. Ham and cheddar frittata, blueberry muffins, toast and homemade strawberry jam, lots of hot coffee and orange juice. Peter says that this occasion simply screams “Mimosas, mimosas, mimosas” a wonderful combination that you can concoct yourself of orange juice and any kind of chilled sparkling wine.
Anyway, I’m going to stop now because I’m making myself very hungry. And even if your version of al fresco dining is a bologna sandwich, a bag of Doritos and a cold Coke overlooking the parking lot, I hope you will create your very own late summer dining scenario. And I’ll leave you with a recipe for the Alsatian potato salad which is great for portable feasts because it doesn’t have any mayonnaise in it and the romaine holds up nicely.
Alsatian Potato Salad
my own recipe
2 lb red new potatoes
6 slices bacon
2 sliced scallions
4 tbsp finely chopped white onion
3 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp dry white wine
5 tbsp olive oil
romaine leaves for garnish
1) Boil the potatoes whole, with salted water, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and cool. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.
2) Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop coarsely.
3) Add scallions, chopped onion, parsley, wine and oil to potatoes and half of the bacon. Toss together.
4) Add romaine leaves, spoon into bowl and garnish with the rest of the bacon bits.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.