Hot Town: Summer in the City

By Bridget Weiss

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot—the dogs pant directly into my face. We’re on our way home from a swim in the cold, clear water that spills from Mansfield Dam around Red Bud Isle. Though still damp from immersion, we immediately begin to sweat again in the hot car.

The AC going full blast, we work a slow path through rush-hour traffic. The outside thermometer reads 102°, but home is only five favorite songs away. We cultivate patience, or at least I do. The dogs think there might be something better on the radio.

We stop at Callahan’s General Store for a six-pack of bandanas and some extra aluminum buckets. Almost home now to our beautiful reward, we make one more detour for a few bags of ice. At home, the dogs try to muscle through the front door ahead of me—the sanctuary of climate-controlled air and cold hardwood floors can cause even well-trained canines to forget their manners.

With guests arriving in a few hours, I begin to craft my personal answer to the summertime blues: a post-panting patio party, featuring a feisty flame-kissed feast. This is how we do it:

First, grab those metal buckets and fill with ice, water and generous doses of essential oils. I like rosemary and lemongrass, or tea tree and lavender—all deterrents to mosquitoes! Throw the bandanas into the ice buckets then present one to each guest as a snappy neck or wrist chiller. In fact, during the evening, encourage a free-for-all, foot-soak in the icy tubs for as long as guests can stand it. Having cold feet on a triple-digit summer day is a sign of true Texas genius.

Now cool the lips with Red Dogs. Blend homegrown or farmers market tomatoes with lemon juice and dashes of sea salt, cayenne and cracked black pepper. Assemble skewers of raw or pickled okra, button mushrooms, chunky cucumber slices and thin carrot rounds. Mix one part tomato puree, one part vodka (or two parts beer) and one part sparkling water. Serve in a large glass over lots of ice, garnish with a hearty vegetable skewer, and pass around bowls of roasted peanuts.

Once the guests are Red Dogged, start a small fire in the grill. Sear over the hot coals some mango halves, presoaked corn in the husk and thick slices of red onion. Now grab those chunks of Gulf Coast red snapper, yellowfin tuna, or shrimp you’ve been marinating in generous amounts of grapefruit juice for about three hours. You did do that, right? Of course you did. Toss the marinated seafood with the grilled mango and red onion, plenty of cilantro, extra grapefruit juice and sea salt to taste, and serve the assembled ceviche on a bed of field greens surrounded by avocado slices, blue corn chips and roasted corn cob rounds.

Hot or not, we’re all here for a reason, and I am not speaking existentially. We call this place home for work, friends, water, food, music, beauty and more. Raise a chilled Red Dog with your guests and profess why you love Austin. And quit hoggin’ the ice bucket!