Throw a Simple Memorial Day Shindig

Use the holiday as a no-stress warm up for when the real summer parties and warm weather arrive.

By Kristin Belz May 23, 2013

A mineral water (or champagne?) spritzer gets the fresh berry treatment for Memorial Day.

Rain is in the forecast for Memorial Day in Portland this year (big surprise), but that can’t prevent a fun holiday with friends and family at home. Think of Memorial Day as the kick-off, a preview or trial run for all the real outdoor entertaining you’ll be doing when summer actually arrives (i.e., sometime after Fourth of July).

We have some easy ideas for the sweetest, simplest Memorial Day celebration – an easy, entertaining warm-up to tide us over ‘til the weather is warm. The at home picnic can take place outside or in, depending on the weather (and your own tolerance for soggy food). Grilling outdoors is always fun (unless it’s raining), but broiling inside is also allowed and will do quite a good job heating up the dogs we have in mind.

Red, white and blue is a good color scheme to aim for, since Memorial Day does celebrate the United States armed forces. The holiday began as Decorations Day in 1868, to celebrate the armed services vets in the peaceful context of post-Civil War unity. 

Here’s a checklist of ingredients for your easy preview-of-summer party. 

To drink:

  • Very Berry Spritzers – these bevies can be straight and narrow or adulterated with alcohol (try champagne or prosecco, or go local with Argyle sparkling white or red); either way is fresh and delish. (See the recipe below.)

To eat:

  • Hot dogs – gourmet dogs (from Olympic Provisions), on toasted baguette or hot dog buns from any one of our many fabulous bakers (Lovejoy, Little T, Pearl are some favorites).
  • Blue Potato salad – blue potatoes, bleu cheese...and maybe some blueberries.
  • Blue corn chips with red salsa
  • Strawberry cake garnished with whipped cream and blueberries 

Easy to clean oilcloth makes a fine all-weather tablecloth. To DIY is a ten-minute project – no hemming necessary. Fabrics start at about $7/yard, including the classic gingham, 1950s Hibiscus print, or a less kitschy blue toile alternative.

 To Decorate:

  • Make your own weatherproof tablecloth out of colorful oil cloth. The classic, vinyl-clad, canvas-like cotton fabric makes cleaning up super easy, and making a tablecloth is an easy ten-minute (no kidding) DIY project. You simply cut the cloth to fit your table; no need to finish the edges. Several Portland stores have good selections of oilcloth in classic 1950s patterns as well as newer variations (start your search at Bolt, Fabric Depot, or Whole Nine Yards). 

very Berry Spritzers
Yield: 8 drinks. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

3 cups blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup simple syrup (1 cup sugar mixed into 1 cup water, heated and stirred until sugar is dissolved)
1/2 cup white grape juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Ice, for serving (optional)
Mineral water, seltzer or sparkling wine, chilled
Stir-stick skewers – blueberry, raspberry and coconut chunk – for garnish (optional)

  • Place blackberries, raspberries, simple syrup, grape juice, and lemon juice in the jar of a blender; puree until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discarding solids.
  • Fill 8 tall (highball or Collins) glasses with ice as desired. Divide mixture evenly between glasses; top with seltzer or wine and serve immediately garnished with optional red, white and blue fruit skewers.
What other blue and red and white foods could we add to the menu? Picnics are always best when they're pot luck!
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