We love this barbecue alternative.

By Lauren Wellbank
July 20, 2021
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stovetop clambake
Credit: Bryan Gardner

There is nothing quite like welcoming your friends to your home—after over a year apart—on a balmy night to sit outside, catch up, and dine on delicious seafood. Hosting a summer clambake can be a great opportunity to break free of the traditional warm-weather barbecues (and their monotonous menus) by offering your guests a fresh, different meal. We spoke with Rebecca Gardner, the founder and creative director of Houses & Parties, to find out exactly what you need to know about hosting your own clambake this season.

Go Digital

Since most people are embracing the return to normal and traveling this summer, Gardner suggests sending digital invites to get the word out about your get-together. "My favorites are from Paperless Post," she says. "This design by Happy Menocal would be perfect for a summer clambake." You should include all of the details about your event, including whether you'll be providing everything, or if you're hoping your guests will contribute by bringing a dish, desserts, or drinks.

Elevate Your Event

Just because you're hosting a casual clambake doesn't mean that you have to forego some of the more personal touches you might find at traditional garden parties. "I think it's nice to add a very simple buffet table with flowers, a few cold salads, and crusty bread to complement the boil," Gardner says. "A vintage quilt makes a charming tablecloth and sunflowers are a fitting choice for a summer party." She suggests distributing the flowers in "large unruly groupings" to really brighten up your spaces. "Use light-hearted serving pieces like a basket lined in a colorful cotton scarf or this teak row boat salad bowl ($208, housesandparties.com)."

Skip the Newspaper

When you think about a seafood fête, you likely envision a table setting covered with newspaper, but that definitely isn't your only option. Gardner says you can use vintage oilcloth on the tables instead. "The traditional floral prints are unexpected, but I also like this yellow gingham option ($6.99, oilclothalley.com)," she says. "When no one is watching, you can hose these down and use them for the next party."

Keep Food Safe

Whatever type of summer gathering you are hosting, food safety is paramount. Never leave perishable items out in the heat for extended periods of time, and make sure that all meat and seafood is cooked to the correct internal temperatures. "Avoid cold salads with mayonnaise, which can be terrifying sitting out on a buffet," notes Gardner.

End on a Sweet Note

An unusual dessert item can really make your affair one that your guests won't soon forget. "I like to serve an unexpected (and a little irreverent) dessert," Gardner says; she suggests creamsicles or ice cream sandwiches. You can keep these items cool inside your freezer until you are ready to serve them. Otherwise, you run the risk of your sweet treat turning into a melted mess under the sun.

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