Let's start with the grill. There are a few different kinds you can try (propane, charcoal, woodburning), but I like propane. It's cleaner energy, starts up and reaches a high temperature quickly, and has less cleanup.
Now for the food. It's important to remember the versatility of a grill. You can put more than just meat on it- vegetables, fish, bread, cheese, and fruit. You can plan your entire meal on a grill, from appetizers to dessert. Start off with grilled bacon wrapped scallops or grilled baguette topped with seared tomatoes and goat cheese. When grilling meat, fish, or poultry, remember to use marinades and rubs. These should be applied at least 24 hours prior to cooking, so you give them time to mix with the meat and juices. I like to use some sort of sweetness (honey, cocoa, sugar) mixed with a kick (peppers, garlic, peppercorns), along with spice (cinnamon, clove, coriander, etc.), herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.), and a bit of alcohol (cognac, rum, bourbon, etc.). These can combine to make excellent flavored marinades or rubs. The addition of citrus (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) can help, but remember the acids can "cook", so you may want to add them later. The addition of butter during grilling, or a butter rub down of vegetables and fruits adds excellent richness as well. Try to experiment with all of these, along with making your own sauces. It enhances your creativity and experience!
Now for some beverages. There is not much that I love more on a hot day than an ice cold beer. Make sure you grab your favorites. They can start you off, or carry you through your meal. I love a wheat ale for the heat. They are crisp, refreshing, and have a touch of sweet and spice which can be perfect. Try the Sam Adams Summer Ale, Anchor Summer Beer, or Goose Island Summertime.
For wine refreshment, starting with a rosé may seem "girlie" to you, but they have a fruity dryness that makes them the perfect bev when the sun is beating down. I like the 2007 Meinklang Prosa ($13.99), a semi-sparking Pinot Noir rosé from Austria, and 2007 Miguel Torres Santa Digna ($11.99) Cabernet Sauvignon rosé for it's strength, fruit, and ripe color.
Whites match up well with seafood, and oaked, fuller bodied whites can easily pair with meat. For freshness, try 2008 Groth Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99), a full, crisp, and creamy version. Also, 2006 Argiolas Vermentino ($15.99) will give you the perfect compliment to your seafood travels. For your oaked white, go to Spain for the 2007 Bodegas Muga Blanco ($14.99). It gives you something different than Chardonnay, with full tropical fruit, coconut, and smokiness. If this wine doesn't match with the grill, I'll give you your money back!
On to the reds. I love to pick reds with meaty body, live fruit, spice, and grill flavors like chocolate, leather, tobacco, and char. A malbec always fits perfectly, and I really enjoy 2008 Doña Paula ($13.99). It's black pepper and mocha fits well with any meat and most sauces. I have been getting into Portuguese dry reds, and my favorite value is 2004 Azamor Tinto ($15.99), a blend of 6 varietals, over half being syrah, touriga nacional, and merlot. This wine brings a gamut of flavor, fruit, body, and spice. It is hard to beat syrah/shiraz on the grill, so 2007 Qupe Syrah ($15.99) and 2006 Final Cut Montage Shiraz ($15.99) are great spicy red buys for your grill. Also look for the 2006 Hitching Post Generation Red ($17.99), a spicy red blend with full body, black cherry, and tobacco.
If you move onto some grilled fruits for dessert, like plums, peaches, or pears, pair them up with a tawny port. The caramel, toffee, and dried fruits will help you savor the sweet charred fruitiness at the end of your meal.
I will be posting some personal recipes and pairings while I enjoy my summer. Feel free to share some of yours as well!
(Image courtesy of flickr)