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The A to Z Backyard Barbeque Guide

Everything you need for a delicious and stylish outdoor shindig


Styled by Farra Mirón of The Hostess Haven / Food by The Vetted Table

Outdoor Barbeque


Apple Pie
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It doesn't get more Americana than apple pie. We love the classic Apple Crumbly Pie at the new Betty’s Pie Whole in Encinitas ($24). But for a fun spin, try the apple pie-flavored moonshine made by Ole Smoky ($20 per 20-ounce jar, available at Quality Liquor Store in University Heights, Krisp Market downtown, and other retailers). It’s like apple pie for hipsters.


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Stay crafty, San Diego! For warmer weather, try a lighter, lower-in-alcohol-by-volume (ABV) session IPA like Stone Brewing Co.’s Go To IPA. We also recommend Monkey Paw’s Low & Slow Smoked Lager (growler fills only, but this one makes for an excellent BBQ pairing) and the new-for-summer Green Flash Brewing Company White IPA.



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Customizable dishes are a big trend in catering right now. Impress your guests with a wide variety of spices, sauces, or salsas, from bacon maple jam and kale pesto to kimchee and
tomato chutney. Display them in pots or bowls on the table. (Universal Expert condiment set, $30, West Elm)



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Gingham, vintage lace, mason jars—let your creative juices fly. Come up with a theme or a bright color palette for summertime. “[Fruit] colors are a fun, easy way to make a summer tablescape pop, especially if you have a tree nearby,” says Farra Mirón of The Hostess Haven. We love the look of cherries in a mini paper bag.

Cherries in a mini paper bag


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Every good summer party needs some kind of egg dish, whether it’s a garnish, salad, appetizer, or other egg-citing option. Want to go the extra mile? Head to sandiegomagazine.com and find a recipe for fried chicken deviled eggs from East Village restaurant Neighborhood.


Food Truck
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Don’t feel like doing the grilling yourself? Hire a food truck to come to your house and do it for you. There are tons of local trucks to choose from, but we recommend Mastiff Sausage Company for brats, dogs, and other BBQ-friendly fare; Super Q for decadent grilled mac-n-cheese sandwiches; and The Vetted Table, MIHO Gastrotruck's catering branch, for the pork sliders (pictured under "s" for sliders).



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Who’s up for some corn hole, horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet ($169, Pottery Barn), badminton, or Giant Jenga ($220, amazon.com)? A little score-keeping and friendly competition instantly makes things lively. Beyond lawn games, there’s always karaoke, which tempts everyone from would-be American Idols to the shyest of the bunch. Karaoke USA’s portable version makes it easy to take the party outside ($100, Walmart). Tip: Save this one for after dinner, so guests are feeling a little looser and more inclined to participate.


Heat Lamps
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Yes, we live in the land of eternal summer, but it gets chilly at night. Keep your guests comfortable and warm with these sleek glass tube and stainless steel patio heaters ($400, target.com). You can also rent outdoor heaters (start at $79 each or $35 for a tabletop heater, abbeypartyrentals.com). Don’t have the space or budget for a fancy heater? Offer your guests colorful blankets and shawls.

Instagram photos


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Snap, post, and hashtag it. Your insanely cool party décor will only look better in the amber haze of an Instagram filter. Devise a custom hashtag for your event (eg. #SDMagBBQ), make sure all your guests use it when they post photos, and just like that, you’ll have a ton of memories forever preserved on the Web. Bonus: Sites like Printstagram specialize in making albums and other personalized items from Instagram photos. How snappy! (P.S. If you don’t understand anything we just said, ask your kids.)


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Ditch the iTunes playlist and Pandora and treat your friends and family to live music. Mariachi Mexicano is just of one San Diego’s many authentic south-of-the-border music groups (619-421-9790). For a different sound, emerging singer-songwriter and Encinitas native Luke Williams blends the stylings of Jack Johnson and fellow San Diegan Jason Mraz. He’s an upscale option, as you may have seen him play at Searsucker or L’Auberge Del Mar (starts at $300 per hour).

Mariachi MexicanoMariachi Mexicano


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The most courteous guests ask beforehand if they can bring their kids. As the hostess, if you plan to have little ones at the shindig, be sure to set up a kid-friendly area, stocked with tables and chairs, games, and toys. Word to the wise: Drape white butcher block paper over the kiddie tables in lieu of a tablecloth, place some crayons or markers in a cute cup, and invite your younger guests to draw on the table. Also, when in doubt, bubbles in any shape or form are always a crowd-pleaser.


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When the sun sets, it’s time to turn up the ambience. Candles, tiki torches, fire pits—the options are endless, but it’s hard to argue with the charm of string lights. Opt for a solar-powered version to create an easy, eco-friendly glow. ($20, target.com)


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Whether the kids are begging for a fun beverage or the adults need a booze break, cover your bases with a virgin cocktail or two. We’re partial to this zingy strawberry lemonade mocktail from Mister A’s. To make it at home:

Ingredients for lemonade
14 cups water
4 cups fresh lemon juice
3 cups simple syrup
4 1/2 cups Sprite
2 lemons cut into eighths and squeezed into the mix

Ingredients for the strawberry purée
1 box fresh
strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup simple syrup
2 tbsp sugar
Blend the strawberry mixture and put through
a chinois to ensure a smooth consistency.

To make the lemonade
Add 1 oz. strawberry purée to 7 oz. lemonade and shake to ensure proper mixture. Serve over ice and enjoy!



Neighbors' Blessing
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If you’ll be fiesta-ing after hours, give neighbors a heads-up about potential noise and parked cars. To soften the blow, send over a small token of your appreciation beforehand, like a bottle of wine or baked treat.


Oyster Boys
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San Diego-based catering duo Chris Reid and Rhett Melbo are oyster experts who will bring nearly a dozen varieties to your shindig—and shuck them for your guests, too. They also offer homemade dipping sauces, including mignonette and ponzu. ($550 for 30 dozen oysters, theoysterboys.com)


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Nothing says summer like a cool Popsicle. To really wow guests, you can rent vintage ice cream trailer Calexico Creamery, which doles out homemade paletas with an emphasis on Mexican flavors. Guava, cucumber lime, chile mango, and coconut horchata are just a few of the varieties. (starts at $100 for trailer, $3.75 per person)


Quotable Conversations
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To break the ice for guests who don’t know each other, dish out lighthearted topics and get the party chatter flowing. Table Topics Dinner Party includes 135 questions, like “When did you get into the most trouble as a teenager?” ($25, uncommongoods.com)


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Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries—they all evoke a quintessential summer vibe. Mix a variety into a fruit salad, drop some in sangria, or fill an ice tray with water and berries for colorful cubes. For a locally made dessert, pick up raspberry sorbet from Gelato Vero Caffé. The dairy-free treat looks colorfully chic displayed in a vintage coupe. Mix with mint or vanilla gelato for a more decadent dish, or serve in a large bowl filled with club soda for a fizzy and festive drink. ($30 per gallon; 3753 India Street, Mission Hills)



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Skip the cumbersome mega-patties and opt for bite-sized burgers, which make it easier to carry on a conversation. Pulled pork sliders, like these made by The Vetted Table, are sure to satisfy.


Taco Cart
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If you’d rather mingle than man the BBQ, dozens of local companies will cater your party. The San Diego Taco Company mesquite-grills carne asada and fries tortilla chips and beer-battered fish tacos in front of guests. Chula Vista-based La Taquiza makes mouth-watering adobada pork tacos, and they also rent out tables and chairs for added convenience.

Sun umbrella


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Shade is muy importante. Providing SPF and hats is a nice touch, but an umbrella is a basic necessity. For a multipurpose approach, pair a colorful version—we love Crate & Barrel's hues—with LED string lights laced underneath to transition from day to night. (covers start at $139)


Vegetarian Options
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Yes, even herbivores attend carnivorous parties. Keep a spread of salads and grilled veggies ready alongside meat-free burgers.

Grilled mangoes and summer veggies with coconut and lemongrass sauce
By The Vetted Table

Grilled mangoes and summer veggies with coconut and lemongrass sauceGrilled mangoes and summer veggies with coconut and lemongrass sauce

  • 2 28-oz. cans coconut milk
  • 1 bunch lemongrass
  • 1 lime + 1 tsp zest
  • 1 Meyer lemon + 1 tsp zest
  • 3 ripe mangoes
  • 2 bunches pencil asparagus
  • 3 Yellowmine summer squash
  • 3 8-ball squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 lb. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup EVOO

1. Slice (1-inch thick)the mangoes, squash, onion, and peppers and place in a large bowl with the cherry tomatoes and asparagus. Add EVOO, lime and lemon zest, 1 tablespoon salt, cumin, and chile flakes.
2. While marinating the veggies, reduce coconut milk with 1/2 tablespoon salt, lemongrass, and lemon and lime juices for 12 minutes. Let cool at room temperature.
3. On a medium-heated grill, cook the fruit and veggies, turning often so they don't burn. Place them on a platter and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the sauce and serve the rest on the side.

Watermelon MargaritaWatermelon Margarita


Watermelon Margarita
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Watermelon = summer. Here’s a refreshing cocktail incorporating our favorite melon, from Richard Sandoval’s Venga Venga Cantina and Tequila Bar in Chula Vista.

La Sandia Margarita
1 1/2 oz. tequila
2 oz. sour mix
1 lime slice
1 oz. fresh watermelon chunks

Sour mix
fresh lemon juice (equal parts)
fresh lime juice (equal parts)
homemade simple syrup (sugar and water)

Shake and serve on the rocks


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If you want your party to be “legend... wait for it... ary!” go for the X-factor—that extra pop, surprise, or unique element that will help you out-BBQ other BBQs. Wheel out your drinks in a Radio Flyer wagon, take communal shots on the hour every hour, or commission an ice luge. #bestpartyever


Yard Work
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Before you even think about matching your flatware to your stripey straws, assess your landscaping. Five quick fixes to transform a yard: Fertilize the lawn (a week prior), cut the grass, paint the backyard fence, and plant an herb garden (garnish for the steaks).


Zero Cleanup
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Well, at least minimal cleanup. Save a little bit of elbow grease with Joanne Hudson's Basics line of biodegradable bamboo plates and utensils. Stylish, disposable dishware without the guilt. ($69 per set of 100 plates, joannehudson.com)

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