For the last year, life has felt like it has been on hold. One month blended into the next without much to differentiate it—or to even mark that time had passed.
Now, with the unofficial start of summer here, it finally feels like a new season, complete with nice weather and the promise of finally being able to meet up with friends and family—in person.
To help you throw a successful outdoor brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktail party, pick up these accessories, tools and ingredients.
Canned cocktails and wines are, of course, perfect for everything from picnics to bonfires. While there are many of these beverages on the market, I usually find myself serving the same ones again and again. One of my all-time favorites is the Sofia Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, which comes in 187 ml cans ($5). Each can includes a paper straw. Four of them equal a regular-size bottle, but are much easier to pack and less cumbersome to carry.
You can’t direct The Godfather franchise and not be a pasta expert. So when I heard that Francis Ford Coppola sells an 11-inch ceramic pasta serving bowl ($22), I had to check it out. According to lore, Coppola found it when he was eating in a restaurant in Rome. While it’s perfect for a summer pasta feast, it could also hold salads or fruit.
Just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you should drink from a red Solo cup. Fortunately, Cocktail Kingdom has an impressive collection of glasses made of acrylic. The six-pack of 5-ounce Nick & Nora glasses ($34), are particularly handy.
No matter what you’re drinking, an ice bucket is an easy way to elevate the experience. This model from Fortessa ($65) is simple and elegant, with two door-knob-like handles that make it easy to carry. The 9-inch-tall bucket is 8 inches in diameter, which is big enough to hold a regular bottle but still convenient to pack.
A versatile mixing bowl that looks nice enough to bring to the table is tough to find. So I was intrigued by HydroFlask’s set ($140), which includes both a 3-quart and a 5-quart bowl as well as a set of serving spoons. Like the brand’s well-made water bottles, the bowls are produced from durable stainless steel and powder-coated in three color options. They’re double-wall design gives them a satisfying heft that helps anchor them as you stir. And they each come with an incredibly tight fitting lid that makes transporting dishes super simple. While they’re great for parties, you might find yourself using them every day.
Leave it to kitchen tool brand Oxo and outdoor gear retailer REI to team up for a line of creative and innovative tools and gadgets for al fresco dining. My favorite piece is a pair of ingenious grill tongs with a built-in bottle opener ($20). (It also comes with a handy spatula.) Coffee lovers can look out for the collaboration’s sturdy French press ($25), which will be available soon. It has an oversize handle for easing pouring and a shatterproof carafe—features I wish all coffee makers had.
From picnics to stargazing to outdoor movies, you need a comfy blanket that you can sit, lounge and eat on. Given how much time we’ll be outside this summer, splurge on this one made by Belmont Blanket ($120) for Westland Whiskey in Seattle, Washington. It has a soft fleece surface that makes even hard-packed earth more comfortable and the back is covered in a waterproof material. (It’s also washable—a boon if, for instance, you knock over your brunch or get caught in a sudden thunderstorm.) When you’re done, roll it up tight and fasten it with its handsome leather belt.