Holiday weekends--these are times when activities are dictated by the calendar. But an appreciation for their rarity should drive most everyone to make the best of these days. Whether it means indoor or back-yard entertaining, camping in the wild or just picnicking in the park or on the beach, any bash should spell good times. Here's an eclectic collection of equipment and gear which might trigger some partying ideas or help out in existing plans for this precious Memorial Day weekend.
A clam steamer, for one, should be wonderfully efficient for a clambake. A successful line of steam vessels for seashore cooking for family or institutions comes from General Housewares Corp., Inc. Its Ceramic On Steel Graniteware Clam Steamer is a hard-working yet affordable unit that heats fast, cleans easily and, backed by a lifetime limited warranty, offers durability.
Decorated with painted red lobster, clam shells and corn, the covered clam steamer set ($46) features a 19-quart perforated covered steam kettle that sits on a shorter lower pot with a faucet on one side. As clambake ingredients (such as clams, crab, lobster, corn, chicken, sausage and potatoes) steam on the top vessel, the drippings impart delicious flavor to the steam broth in the lower pot. The cookware can be placed over a barbecue grill or on a cooktop.
The cookware company also makes a tall and plain, covered clam steamer (also 19-quart) without the drip pot and faucet ($31.95). Available in various sizes, other General Housewares graniteware ceramic-on-steel pots suited for seashore cooking include lobster pots and crab kettles with insert.
If the weather gets warm, refreshing snow cones and slushes made from shaved ice and fruit flavorings will save the day. Hawaiice ($19.95) from Back to Basics Products in Sandy, Utah, is a non-electric ice machine that shaves off a block of ice like fine snow. "A typical home blender or food processor will not pulverize ice into snowy fine texture without leaving chunks of ice," explained Tom Daniels, sales manager for Back to Basics.
Equipped with an adjustable blade, the slate blue and white ice machine is easy to operate. Simply fill the provided ice cup 3/4 full with liquid and freeze solid, empty the round block of ice into the shaver and rotate the handle to dispense the fine ice. The set is available with a flavor packet that makes up to one quart of syrup (30 servings), three plastic ice cups (you can also use an empty 1/2-pint carton of cottage cheese) and a small recipe-instruction booklet. Daniels said they're constantly getting appreciative comments from customers when they send back their warranty cards. "This past summer we wanted to earn money for our vacation," nine-year-old Emily Schoenfield from West Jordan, Utah, wrote. "We decided to sell shaved ice. By the end of the summer we earned about two hundred dollars for our vacation."
The ice shaver is not just for the young to enjoy: Adults find it useful for more appealing frosty juices and diet drinks as well as cocktail beverages. "It makes the darndest, delightfully delicious daiquiris ever. I thank you and my blender thanks you, too," wrote R. Gunderson from Sacramento.
Aside from making these popular goodies, shaved ice is also loved by Hawaiians and Asians in exotic frosty fruit preparations. Take the Filipino halo-halo , for instance . Translated as "mix-mix," the sundae-like dessert is made by filling a tall glass containing layers of mixed fruits, coconut and sweet condiments with fine ice, pouring in cream and topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and slivers of caramel flan.
"The unit has been around for sometime but has sat on the shelf; there was no romancing of the product, no demonstrations," Daniels said. "We market it uniquely by offering exotic and traditional flavor packets and convenient dispenser bottles." Some of the flavors include pina colada, papaya, root beer, blue raspberry, coconut and grape.
Looking for a new picnic bag? Make it safe and cool with Cool Tote's Insulated Picnic Bag ($49.95) from Alpine West, Inc., Incline Village, Nev. The large, sturdy wicker basket contains an attractive periwinkle blue nylon bag with drawstring closing. Underneath the washable, fashionably bright fabric (a lined nylon pack cloth made especially for backpacks), is an exclusive heat shield insulation designed for use in spacecraft. A sheet of aluminized Mylar reflects the heat out while a DuPont-made material (called Holifil) provides a dead air barrier from the outside.
Another picnic item from Cool Tote is the Grand Gourmet Picnic Bag ($79.95) for elegant picnicking for four. Also well insulated, this lightweight bag (13x14x9 inches in black, teal or royal blue) includes a wine sack, which keeps cold wine chilled up to three hours, a corkscrew, four acrylic Champagne flutes and two large Super Ice packs. These chemical freezer packs keep food cold three times longer than regular ice.