June is the month that kicks off a summer-long tradition of outdoor parties in Chicago, especially the block party. Children enjoy the novelty or roaming down the middle of their street, and adults love seeing neighbors emerge after the arduous winter, bearing favorite recipes and cocktails in hand.
I joined the fabulous Suzanne Le Mignot on CBS Chicago this morning to give her the lowdown on hosting the perfect block party:
Planning- Permits, Attendees and Invite
Planning a block party can seem like a monumental task, but with a little technology and everyone pitching in, it can be pulled together in no time.
- Chicago Block Party Permits- These are obtained through your Alderman. Check the chicago.gov website for details, but they must be received by the DoT at least three days prior to the party, so submit early to ensure it is approved in time! If you live on a bus route, find a nearby park to host the party.
- All suburbs have different rules- check your government website and make sure to play WAY ahead.
- Plan a committee and assign responsible individuals to be in charge of particular tasks- Activities, Food, Beverages, Cleanup.
- Hand out invites the old fashioned way- door to door! You can make cute door hanger invites easily at home (don’t drop in people’s mailboxes- besides being a federal offense, they can get taken by the carriers).
You can download this template to use for invitations! Grab some card stock and print at home- save the image to your computer (right click and hit Save).
To make things easier for your block party, you can ask each person to contribute a few dollars for grill items (hot dogs, burgers, vegetarian options). Then, odd numbered addresses bring salads/appetizers and even bring desserts. Usually there is a grill aficionado in the neighborhood. I bought this Cuisinart 360 Griddle Cooking Center that is easily portable, is lightweight enough to roll to the street, and can even handle breakfast items like pancakes and bacon if you choose a brunch! (Also, I plan on taking this to tailgates in the fall- love items that perform double duty, and it is under $200)
Dish to Pass
Wondering what to bring that will stand out from the standard mayo-based pasta salads that quickly turn terrible in the sun at your block party? Know that there will be ten ambrosia salads, sickeningly sweet and unhealthy as heck? Try this easy recipe for Watermelon Fries with Key Lime Skyr Dip! Simply slice watermelon into fry-like rectangles, sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with mint. For the dip, mix Key Lime Skyr with a little lime juice. I started using Icelandic Provisions Skyr in my recipes instead of yogurt because it is thicker, has less sugar and more protein than other flavored yogurts, and isn’t sour like Greek yogurt. This recipe is a healthier alternative to marshmallow-based fruit dips, and easy finger food for little hands.
Although warm beer in a red Solo cup screams summer, as I age I prefer something that I actually enjoy sipping on. I always create a custom cocktail for each party I throw, and love to find ones that are big batch crowd-pleasers. For example, I make a boozy Shamrock Shake for our St. Patty’s Day party. For ideas, I subscribe to ShotsBox, which is a company that sends 10 craft spirit shot-size samples each month for $39.99, along with recipe cards to make unique cocktails. You can then order full-sized spirits from their shop. My favorite from last month’s selection was Huckleberry Vodka, which came with a recipe for Huckleberry Mules. This is an ideal concoction for a hot summer day, and perfect for a block party! Since there are only a few ingredients, it is easy to transport and mix on site.
Recipe for Huckleberry Mule via ShotsBox:
1.5 ounces Bozeman Spirits Huckleberry Vodka
Squeeze of lime
Optional: fresh huckleberries, lime wedge garnish
Fill copper mug 1/3 full with ice. Add vodka and top with ginger beer, placing fresh huckleberries and a lime wedge on top.
Pesky Pest Protection
This spring has been a wet one for sure- we have been way ahead of total rainfall averages. And in our climate, rain = mosquitoes. Since my kids have sensitive skin and I am nervous about putting toxic chemicals on them, I researched a lot of alternative methods to spraying DEET their little bodies. I found a natural alternative called Para’kito, which is a wristband that contains essential oil pellets that naturally mask the scents that draw mosquitoes. They are even waterproof, so when your kiddos are running through the sprinkler they will still have protection.
Cheers to planning a party that will reunite you with your neighbors after hibernating all winter!