A Beach-Chic Fourth of July Menu Planner
by leigh crandall
Raspberry and blueberry trifles layered with heavy cream are an easy red-white-and-blue option
Picture a gorgeous party during the social season in the Hamptons, and you’ll likely be envisioning the breathtaking work of caterer Janet O’Brien. Her company has been planning some of the top events on the East End for 20 years, including galas at Guild Hall and for Group for the East End, and out-and-out bashes like Sean Combs’s White Party. With work existing on such a grand scale, O’Brien likes to keep everything a bit more relaxed when she entertains at home, while still incorporating the creative, delicious dishes that are a testament to her motto that food is fun.
For the Fourth of July, O’Brien imagined a low-key outdoor party at her Ditch Plains residence in Montauk. “It’s right on the ocean,” she says of the property she’s called home for five years. “There’s no one to the west of me, and in the morning you’ll have surfers out front. It’s really fabulous.” She likes to have something to nibble on as guests arrive, and taking a cue from the red, white, and blue motif of the holiday, she suggests a cheese platter incorporating American products like Hubbardston blue goat cheese from Vermont and buttermilk blue affinée from Massachusetts, mixed in with varieties like Italian Pecorino Brillo Chianti Di Vino with red wine coating for color. Dinner is “roasted red tomato gazpacho followed by an entrée of grilled local striped bass served atop sautéed local corn, white asparagus, and white trumpet mushrooms,” she says. For pairing, “I always love rosé. You can add a little sprig of lavender to the glass as well to bring in the blue color.”
The perfect finishing touch is dessert, which “can end events on a great note visually, particularly with the use of color because it’s darker toward the end of the evening and so guests need to see something that pops.” And, for celebrations on the Fourth, dessert is also an easy place to incorporate the hues of the holiday without it feeling too gimmicky. “I love a buffet,” she says, because it provides guests with choices and makes for a beautiful display.
In keeping with the laid-back vibe of the evening, O’Brien created low-fuss options like a rustic berry pie with local fruit, star-shaped Linzer torte cookies with raspberry jam, red velvet cupcakes, and parfaits with layers of berries and mascarpone topped with mint, “which I always have growing because it really garnishes everything,” she says.
The vibrant sweets stood out on the table, dressed in a natural white-striped fabric and with blue glasses she purchased on a trip to Morocco. In general, says O’Brien, there’s no reason to get too formal with tableware if you’re hosting a casual get-together. “VerTerra’s palm-leaf plates look great, are disposable, and also eco-friendly,” she says. Or, “If you have plain, white dishes prop them with the local blue wildflowers for a simple, pretty table.”
photography by eric striffler; thinkstock.com (chalkboard)