An unforgettable Labor Day gathering marks the perfect end to a great summer. Hosting a fire foods party is an ideal option for this special celebration because it pairs delicious yet easy–to–prepare dishes with a relaxed, casual atmosphere that makes guests feel instantly at home. Inviting party–goers to choose their own skewer ingredients and cook them together over an open flame creates a laid–back atmosphere — and offers a simple solution for catering to different diets and appetites. A few irresistible recipes from chef Joey Altman paired with an assortment of high–quality dishes and accessories are all it takes to set the stage for this memorable outdoor meal.
In a welcome departure from traditional burgers and hot dogs, select a variety of meats and vegetables for your skewers. Shrimp, chicken breast and thigh, pork and beef tenderloins, lamb and salmon will keep meat–eaters well fed. Red onions, zucchini, yellow squash and bell peppers make delicious options for vegetarian guests. Chop uncooked meats and veggies into skewer–ready slices, then arrange them on plates and trays across the table's surface. Prepare a variety of sauces using the included recipes from renowned chef Joey Altman, author of Without Reservations, and display sauces with brushes for easy application. Artfully homemade labels give the spread organization, and offer ideas for how to perfectly combine meats, veggies and sauces. Watch our video for step–by–step instructions on crafting your own skewer labels.
Just a few simple decorations are enough to give this laid–back gathering a celebratory feel. Add splashes of color to the table with fresh or faux botanicals. Beautifully crafted lanterns filled with candles and other decorative objects lend a soft glow once the sun goes down. Learn more ideas for decorating with lanterns from our video with Pottery Barn Stylist Jeffrey Moss.
Arranging chairs around the outdoor fire invites guests to relax and mingle while cooking. If you have an outdoor fireplace, consider decorating it with a rustic grapevine garland to lend style to the space. A variety of smoking wood chips can add subtle flavor to the meal. Choose several distinctive wood types — our favorites are mesquite, apple, hickory and oak — and present them in labeled bowls near the fire. Encouraging guests to select ingredients and grill their own skewers creates a casual atmosphere where everyone feels welcome to eat at different times throughout the evening — and to come back for seconds or thirds.
The evening's rich, smoky flavors are perfectly complemented by a selection of local craft beers — an easy alternative to cocktails. Featured here, San Francisco–based Magnolia Brewery is known for its flavorful cask ales like Big Cypress Brown and Bonnie Lee's Best Bitter. Watch our video with Magnolia's brewers on how to set up a flight of beers for tasting, and keep plenty of glasses on hand to let guests serve themselves.