Labor Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love hosting, and a Labor Day BBQ combines all the best elements: Good food, great drinks, some of our favorite people and the knowledge that the kids are going back to school soon.
So, that’s not happening this year. But as we’ve adapted to COVID, we can still celebrate with a few practical tweaks.
For me, that means having a socially distanced celebration with the few other families that make up our quarantine pod. We all get tested regularly and don’t socialize outside our bubble. We don’t kiss or shake hands on arrival anymore and of course, we’re spacing out the settings at the table. We’re going to be outside where I’ll stack a few face shields, so people can sip their drinks without feeling exposed.
Is it weird? Yes. Is it the new normal? Also, yes.
Every good hostess knows that preparation is everything. These days, I like to send out masks and mask straps to each family in advance, so there’s no excuse for showing up bare faced. I replaced the pretty hand towels we normally use in the powder room with biodegradable, disposable ones. I keep a Bathroom Cleaner on top of the tank, as a subtle hint for everyone to spray down the seat and handle after they use it. And of course, there’s plenty of hand soap and hand sanitizer everywhere. My friends know the drill by now.
The way I serve food + drinks has changed, too. My usual giant charcuterie board doesn’t feel super COVID-friendly at the moment, so I’m going to pre-slice veggies, cheese, and salami with my nifty little picnic knife and set out smaller, appetizer plates for everyone.
Instead of a do-it-yourself bar, I’m going to put out pre-mixed cocktails in a few of these pretty, minimalist carafes. This is one party trick I’m definitely sticking to even when we are post-COVID. They look great at the table and make it so easy to host a bar without having to stop to make everyone a separate drink. I use this gorgeous muddler for mashing fruit, cucumbers, or fresh herbs (mint, rosemary, and basil are current favorites). We have a House Cocktail at The Ponderosa, which is just Trader Joe’s organic Rosé, fruit-flavored seltzer, and some muddled fruit. I've provided the recipe for you below. Everybody loves it! I think that muddled anything instantly elevates the most ordinary gin, supermarket vodka or Two-Buck Chuck! Add a sprig of rosemary or mint and a pretty, sustainable brass straw, and voila! It’s a party!
Summer evenings can sometimes feel a little chilly, so I always fold a pretty Turkish Towel over the back of each chair for guests to use as a wrap when the sun goes down. It’s a thoughtful touch that guests appreciate (especially if they forget to bring a jacket).
When the party’s over, the clean-up begins. Believe it or not, I don’t love cleaning. It’s boring, right? One of the reasons I started Murchison-Hume to make the experience a little bit nicer. At least with dishes, I can zone out a little bit. Our dish soap and brushes make it easier to tackle a party load of dishes. Our pot brush gets the really hard, crusty bits off of pots and pans. The dish brush is the one I use the most, on everything from vases to saucepans to skillets. The bottle brush is specially designed to get to the bottom of any glass. It's also perfect for cleaning out that weird little dip where red wine dries. Plus, not sticking your whole fist into the glass makes it a lot harder to break it. I know I'm not the only one who's shattered a wine glass during a vigorous clean.
The best part? When the dishes are done, the guests have gone, and I pour myself one last glass of wine, light a candle, and toast to the end of summer.
It's time for fall, y'all!
Ponderosa Punch Recipe
- Trader Joes Organic Rosé
- Cases of Spindrift seltzer (we like Raspberry & Lime or Blackberry)
- 2 x large cucumbers, sliced
- Handful of Fresh Basil or Mint
- Fresh Raspberries
Muddle ½ sliced cucumber, 2-3 basil leaves and a handful of raspberries in a glass carafe.
Fill half of the carafe with Spindrift Raspberry Lime Seltzer
Fill to top with chilled Organic Rose from Trader Joe’s.
Pour over ice and add a sprig of rosemary, basil or mint.
Hostess Tip: Prep at least 2 cups of each of the fresh ingredients in advance. Keep ready in the fridge. to make more carafes (because, trust me, you will).