Lightning bugs, fields of lupine, and the smell of cooking on the grill can only mean one thing: it’s officially summer. And, after the spring we’ve had in Bar Harbor, we’re more than ready for sitting outside with some good food, great friends, and tasty drinks. What better time to do all of these things than with a fun, DIY 4th of July alfresco dinner on Mount Desert Island?
Whether you say 4th of July or July 4th, we’ve got a few ideas as to how you can throw a fairly simple yet fabulous backyard party. And, because we’re in good company with others who are also always in the mood to eat, we enlisted the help of a few BHCC employees and friends to show off their red, white, and blue spirit.
Executive Chef Matt Leddy and his wife, Meg (who is also our Operations Manager & Creative Assistant) played hosts and put together an afternoon of celebrating that had the perfect balance of simple and flair. And, it wouldn’t have been a summer afternoon in Maine without some wet, moody weather, precisely when you’re lighting the outdoor fire pit.
“Inviting people to your home can always be a little stressful,” Meg revealed when asked about how she and Matt put things together. “One way Matt and I avoid the stress is to break up our to-do lists so that we both have a manageable workload. The day of, I’m able to just focus on the party space – for this, it was the outdoors area - while Matt stays in the kitchen prepping food. He makes his prep list so that when guests arrive, we’re only cooking outside, so he can enjoy the party too.”
An important thing to keep in mind when planning your own backyard bash is to try and create a nice flow to your space. You want it to be easy for guests to help themselves to drinks and snacks while mingling and finding a place to perch while socializing. Matt and Meg had three main “zones”: the fire pit, the dinner table, and the deck. And make sure to look for ways to make your event unique to you. Do you have some funky, mismatched furniture that would make a great outdoor dining area? Not sure about a tablecloth, but you have a bin full of old newspapers that are screaming to be used? That collection of mason jars collecting dust in your basement could be perfect for drinks, sauces, flowers, or even paper straws for the bar. And, those old plates and utensils that are hidden at the back for your hutch could breathe new life into your DIY party.
And, don’t forget about decor. You don’t need to spend a fortune on flowers, plants, or decorations. Nine times out of ten, you can just head outside and take a look around. Do you have any flowers that you could clip or even some greenery or twigs that might look good in a vase? Boom = instant ambiance. Maybe you live in an apartment building where you don’t have access to outside treasures? Hit up your local Target or Reny’s to find some inexpensive but on point decorations.
“I cut some fresh lupines, the unofficial flower of Maine, from our yard and arranged them in a big mason jar and beer growlers from a local brewery,” Meg said. “After adding a few American flags to my potted plants and lupines, I really started to see the yard becoming a party space. I bumped up the kitschy-ness by arranging some cute American-themed sunglasses, beer koozies, and sparklers purchased from Target. Other than some crates we borrowed from BHCC, all the decor came from around our house. With any event, whether it’s a cocktail party for a client at BHCC or a backyard bash at home, I try to create little moments of pretty, Instagram-able spaces that make the event memorable.”
For an easy shopping catchall, don’t forget to check out your local farmers' markets - there’s always so many incredible vendors and menu items at the tips of your fingers! If you’re local, come visit us at the Northeast Harbor Farmers Market on Thursday, July 4th, from 9 am - 12 pm and snag some of our popular house-made sausages, terrine, and pate. And, if you’re not hosting your DIY party until the weekend after the 4th, you can catch us at the Acadia Farmers’ Market in Town Hill on July 5th from 3-6 pm. We’d love to help you celebrate!
Signature Cocktail - I Carried a Watermelon
A blend of agua fresca, rum, and Campari.
For the Agua Fresca
4 cups fresh watermelon
3 cups water
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 ½ cups of white rum
¾ cup campari
Combine watermelon, lime juice, sugar, and 1 ½ cups of water in blender at high speed until smooth. Strain the juice into a large pitcher, add remaining water and stir.
Stop here if you would like a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.
To the Agua Fresca, add the rum and Campari. Stir and serve!
Matt’s Yogurt and Turmeric Chicken
Whole chicken, either spatchcocked or in pieces
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup turmeric
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/8 cup honey
½ cup salt
½ cup blended oil (vegetable oil)
½ cup pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
Combine ingredients, smear over chicken, and allow to marinate up to 24 hours. Grill chicken until internal temperature at breastbone is 165F. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving.
Maine Lobster Bake
5 ears of corn, shucked and cut in half
1 lb of red potatoes
Fill your large lobster pot 1/3 of the way with clean ocean water or (very) salty water. Once it comes to a boil, add some fresh seaweed, lobsters, more seaweed, and potatoes and boil for seven minutes. Add the corn and continue to boil for five more minutes. Strain and serve!