Now that summer is here, my family and I have been eating outside on our deck for the past few weeks…how nice it is to eat outdoors, listen to the birds singing, and enjoy quality family conversation–all at the same time!
To stay organized for outdoor dining…
1.Check the weather. Don’t take chances on being rained out. If the event is planned well ahead of time, consider reserving a pavilion or renting a canopy in the event of inclement weather. For spontaneous outdoor dining, be flexible and understand that weather often changes quickly and you may have to alter your plans.
2.Keep hot food hot. Be sure hot foods are cooked to above 140 degrees F and kept to at least 140 degrees F if not eaten promptly.
3.Keep cold food cold. An upset stomach is not something you want to remember about your outdoor dining event. Use coolers and lots of ice to keep potentially hazardous foods well chilled and don’t leave food dishes out in the hot sun where bacteria will thrive. Keep filled coolers in air- conditioned vehicles when traveling, not in the trunk, and refrain from opening and closing the lid often.
4.Bring wet wipes. Eating outside is often messy and having the ability to wipe off hands with a moist cloth is helpful when no hand-washing facilities are present. Keep a pack in your car for unexpected outdoor dining gatherings and include a bottle of hand sanitizer as well.
5.Think about the eating surface. You may want to bring along a large vinyl tablecloth to make dining more pleasant. Picnic benches are often nasty surfaces and difficult to clean, so covering the picnic bench or other surface with a tablecloth makes good sense. Weigh down your tablecloth with rocks in the case of windy conditions, or purchase clips or weights to be used for that purpose.
6.Don’t forget the sun block. Even on cloudy days, your skin is quickly susceptible to burning. If there is a lot of reflective surface around, such as pavement or water, sunburn is a risk as well, even in winter. Even if you remember yours before leaving your house, someone may forget theirs, so bring some sun block along.
7.Bring activities for outdoor dining events. If food is cooked on site, it may be a long time before being served. If kids are involved (or even just adults), having activities planned helps pass the time and keeps people active. Bring a ball, flying disk or maybe even a kite if the location is right.
8.Consider net covers for serving food dishes. Purchase inexpensive umbrella-like, fold out mesh covers to keep flying insects out of the food. These covers are often found in discount stores during the summer season.
9.Bring an empty trash bag. Clean up well after yourself and leave the outdoor dining site as you found it, or better, so that others may enjoy the location after you leave.
10.Take note of your surroundings. Don’t concentrate so much on the food, that you forget where you are. Savor your meal, but look around and take in the scenery around you.