3 food and wine experts tell GT what they’re serving this summer

Hint: Cocktails are always a good idea.

With the sticky heat of summer also comes the thrill (and burden) of hosting. Whether it’s a poolside dinner on a Sunday evening or a backyard barbecue, there’s a lot to think about when putting together a social gathering. To spark inspiration, we speak to three food and wine experts about what they’re serving at their own alfresco affairs this summer. Below, discover hosting tips plus the dishes and drinks that are always a hit with guests.

According to Sommelier Samantha Payne, a chilled red, glass of bubbles, or a Japanese spritz always go down a treat with guests.

“Chilled reds such as pinot noir, gamay, trousseau are a must.” Samantha Payne, sommelier and GT contributor

An outdoor barbecue in summer is one of sommelier Samantha Payne’s favourite ways to socialise. “There’s something so communal about barbecuing. The conversation always gravitates toward the person cooking at the grill and the smell of food is so alluring,” she says.

At her own barbecues, the wine expert often brings out a chilled red. “Bursting with red fruited characters and crunchy acidity, chilled reds are perfect when left in the fridge for 20 minutes or dunked in an ice bucket. These vibrant reds work wonderfully with grilled meats and the chill makes them super refreshing,” Payne says.

“The other MVP of any summer barbeque is bubbles, from prosecco for your summertime mango and prawn salads to a luxury vintage champagne with an oozing cheeseburger,” she adds.

As much as she appreciates a chilled red or glass of bubbles, the crowd favourite is her Yuzushu Spritz. “Yuzushu is a Junmai (or young sake) that has been blended with the Yuzu fruit (similar to a Japanese grapefruit). The tart citrus but also floral notes make excellent drinking on their own but topped with Aussie sparkling wine and you’ve got the ultimate welcome drink for any barbecue.”

Laura Romeo is the Southern Hemisphere’s only official Weber Grill Master — a qualification which requires over 1500 hours of cooking and study.

“Every time I entertain, I menu plan with purpose.” Laura Romeo, Weber Grill Master

Barbecue expert Laura Romeo is no stranger to cooking for a large gathering. To alleviate stress, the Weber Grill Master suggests creating a menu plan to map out what you can cook ahead of time, what can be prepped for mise en place and dishes that are best served straight off the grill.

But her ultimate secret to a successful soirée is to surprise your guests. “Whether it’s designing a menu to a certain cuisine, cooking unexpected barbecued foods or embracing seasonal ingredients, I love designing dishes that expand my guest’s expectations of what’s possible on a barbecue,” she says.

She spins a unique twist on a classic summer drink with her grilled lemonade cocktail. “I deeply caramelise the lemons on the barbecue first to bring out a brûléed lemon flavour and dial down the acidity. I finish the cocktail off with a lightly grilled sprig of rosemary. The application of heat to the rosemary brings out the natural earthy and floral oils that pair so well with the freshness of lemon.”

To elevate her barbecues, Romeo uses the Weber Genesis Connect range to roast, bake, steam, and even stir-fry (by replacing the cooking grill with custom-fit Weber Crafted range of grillware).

As for her biggest hit? A delicious grilled whiting received nods of approval from her family, caught on a day out on her brother’s boat.

“My family always cooks whiting in a pan with butter, so were dubious when I suggested grilling them. I fired up the Weber Go-Anywhere portable charcoal barbecue and prepared the whiting fillets with a little oil and Weber Herb Seasoning,” Romeo says. “I then lightly grilled them, skin side down, directly on the cooking grill and above the charcoal until just cooked; the fish was melt-in-the-mouth delicious.”

“Italian wine is my safe space and is always present at any summer barbecue I have anything to do with,” says food writer Michael Harden.

“A summer barbecue isn’t complete without a Margarita to set the mood.” Michael Harden, Gourmet Traveller Victorian state editor

A great drink is at the heart of any barbecue hosted by GT editor and food writer Michael Harden. More specifically, a well-done Margarita. “Using a good quality blanco tequila is essential, and I prefer to dial down the sugar and up the sour (less Cointreau or triple sec, more fresh lime juice). A salt rim is also essential when you’ve been sweating over a hot barbecue,” Harden says.

He’s also partial to serving a dry rosé. “Yes, drinking rosé in summer is a cliché, but when they’re done right, especially those pale beauties from Provence with just a flicker of sugar and a bone-dry snap at the end, they couldn’t be more barbecue friendly.

“One of my favourite pairings is with butterflied whole chicken that’s been slathered in herbs and salt and olive oil and perhaps some fennel seed too. Add a crisp, cold iceberg lettuce salad to the mix and you’ll be giddy with the delicious simplicity of it all,” he says.

But his number one tip for summer entertaining is simple: stay hydrated. “It might seem obvious but make sure there’s plenty of water, preferably sparkling, on the table at all times. Well-hydrated people make for better guests with greater stamina, so that the good time you’re having at your long summer lunch will extend into the balmy evening,” Harden says.

Brought to you by Weber Genesis. Discover the range at any Weber Store, Weber Specialist Dealers, or approved Weber Marketplaces.

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