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Fourth of July is the ideal time for a classic American cookout. Even city-dwelling New Yorkers like myself like to fire up the grill on Independence Day and seek out barbecues in backyards, rooftops and even city parks.
Create a Build-Your-Own Hot Dog Bar
This year, I’m planning a twist on the usual summer barbecue. New York City has long been known for its hot dogs, but lately, the Big Apple’s dogs have gone gourmet and traveled abroad. Here in my part of Brooklyn, we have Bark Hot Dogs, where artisanal dogs are topped with gourmet condiments like baked heirloom beans, smoky pork, onion and mustard. Then there’s AsiaDog, which serves creations like franks with kimchi and seaweed flakes.
With all of this hot dog hootenanny, I immediately thought of a frankfurter cookout for a Fourth of July barbecue. Instead of limiting the toppings to boring ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut, the menu for my cookout will be a build-your-own hot dog bar offering a bevy of toppings with influences from around the globe. To create your own custom cookout, plan to grill hot dogs (and hamburgers, if you like) and set a table with all the fixings for guests to dress their dogs themselves.
Try making New West Salsa, Google Hot Sauce, Thai Cabbage Slaw and Shang Kimchi, which are all great choices for guests to top their franks with. (I like to use Paper Source business cards to label each sauce.) Round out the menu with a simple green salad and a Loaded Potato Salad with Bacon. (Click here for even more potato salad recipes.)
Show Your Stripes
Keep the decorations low-key for a barbecue. Start with a roll of red-and-white-striped grosgrain ribbon and a collection of mason jars to dress your table. Pick up a fresh bouquet at your local farm stand (bonus points for blue blossoms), place it in a large jar with a ribbon bow tied around the jar’s top. Next, fill a few jars with miniature American flags and another few with bunches of sparklers. Adorn both with more ribbon (use sand or small pebbles to weigh the jars down). Simple white votive candles in smaller glass jars are a classic way to light up the yard as the sun begins to fade.
Embrace the Backyard
Fourth of July is the perfect time to break out backyard games that have been gathering dust in the garage. Croquet, horseshoes, bocce and badminton are all surprisingly fun — if you can remember the rules of play. Make things easy for your guests: Print out the games’ instructions, laminate them, punch a hole in one corner and tie the directions to the equipment. As evening falls, light up the sparklers — adults and children alike will revel in their glow.
Laura Fenton is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in many publications, including Country Living, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping. She is also a regular contributor to ShelterPop and the author of The Little House In The City.