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Friday, July 13, 2007

Dining al Fresco

Last year just north of Santa Barbara, I decided I was in libation heaven as I drank a Pomegrante Margarita by the beach. This was after I had a Hemingway Mojito - different than a regular mojito with the addition of raspberries, I believe. While drinking that, I was certain I had transcended the earthly plane. The fruitiness, the rum, the ice bobbing up and down and of course, the orchid I slipped behind my ear as I sipped my second...hiccup!...libation. But it wasn't perfect, not close to being perfect, without food.

Dining al fresco is what I look forward to each summer morning when the sun is already heating the house through the windows. I look forward to the end of the day when we stand at the helm of the outdoor, poolside grill, drinking chilled wine and asking the waterlogged kids to choose the ripe tomatoes from the garden. The pool is at my parents, they live five minutes away - but in my own kitchen I've learned how to make cool summer meals with the window open, letting the scent of lavender be pulled in by the power of the house fan. Here we cooperate with summer, we don't fight her. It can be a beautiful, steamy relationship.

When we go to the beach for the day, I put chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a variety of ingredients - usually canned tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, chilies...and when we get home, sandy and exhausted, I simply boil some pasta or couscous in a snap. Add some olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies or roasted peppers...and my babies emerge from the bath, ready to eat outside on the patio. Outdoor dining at our house happens in the backyard...dining in bath towels, eating with fingers, not encouraged but tolerated.

After all, if you can't break some rules and stretch your culinary options in summer, when can you do it? Dining al fresco isn't just an option,'s a lifestyle. Blessed by fresh air and a late setting sun, homegrown heirlooms drizzled with first, cold pressed - to make it heaven, all you need is a libation.
Samantha Gianulis is an author, editor, and columnist living in southern California. To read more of Sam, log on to her website at, or her blog at

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