In Gear: An Outdoor Dining Indulgence: Portable Blenders

20080522-ingear-blender.jpgFor most of us, Memorial Day weekend marks the launch of the outdoor dining season, marshalling in a summer of picnics, barbecues, and pool and beach parties. As I find the standard gear marketed specifically for such occasions (folding picnic tables, special baskets and packs for tableware and flatware, enormous tong/spatula/fork sets, etc.) to be flimsy, fussy and/or cumbersome, I turn to camping suppliers when I’m looking for tools to get my outdoor eat on. There I tend to find equipment that is robust enough to withstand the elements and a good bit of jostling, lightweight and compact enough to be easily transported on foot, and just plain sensible for outdoor/remote usage.

Now, I appreciate the simplicity necessitated by al fresco dining—unfussy meats and vegetables grilled to order or foods prepared in advance and served out of coolers—all of it eaten off of plastic or disposable plates. I’m good with all of that, but I do appreciate my gadgets, and in the heat of summer, especially in areas removed from ready access to such creature comforts as running water and electricity, I can think of nothing quite so satisfyingly decadent as a slushy beverage. Enter my latest camp-supply find: the Coleman portable blender.

It comes in four ever-so-slightly different versions, priced from about $50 to $100 (though some models are cheaper on Amazon than on Coleman’s site, and many places are having Memorial Day sales, so it’d be worth a look around for the best price before buying). The stats for all the models are pretty similar, but the most expensive, the "Marine" model, has a slightly more powerful battery and its body finish is electroplate, whereas the others are painted.

Though there are a number of portable blenders on the market made by other manufacturers, many are for single servings only or require hook up to an AC car adapter, or in the case of an over-the-top gas-powered model, a stable mounting surface. The Coleman models, however, are completely portable and have an ample 48-ounce capacity.

Like other battery-powered tools (drills for instance), the blenders will lose some speed as their batteries run down, but when fully charged, their blending power is comparable to standard plug-in models.

Though I have not yet been able to put this to the test myself, Coleman claims that these bad boys are good for producing 20-30 batches of slushy delight on one battery charge. For some, that might be enough juice for the whole summer; for others, just enough for Memorial Day weekend, or maybe just Saturday afternoon.

In any case, happy slurping!

About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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