Top News

Around the House: Savouring the last of summer al fresco


You can try to ignore the arrival of fall, - or you can resolve to make to most of every single sunny day still to come.

Feeling the first faint pangs of sadness that come as summer slips away? You can try to ignore the arrival of fall, but that may only hasten its appearance. Or you can resolve to make to most of every single sunny day left to us.

Dining outdoors is one way to extend the season, and can be enjoyed on a balcony, in a backyard, or at a local park or nearby conservation area. It needn’t cost much and can be relatively simple to organize.

The primary rule for eating outdoors is to focus on fresh, seasonal foods and simple recipes, says Leya Abramson, marketing manager of Pusateri’s, www.pusateris.com an upscale specialty grocer with five Toronto locations.

This maxim, she says, channels the food philosophy of Ida Pusateri, the matriarch of the family and the person responsible for developing the chain’s extensive ready-made offering.

“Ida grew up in a culture of al fresco dining, based on simple, fresh ingredients. We’ve chatted about it – she agrees that because we have such a short summer season, we should make it a priority to soak in the beautiful weather and fresh air while we can.”

For picnics, she suggests avoiding “anything super saucy, super messy, or difficult to eat.” Instead, she favours charcuterie and finger food that’s easy to pick up and can sit outside for a few hours.

The right picnic and dining gear will make it easier, tastier and more likely that you eat outdoors more often.

If you’re headed off to the park, start with a basket; affordable options are available at most major home retailers, including Walmart www.walmart.ca , where you’ll find, for example, a variety of baskets — many of which were on clearance at the time of this writing — at various prices.

Resist the temptation to buy the biggest one you can find — filled to the brim, it may be too heavy to carry comfortably. In a pinch, you can drop a freezer pack (wrapped in a freezer bag to prevent drips) into a cotton shopping or beach bag.

For seating, an old quilt or blanket works just fine, but here, bigger tends to be better as the piece can function both as a tablecloth and a surface to protect you from grass stains.

For drinks, I like the BPA-free vacuum-insulated, stainless-steel cup I was sent from Coleman www.colemancanada.ca . It doesn’t sweat, stays cold for six hours, and has a pad on the bottom that prevents it from slipping. The steel lip is thin, which makes it more pleasant to drink from than lots of unbreakable glassware, which tends to have thick rims. It makes a great glass for the dock — I am happy to report it works well for sunset gin and tonics. Hand-washableIf you want something really beautiful for backyard and balcony dining, consider a tablecloth from Maison Basque www.maison-basque.com in the wonderfully vibrant stripped fabric that’s emblematic of the centuries-old Basque weaving traditions.

Maison Basque sells ready-made tablecloths, napkins and décor in cotton or cotton-linen blends, as well as items made to order by two Toronto seamstresses. This handsome, durable textile will last for years, especially if you choose coated fabric.

If that’s not in the budget, pick up a cotton twill painter’s drop-cloth at a home improvement store for about $20. Wash it once and use it for a picnic blanket and a rustic tablecloth — indoors or out.

For home-based picnics and dining, a fun cocktail is a nice touch. Toronto’s Thompson Hotel www.thompsonhotels.com , which has a pretty spiffy rooftop bar, has some good suggestions, including a Pomegranate Mint Mojito. Go to www.aroundthehouse.ca for more drink recipes from the Thompson and meal suggestions from Pusateri’s.

Make sure you offer a non-alcoholic option, which can be as simple as fresh juice mixed with soda water. Jazz it up by dropping fruit (fresh or frozen) into ice-trays before filling them, and garnishing the drink with fresh mint. Whatever you choose, raise it in a toast to Canada’s brief, but beautiful summer.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

Recent Stories