top of page

Setting Up a Whimsical BBQ Buffet

All hail barbecue season!

It is no secret that I am just wild about cooking with the colors of the rainbow, and much less effusive about the subzero temperatures I spend 80% of the year in. When I can enjoy the (humid, oppressive, aggressively hot) sunshine and the potential for good times it screams, and concurrently, have the opportunity to prepare a fun table or two, that’s my recipe for a fantastic mood.

My usual Sunday barbecue is like anyone’s: burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and some meat. Maybe coleslaw and leftover apple cobbler? Maybe some wine? Definitely some cashew ice cream with caramel drizzle. Plastic plates, tired kiddos, mosquito swatting: the bones of a classic barbecue devoid of the lists party prepping brings, and heavy with the histrionics a family dinner consisting of 5:1 girls:boys yields.

This photoshoot is equal parts inspiration as it is my reality. I wanted to create a buffet that felt exciting, a combination of escapism and nostalgia – yet featuring dishes and plating that are constants when I’m having guests or dining al fresco. (If I write al fresco, I am on a rooftop in Forte de Marmi and not on a faded wooden patio with someone else’s kid whining, “Push me!”) We all know: with good weather comes outdoor living, and with that – an onslaught of barbecues and patio dining. When putting the components of a barbecue buffet together, the challenge lies in keeping each of your foods easily accessible, while ensuring it feels cohesive but doesn’t get overcrowded.

Instinctively, I knew I wanted this to feel relaxed, casual, and easy. I started off with a few images that served as a mood board, but as I looked around at my props, chatted with my florist, and visualized what I’d want to walk into, it organically developed into an amalgamation of desert-boho chic, warm Morocco-inspired goodness, and summer chill- all with an underlying feeling of: “OK, I love beautiful produce, want to see the versatility in my styling?”

If this sounds like a bunch of words strung together (and maybe that’s for good reason?), follow along as I show you what I did here:

For the Vibe:

I knew I wanted my little ol’ background to feel transformed with a lavender jute rug and the warm tones of the cloth I chose. The dishes and serving pieces I used were not overly thought out- I simply gravitated towards pieces that felt casual and outdoorsy. I was after florals that had a foraged look about them, evoking the feel of lazy summer days, picked in the garden I wish I owned.

Splendid Settings is my go-to rental service for a curated collection of flatware, dishware, and serving pieces from all over Europe. Knowing I unequivocally wanted to make use of her amber cake stand and floral-bordered platter helped integrate more of the color feel into the styling.

For the Food:

Yours Truly Meat Co. created the most incredible food selection for the spread:

1) Hot Dog Bar

Their signature hot dogs were served with pretzel buns from Haymishe Bakery; they created outrageous and thoughtful toppings to go alongside.

You can create any of your favorites, serve with hot dogs, and call it a “hot dog bar” with no rules or holds barred. Here were their combinations:

a) Modern Summer Waldorf: top your dog with shaved celery, pickled fennel, fresh peach, and a remoulade dressing; topped with toasted sesame seeds and fennel fronds and oh my goshhhh!

b) Nacho Dog: top your dog with pulled beef chili, guacamole, red chili, and crumbled nachos

c) Hawaiian Relish: top your dog with diced pineapple, cucumber, red onion, chive, lime juice, and radish.

2) Every cookout needs a burger and their caramelized onion burgers are famous for a reason. I serve these wrapped in lettuce, with everyone’s topping varied as requested. The rich onions with the crispy lettuce- goodbye!

3) Yours Truly Meats Co. is famous for their sous vide proteins – beginning this scientific process years before it had gone mainstream. There is nothing less enjoyable than dry, rubbery grilled chicken, but theirs is moist and loaded with flavor. Here I created a summery chicken salad featuring basil, peaches, snap peas, radish, celery, and plums. Drizzle of balsamic, and sayonara.

4) There is meat and then there is this pastrami. Honestly? Just crazy. I prepared this with mild hysteria as I realized my photoshoot products were disappearing with the speed of light because I was tasting and cutting and tasting and cutting and oops. I crave this with crusty bread (here- rye and French baguette from Haymishe Bakery), mayonnaise, grainy Dijon, and arugula- and that is how I served it here. Pickled red onions, dill, things.

5) I say this with passion: it never ceases to blow my mind how stunning natural vegetables and fruit are – simple, but the farthest thing from that, too. I created a classic vegetable basket out of homage to the beauty in produce in its basic forms.

6) Ely’s Fine Foods has a fantastic selection of salads and takeout: quinoa, squash spinach salad, classic slaw, and a barbecue staple, Israeli salad, are side dish foundations for summer dining.

7) Salad is to my meals as water is to a run: important, enjoyable, and virtually impossible without. Egg and Plant prepared the brightest and freshest barbecue goodies- and you can do the same at home, too! (And of course, always DM me with your salad queries or ideas!) Always want to be mindful of the non-meat-eaters, so the team at E+P came through with delicious plant based goodies: their signature hemp balls, sweet potato quinoa burgers, and all the thoughtfully prepared fruits and veggies to make an explosively colorful salad selection.

For the Dessert:

My favorite barbecue desserts are simple, and equal parts cozy (the sun has gone down, you’re warm but in a sweatshirt) and refreshing (you’ve been sweating over a grill and want to relax!): either a fruit crumble with ice cream, a hot cookie, or basic cut up berries and melon. Here I took a couple of those ideas and used them to include something for the over 21’s, and the kiddos, too.

DIY S’mores:

I took a basic terra cotta pot (you can get these at your local florist, hardware store, or a tiny corner boutique I know as Amazon), lined it with foil, and filled it with charcoal. Hello, tiny little fire pit, you are just so perfect for me; me, who wants gooey s’mores but does not want to move a muscle! Use your favorite chocolate, and add the obvious: graham crackers and marshmallows.

DIY Fruit Skewer Sundaes:

1. Set out a platter of cut fruit: berries, melon, you know.

2. Lay out skewers for threading, and hot dog liners to hold the fruit kebobs

3. Create fun toppings: some examples include but are not limited to: mini marshmallows, whipped cream, coconut, granola, chocolate chips.

Frosé Pops:

Wine + fruit + popsicles. Say no more.

Water is great and all, but ginger lime water? Grapefruit rosemary water? Yep! I got you!

I hope you feel as inspired as I was in putting this together. Follow me @rivkirabinowitz and let me know what gets your creative juices flowing when putting together a table for an occasion, or for no reason at all!


Photography: Ksenija Hotic @khzen

Florals: Crown Flora @crownflora

Breads: Haymishe Bakery @haymishebakeryto

Meats, chicken, hot dogs and toppings, burgers: Yours Truly Meats Co. @yourstrulymeats

Pies and cupcakes: Electric Love @electriclovebakeshop

Individual Salads: Elys Fine Foods @elysfinefoods

Large Salads: Egg and Plant @egg.and.plant

All fruits and veggies: Savours Fresh Market @savoursfreshmarket

Day of set-up help: Chaya Pamensky @eventz4you


bottom of page