What We Talk About When We Talk About Summer
This may not be my best look. My fingertips are stained orange from Old Bay, my tank top splashed with drawn butter and clam juice. “You’ve got cocktail sauce on your chin,” says my husband, offering me yet another paper towel. Frankly, I’m a mess—and I could not be happier.
We’re at the far end of a sun-drenched pier, on the near side of a long summer weekend, watching schooners drift across the river. Seagulls circle and eye our scraps. And there are plenty of them: Our pine-green picnic table is littered with clam shells, lemon wedges, Captain’s Wafers crumbs, spice dust and the cracked remains of a dozen Maryland blue crabs. There’s no way to do this neatly. But that’s how lunch goes at The Crab Claw in St. Michaels, Maryland, one of my all-time-favorite seafood shacks. No place says “summer weekend” quite like The Crab Claw.
This is no time for polish or politesse. This is a time for rickety wooden docks, beer-logo umbrellas and long communal tables covered in kraft paper. A time to savor the aroma of seawater, sunscreen and salty margaritas. A time for outdoor lunches that stretch right on into dinner, the sun still high in the sky.
And it’s OK to get a little messy, because that’s what August is for: letting your hair down (or putting it up), not worrying about the grill smoke permeating your clothes or the Tabasco staining your T-shirt. If summer is about freedom, this is what freedom looks, feels and tastes like.
I was reminded of all this by our dreamy August feature on Joe and Katy Kindred, the married restaurateurs who are about to open Hello, Sailor on Lake Norman in North Carolina. We joined the couple for a raucous dockside party centered on the brilliant (and brilliantly named) Southern specialty Frogmore stew, also known as a low-country boil. As you’ll see, it’s a joyful celebration of the bounty of the Carolina shore, and of the thrill of gathering family and friends for an all-out alfresco feast.
That’s a theme Matt Gross picks up on as well, in his story on a cherished summer ritual: inviting the whole neighborhood for an epic pig roast in his Brooklyn backyard, no forks or knives required (though Wet-Naps are a good idea).
These summer bacchanals obviously go great with a can of icy-cold beer—or, for that matter, a can of delicious chilled Pinot Gris. No joke: canned wine is definitely a thing this season, and we’ve rounded up our absolute favorites. Your cooler just got a little classier, friends. And speaking of beating the heat, this issue’s “Chill Out” feature spotlights our go-to recipes (icebox fried chicken, cold ramen, chilled tofu) to keep you and your kitchen cool in the dog days of August.
Elsewhere, we celebrate explorations close to home—greetings, Asbury Park, New Jersey!—and farther afield. Mexican-American chef and Noma veteran Rosio Sánchez leads the way to the always inspiring, always delicious city of Oaxaca. Before planning your own summer getaways, be sure to check out our "Best Food Cities on the Planet" special, a guide to the most amazing culinary destinations around the world, from London to Hong Kong, Toronto to Tokyo.
We want to know how you’ll be making the most of the season. Give us a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and remember to use the hashtag #howisummer. Maybe I’ll see you out there. Just promise to let me know if I have cocktail sauce on my face, OK?