For those accustomed to celebrating Fourth of July with big parties, parades, chili cook-offs, fireworks, and concerts, the Independence Day holiday is going to feel a bit ... different this year. But just because the usual festivities and mass gatherings may be off due to COVID-19 concerns, it doesn't mean you can't have fun. After all, a holiday is a holiday and sometimes, it's the simple things that mean the most. Perhaps you are looking forward to the premiere of the film of the original Broadway production of "Hamilton" on Disney +. Maybe you'll have a backyard barbecue with your (very) nearest and dearest. Maybe you'll just curl up with a good book and enjoy a day off. However you choose to spend it, we hope you'll enjoy your Fourth of July weekend. Below are a few ideas, in case you need some inspiration.
Hold a personal chili cookoff
For some Palo Altans, the Fourth of July means it's chili time. But crowded lines and communal food are not exactly advisable this summer. Never fear, the International Chili Society, which sanctions chili cook-offs nationwide, publishes online a number of award-winning recipes in a variety of styles from across the country. To check out the possibilities, go to chilicookoff.com.
Michael Brown, of San Carlos catering company MB's Place, won top honors at last year's Palo Alto Chili Cook Off for his renowned three-way chili. He recently gave us some tips for becoming a chili champion.
"A common mistake people make is walking away from the kitchen and not stirring the pot. It’s like a spaghetti sauce: You gotta keep stirring that pot, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom,” he said. To check whether the chili has achieved the desired texture, he applies “the spatula challenge, which means if my wooden spatula doesn’t stand up by itself in the middle of my three-way chili it’s not thick enough.”
For a full interview with Brown, check the Peninsula Foodist blog.
If laboring over a pot of beans and meat for the Fourth of July isn’t your thing, you can order chili from Brown by calling 415-748-4222. MB’s Place is also available for delivery on DoorDash.
More options from local chefs
Palo Alto's Zola (565 Bryant St.) is offering a Fourth of July grill kit including summer corn and fava beans, potato salad, smoked pork ribs, dinner rolls and apricot brown-butter crumble, available for pickup on Friday, July 3, from 3-7 p.m. The kit is fully cooked and just needs reheating. It feeds three to four people and costs $175. To order, go to zolapaloalto.com.
Woodside's Village Bakery is offering a Fourth of July "backyard" barbecue featuring smoked brisket, ribs, chicken, "all the fixins," potato salad, corn, strawberry shortcake, cocktails, wine and beer from 12:30-4 p.m. at 3052 Woodside Road. Orders can be picked up or eaten at a small number of tables. To pre-order for pickup, go to eventbrite.com.
Chalk Full of Fun (Virtual) Chalk Festival
Normally, on July 4, Redwood City's Courthouse Square and its surrounding areas turn into a glorious, colorful gallery of incredible chalk art. This year, the Chalk Full of Fun Festival, sponsored by the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation, is sending the fun home instead, with a virtual festival and a contest for kids, teens and adults. Interested artists can create a chalk drawing at home, upload photos of the work (including one with the artist) and share on social media (use the hashtag #RWCchalkfest) and be eligible to win a prize. An online gallery of entries will be created on the festival's website, where would-be participants can also find some tips on working with chalk (don't forget the sunscreen). To enter, or for more information, go to rwcpaf.org.
A (virtual) Old-Fashioned Fourth of July
While it's closed for in-person visits this time around, the San Mateo County History Museum is offering an online version of its annual "Old-Fashioned Fourth of July" celebration. Activities for children, including instructions on making ice cream, flags and whirligigs, and historic festive photos from the 1800s, will be posted on the museum's site at historysmc.org.
A refresher on refreshments
Palo Alto's City of Cocktail is offering a Fourth of July cocktail bartending class at 5 p.m. on July 4. For $79 per person, participants will receive two hours of "activity-based bartender learning," with all equipment provided and pizza appetizers included. Class size will remain small, to comply with health guidelines. For more information or to register, go to cityofcocktail.com.
Menlo Park's Left Bank Brasserie is also debuting its new "American Bar" cocktail menu, inspired by the post-World War I American expatriates in Paris. Over the holiday weekend, cocktail specials include the "Bee's Knees" (gin, honey, lemon and lavender) and a daiquiri inspired by Ernest Hemingway, available for pickup or delivery (635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park). Go to leftbank.com.
Independence Caravan Parade
While most traditional parades are canceled, Los Altos Hills is hosting a July 4 vehicle caravan parade, which will include emergency vehicles and classic cars, rather than its usual pedestrian and bike procession. The vehicles will cruise through town starting at Town Hall at 10 a.m. and ending at Fremont Road. According to the town's website, residents are encouraged to walk to the street nearest them on the parade route or gather at Purissima Park or the Gardner Bullis campus and to maintain social distancing while watching the festivities. For more information, go to losaltoshills.ca.gov.
Take a hike
Take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out into the great outdoors. Many Santa Clara County and San Mateo County parks, open-space preserves and city parks are now open, with some restrictions (sorry kids, still no playgrounds allowed). Conditions can change quickly, so confirm that your preferred park is accessible (as well as its parking lots and restrooms, in case you need them). Hikers should maintain a 6-foot distance between their party and others and wear masks when social distancing cannot be observed. For information on parks and preserves, go to openspace.org, parks.smcgov.org, sccgov.org or check with individual cities on municipal park access.
Find your next favorite soundtrack
Sure, live concerts aren't a safe choice right now, but summer's still a great time to discover new music by local artists. Our sister publication TheSixFifty.com has been publishing interviews with and information on Peninsula-connected musicians with new music recently released, including Call Me Ace, Rob Woods and The Corner Laughers. Even better, on Friday, July 3, the music platform Bandcamp.com is waiving its fees, meaning 100% goes to the musicians, making it an especially supportive way to find new music in time to add it to your holiday-weekend playlist.