Cottage weekends away mean one of two things; impressing the people that you already love, like your family or friends, or impressing people that you want to love, like your boss or your son’s new girlfriend.
While cooking meals for groups of people can be a challenge—especially without backup takeout food a phone call away—half of the joy of entertaining at the cottage is eating outdoors. Whether that means a mid-afternoon dockside snack, a beach picnic, or a barbecue on the patio, you’ll need some special tools to do the job.
Here are 10 kitchen accessories that will make outdoor dining a breeze:
When it comes to eating outdoors, forget setting the table. Instead, stuff a wicker or metal caddy with pre-made roll-ups of flatware wrapped in colourful napkins. Caddies are useful for far more than just cutlery—put together a separate caddy for condiments, sauces and spices, and keep it handy beside the grill. Or choose a picnic basket that can double as a caddy around the cottage.
Mesh food tent
Whether you want to keep ants away, flies off, or sand out of your food, a mesh food tent will protect your food from both insects and debris. Many models are collapsible, so they’re easy to stow away or carry to your destination.
The hottest outdoor entertaining accessory for 2015 might be a rolling butler cart, but they’re not always built for cottages, where dining outdoors can mean walking across some rocky terrain. That’s where the beverage tub comes in. Sure, the plastic cooler that you’ve been hauling up to the cottage for the last 12 years will do the trick, but this is all about accessibility and presentation. Choose a tub that comes with a stand, pack it with ice, and stuff it with a selection of drinks for guests.
Really, the best part about spending a weekend at the cottage is all the meals that come in between the meals. That’s why you’re going to need the perfect chip and dip platter for serving up guacamole, shrimp and other afternoon snacks.
Another space saver, the lazy Susan is great for both snack time and the main attraction. An eye-catching acacia wood model will blend perfectly with any cottage’s natural surroundings.
Speaking of saving space, tier stands aren’t just for cupcakes and desserts. They make it easy to carry food outdoors, and the layered approach saves valuable table room.
After bugs and rain, wind is your worst enemy when it comes to dining outdoors. For breezy days, you’ll need something to weigh down your tablecloth and napkins. Get your kids to collect and paint rocks to create your own personalized set, or buy pre-made weights that clip on to the corners of your tablecloth.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know that mason jars are so trendy right now that they might just be on their way out. However, they’re also super functional and perfect for outdoor entertaining. After all, mason jars with straws are basically sippy cups for adults—never spill a drink again. The double-tasking containers are also ideal for mixing and serving salad dressings and storing leftovers.
There’s nothing worse than having to trek back up to the house for a fresh drink. So if you’re making sangria—or even just lemon water—you might as well make it by the gallon and keep it lakeside. That’s where your trusty drink dispenser comes in. They’re easy for even kids to pour with little mess, and there are tons of options available, but we recommend sticking to a non-breakable and easy-to-clean model. (Hint: if you’re making infused drinks, make sure the built-in infuser won’t clog the dispenser’s spigot.)