There is nothing quite like a summertime barbecue and we sat down with the oh so talented Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star to bring you the best tips and tricks for wowing your guests.
Ari and his team at Glen Ellen Star specializes in a wood-fire cooking technique that brings out the best flavors of their California inspired dishes. Centered on an open kitchen, Glen Ellen Star encourages both culinary and social conversation while serving a seasonally inspired dishes. The culinary team sources ingredients from amazing gardens and local producers in order to craft daily menus that showcase the best of the region.
We asked Ari for some tips on how to cook up the perfect summer barbecue meal, and he did not disappoint! Ari swears by a few simple methods, focused first on the ingredients, and then on simple, but perfectly executed cooking methods.
Interact with your garden or local farmers market.
Whenever possible, Ari pulls ingredients from Glen Ellen Star's garden. The second place he goes to for ingredients are the local farmers markets. We are so fortunate in wine country to have access to high quality, locally grown fresh produce, and it is one of the easiest ways to take your cooking to the next level.
This fresh produce is where you should draw inspiration for your menu- let what is seasonal and available dictate the direction in which you take your menu.
Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.
Ari's experience in both the restaurant and catering worlds have taught him that preparation is key to pulling off a flawless meal. Use seasonal fruits and vegetables to make preserves, hot sauce, or vinegar ahead of time to take a simple dish to the next level. If you have your own citrus tree, fig tree, or other fruit tree's growing on your property you can utilize more of the harvest by creating these "condiments" that will keep far longer than the fresh fruit itself. Similarly if you are growing vegetables, try pickling them or making preserves to top salads, grilled meats, or to have as a side with your main dish.
By making these things ahead of time, you can add a quick punch of flavor to any dish easily and quickly on the day of your gathering!
Balance your flavors- some heat, high acidity, a hint of smoke, and a light lean meat make for the perfect summer palate.
Once you have chosen your seasonal produce- these rules can help to create a sophisticated yet relaxed summer palate within your meal. A heat might come from a mild chili seasoning or hot sauce, while the high acidity might come from vinegar, citrus or pickles you made ahead of time. The smokey flavor will come from your cooking method- either grilling or wood firing your protein or veggies. Ari recommends using either madrone or oak wood to infuse the classic smokey flavor that pairs so well with a lean meat for summer time.
All of these flavors pair beautifully with a white wine or crisp rose, and make for a refreshing, effortless summer meal that all your guests will enjoy.
If you need a great example of how to do this, head to Glen Ellen Star for a meal. You are sure to leave inspired by the cuisine!