There’s something about mango and papaya that makes us feel like we’re on vacation. This platter can be any mix of those plus pineapple and fresh coconut, served with lime wedges and a dipping salt of three parts kosher salt and one part cayenne.
Bring the craze for izakaya, or Japanese small plates, into your backyard. Set out hard-cooked, bite-size quail eggs; then next to the eggs, arrange two bowls, one with furikake (Japanese seaweed seasoning mix), the other with a dipping sauce of mayonnaise seasoned with wasabi paste, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and salt. Ingredients are available at Chinese and Japanese markets.
4 of 17Photo by Jeffery Cross
The 2-in-1 blanket
Washable, eco-friendly wool works as a picnic blanket or thrown over your shoulders for warmth. From $118;pendleton-usa.com
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Frozen treats, no ice cream maker required
Nothing says summer more than a ice-cold, sugary treat. Try our adult spin on popsicles (pictured) or this granita's unusual flavor combo to satisfy your craving. The margarita “poptails” require popsicle molds, but the granita, inspired by one at Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, just needs a square pan.
Solar panels power a small LED light that casts a pretty, geometric shadow. Hang them up or set on a table. $30 for 2;allsopgarden.com
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Candle holders get an upgrade
Made from cast iron and windproof glass, these candleholders last for generations. Hammer them into tables or fences. $35 each;shophorne.com
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Easy lantern glow
Bright, lemony paper lanterns give your backyard a romantic feel. Just hit the switch to get them glowing. Ikat lanterns: $17 for 4;worldmarket.com
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A super-simple summer “fondue”
Bagna cauda, an Italian version of fondue, hits all the right notes: It’s delicious, it showcases fresh veggies, and it invites conversation around the bowl, or “hot bath,” flavored with garlic and anchovies. Put it in a heated bowl to keep it warm longer.
It can cost more than $100 to serve drinks at a party. The answer? A booze potluck. Choose two cocktails you’ll mix at the party, then ask your friends to bring a bottle of liquor instead of the obligatory white wine.
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What you need in your party kit
Party tray: Buy these lacquered trays in multiples to make serving (and cleanup) easy. From $29;westelm.com
Glasses: Durable acrylic glasses in bright candy colors can withstand any party treatment. From $20/set of 4;surlatable.com
Festive napkins: Marimekko’s colorful patterns elevate even the humble paper napkin. From $5/set of 20;crateandbarrel.com
The bamboo spork: This brings the need for two utensils to one. Plus it’s washable and reusable. $8/set of 4;bambuhome.com
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The 5-minute crowd-pleaser snack
To fancy up chips and dip, make the bowl you serve them in pretty, the dip smoky, and the potato chips Western. We crunched through 30 brands to pick our faves.
Kettle Brand Chips Backyard Barbecue. The perfect balance of sweetness, smoke, and a little heat. kettlebrand.comAlaska Chip Company. Their classic chip is crunchy with natural sweetness. akchip.comTim’s Cascade Style Jalapeño Chips. Thick-cut chips with a bright, zippy flavor. timschips.comPoore Brothers Salt & Vinegar. Crisp, with wonderfully tart flavor. Find them in Arizona, Colorado, and SoCal.
15 of 17Photo by Jeffery Cross
Better than cheese and crackers
Slice a baguette, brush slices with olive oil, and toast on the grill. Then set out a bowl of the toasts with any of the sweet or savory toppings here, and let guests build their own bruschetta.