Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Belgard Hardscapes - GMS

The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is undeniable. In many areas of the country, kitchens are becoming a standard element of the home design in new construction, particularly in median level homes and above, and can range from a simple built-in grill to full-scale gourmet kitchens that rival in quality and scale to the indoor kitchen. In fact, it’s not unusual in today’s outdoor living culture to spend more money on the construction of the outdoor kitchen than the indoor kitchen, considering that all of the building materials and appliances need to be sturdy enough to survive outdoor conditions, including moisture, harsh sunlight, and a wide range of critters.

In the continued evolution of this developing phenomenon, here are a few of today’s hottest outdoor kitchen trends:

Cooking SurfacesMultiple Cooking Surfaces

Outdoor entertaining is optimal for large groups because the very nature of the open setting allows for large numbers of people to gather without feeling crowded. However, entertaining large groups requires large amounts of food, which makes multiple cooking surfaces a must. Options can include both charcoal and gas grills, standard cooking burners, fryer burners, brick ovens, and even standard ovens. Many don’t consider including a brick oven due to the mistaken belief that brick ovens are only useful for cooking bread or pizza, however brick oven owners know that anything can be cooked in a brick oven that can be cooked in a standard oven. For brick oven recipe ideas, click here.

imageCreate Functional Zones

Outdoor kitchens with different functional zones allow for multiple cooking, prep, and entertaining activities to occur simultaneously. Today’s outdoor kitchens incorporate lots of counter space for food prep and serving, in addition to extra counter space for creating a communal environment so that the guests can visit with the hosts during food prep and cooking. One popular trend is to incorporate a multi-level counter top, with one level functioning as the prep area, and the higher level functioning as the serving surface or bar area.

imageLight the Way

In any kitchen, proper lighting is key to functionality. However, the modern outdoor kitchen needs to function as both a kitchen and an entertainment space. Popular lighting options include outdoor rated pendants, uplighting into the rafters, and under cabinet lights. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter lighting during cooking and lower ambient light when the cooking is done. Also, low voltage lights installed directly onto the exterior of the cabinetry is a popular way to provide additional ambiance. Other trending lighting options include nearby fire features like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables. For other outdoor lighting ideas, click here.

imageCreature Comforts

The modern family is accustomed to being constantly plugged in. Naturally, this trend has moved outdoors. The trendy outdoor kitchen is fully equipped with all of the comforts of the home’s interior, including comfortable furniture, outdoor rated audio speakers, televisions, fans, gas heaters, wi-fi, and retractable solar screens for shielding guest during sunnier times of day. Specialty outdoor appliances are also rising in popularity, like kegerators, wine refrigerators, and bar style roll-top beverage coolers.

Summer Recipe:
Cedar-Planked Salmon with Mango Kiwi Salsa

cedar-planked-salmon-ck-xGrilling salmon on a cedar plank is a simple and elegant way to prepare a light yet full-flavored summer dish. The salmon stays incredibly tender and moist, while picking up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks. With this recipe, the smoky Cedar Plank-Grilled Salmon stands up nicely to the spicy sweetness of the tropical Mango Kiwi Salsa. Prepare the salsa before the salmon, or even the day before, so the flavors have time to meld.

Ingredients

1 large cedar plank
1 cup finely diced peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup diced peeled kiwifruit
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 for salsa, 1/4 for salmon)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (1/4 for salsa, 1/4 for salmon)
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets

Preparation

1. Soak plank in water for 25 minutes. (For additional flavor, try soaking the plank in wine, cider, or sake.)

2. Combine mango and next 5 ingredients (through chile). Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

4. Sprinkle salmon with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place plank on grill rack (without salmon); grill 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Turn plank over; place fish on charred side. Cover; grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Place each fillet on a plate; top each with 1/3 cup mango salsa.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl (Courtesy Time, Inc.)

Father’s Day Gourmet BBQ Ideas

It’s that time of year again where we set aside a day to say, “Thank you,” to that hard working man in our lives: Dad. The only problem with Father’s Day is that many of our fathers are humble guys who often say that they don’t want anything special. This year, tell Dad “Tough luck,” and do something special for him anyway. Here are a few ideas you can do for the “old man” this Father’s Day that will surely bring a smile to his face.

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Gourmet burgers topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese mayo, tomato, and arugula. (Photo credit: Oxmoor House, Time Inc.)

Gourmet Burger Bar

Sure, Pop probably barbeques burgers regularly. However, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato can get boring. This Father’s Day, stock up on new ingredients to add to your burgers and setup a gourmet burger bar. Here is a quick list of items to get you started. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other toppings that are not listed here. The idea is to just try something new.

Have fun experimenting with any sort of possible topping. Examples included avocados, over-easy style eggs, sprouts, various greens, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and literally any pepper that comes to mind. While the grill is hot, try grilling some fruit toppings, like pineapple or peaches.

Next up, the cheese layer. Sure, you’ll need standards like American, cheddar, and swiss, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little with something like pepper jack, gouda, havarti, blue cheese, and goat cheese.

Then the coup-de-grace, the sauces. Here’s where you really get to have a little fun. Options include wasabi mayo, humus, honey mustard, Boursin sauce, garlic aioli, and (don’t laugh until you’ve tried it) peanut butter and jelly.

And, what shall all of these delicious toppings rest upon? Try different types of buns: onion, poppy seed, rosemary focaccia, or brioche would all be excellent options. Check out your local gourmet grocery or bakery for more ideas. The point is to try something different. Dad may find his new favorite burger after all is said and done.

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo credit: Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey - Time Inc.)

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey – Time Inc.)

On the Side, Dad Style

Whether we like it or not, most dads are starch fans, so be prepared to starch it up with some dad-friendly side items. Dishes like potato salad, baked macaroni, and loaded baked potatoes come to mind. But, you can also get dad to step outside of his norm a bit by adding some grilled vegetables to the table. One idea is to stuff peppers with gourmet cheeses from your burger bar and grill them. To make it a little more dad-friendly, you can always add bacon. For other grilled fruit and veggie ideas, check out our “Garden to Grill Ideas” blog.

Microbrew Tasting

What is simpler than burgers and beer? Both cooking burgers and drinking beers are two of the favorite pastimes for many American men. While your father may have his beer of choice, most likely something he learned to love in college, it may be time to broaden his horizons.

Make it festive and set up a microbrew tasting table. Visit your local specialty liquor store and get a variety of samples from around the country. Many specialty stores will have a wide variety of single beers for sale or will allow you to break a six-pack for the purpose of doing a sampling. If not, plan ahead and order from an online distributor. It also will be helpful if you have small drinking glasses or shot glasses at your BBQ for beer sampling.

Beer tasting

Marine Corps Air Station Officers’ Club Gets a Facelift

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This Memorial Day, the Officers’ Club of the Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, NC, will enjoy the recently completed upgrade to the grounds of their facility, including a new patio, fire pit, and walkways.

MilitaryBasePatioThe project marked the second of a three-phase plan to upgrade the exterior of the facility. The first phase included the construction of a Lafitt™ Rustic Slab patio three years ago (shown at right). The second phase included the new circle patio and fire pit (shown above), along with two stair-stepped walkways, one of which connects the fire pit area to a third concrete slab patio that will be converted into a paver patio in the third phase.

The new circle patio and walkways were constructed with Lafitt™ pavers in limestone, with a coordinating color of Country Manor® retaining wall block used to construct the fire pit. Graduated walkways, which include Grande Slab steps, radiate from either side of the circle patio, connecting with a higher elevation on one side and a lower elevation on the other. Construction of the fire pit included a gas starter switch, which is located inside the building.

“The main challenge with this project was building a step to the lower patio that would be wheelchair accessible,” said contractor Bert Horne with Dreamscape Hardscapes.

Garden to Grill Ideas

Edible gardens are one of the hottest trends in gardening today. What makes a hot trend hotter? Why fire, of course. So as summer heats up, forget the boring salads and heat up the grill for some flavor-boosted ways to make the most of your edible garden. Following are a variety of fruit and vegetable ideas to add to your grilling repertoire for delicious additions to your summer meals.

GRILLED VEGETABLES

Grilled lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lemon and topped with manchego cheese and bacon crumbles. (photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo)

Grilled lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lemon and topped with manchego cheese and bacon crumbles. (photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo)

Lettuce: I know what you’re thinking…grilled lettuce?! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Grilling lettuce creates smokey, charred, caramelized goodness. Recipes abound for this latest craze. For best results, be sure to choose a sturdy lettuce and brush the grill with olive oil.

Corn: Grilling corn can be done multiple ways. You can wrap it in foil. You can leave it in its husks. However, how about laying it on the grill bare? Doing this will ensure that your corn will have tiny and delicious charred bits. Once you finish grilling the corn, bust out the butter and lather it on as you please.

Asparagus: Fun fact: grilled asparagus cures sadness. Okay, that may not be completely true, but grilled asparagus makes a truly delicious addition to any meal. To protect your sanity, however, use a mesh tray or grill basket for this task. If you want to up your asparagus game even more, make your own garlic and rosemary aioli sauce for basting or dressing your freshly grilled asparagus. You’re welcome.

Grilled bell peppers, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with goat cheese and basil. (photo by Beth Dreiling)

Grilled bell peppers, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with goat cheese and basil. (photo by Beth Dreiling)

Bell Pepper: No matter what color, they all taste better on the grill. The cool thing about bell peppers is that they are extremely versatile. Whether part of a shish kabob,  stuffed with just about anything, or simply tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, roasting a bell pepper over a fire brings out a sweetness that enhances any dish.

Jalapeno Peppers: The bell pepper’s zesty cousin, these little fellows kick everything up a notch. If properly de-seeded and de-veined, roasting jalapenos will mellow their intensity. Stuff them with a variety of cheeses or other ingredients and either wrap them in foil or use a special roasting rack. For extra fun, wrap them in bacon, ’cause bacon makes everything better!

Grilled eggplant and tomato salad drizzled with lemony vinaigrette and topped with fresh mint. (photo by Iain Bagwell)

Grilled eggplant and tomato salad drizzled with lemony vinaigrette and topped with fresh mint. (photo by Iain Bagwell)

Eggplant: If you like eggplant parmesan, you’ll fall in love with grilled eggplant. The awesome thing about eggplant is that it will really soak up the flavor of bastes or marinades. So go to your local gourmet oil and vinegar store, do a little online shopping, or use herbs from your garden to make your own infused oils and vinegars and experiment with different flavor combinations. The same is true for a variety of squashes.

Tomatoes: You may argue about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, but you won’t argue about how good it tastes grilled. For best results, choose firmer tomatoes, cut thick slices, and brush the grill with olive oil. For added flavor, top with your favorite fresh herb.

grilled fruit

Grilled watermelon with blue cheese, basil and prosciutto. (photo: Jennifer Davick)

Grilled watermelon with blue cheese, basil and prosciutto. (photo by Jennifer Davick)

Watermelon: Grilling watermelon? This must be a typo. Before you judge, try it yourself and see why this summer will be the summer of grilled watermelon. You can grill with or without the rind on it. When grilled, the fruit sugars caramelize to create a unique flavor. Feel free to add balsamic vinegar or arugula for an extra flare. Just make sure to keep a close eye on it, for the water can spew and potentially burn you when exposed to so much heat.

Apples: Now for an actual fact: apple pie is an American classic. What happens to the apples during the making of apple pie? That’s right, they are cooked. Now use that logic, and apply it to the grill. The grill will both sweeten and soften your apples for a most excellent treat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg for that apple pie flavor.

Peaches: Surely you will be enjoying ice cream this summer. Now that you’ve discovered the beauty of grilled fruit, throw some peaches on the grill, then add them to your summer ice cream. Sweet and delicious ice cream plus sweet and delicious peaches, what can go wrong?

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple salsa. (photo: Hector Sanchez)

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple salsa. (photo by Hector Sanchez)

Pineapple: Unless you live in Hawaii, it’s unlikely you’ll have any pineapples in your edible garden, but they’re so amazing on the grill, it’s worth a trip to the grocery. Whether served as a side dish or as a hamburger topping, once you try it grilled, you’ll never want pineapple any other way.

Bananas: Again, not your typical grow-at-home fruit, but makes an incredible dessert. Place it directly on the grill with the skin on. Once the skin is brown and the banana is soft, slice it open, sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with condensed milk. Voila!

Images Courtesy Time Inc.

Serene Walkways

This time of year can be quite hectic, with lots of end-of-school activities, vacation planning, and community events. Sometimes you just need to take a moment, take a deep breath, and relax. Shut off the world for a few minutes and take a walk through some of our favorite serene Belgard walkways.

Welcome Home: Imagine driving up to this entrance. The curving Urbana® Stone walkway and friendly, colorful garden says, “Come on in, take your shoes off and unwind.”

Belgard 2010 ~ Northfield Minnesota & WisconsinWalkabout: The park-like setting created by this Mega-Arbel® walkway and natural garden would be the perfect place to breathe in the fresh air and clear your head.

2520333f18ff8fb76cac19e5a47415cfNature Trail: By leaving the paver edges in their flagstone shape, the Mega-Arbel® walkway below takes on the look of a woodland path. You can almost hear the crickets chirping.

7f49f675cb863267f535984fee82de39The Wind and the Waves: Summer is almost here! You can practically feel the sand between your toes and the wind in your hair just looking at this tailored Catalina Slate™ walkway.

Old World Charm: With mature gardens and the clean lines of Urbana® Stone, this walkway takes you to another time and place.

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