Fourth of July Party on the Wharf

Lucy Lott shares her secrets for easy weekends on the water.

Hamp and Banks Lott stand beside their owners Lucy Lott and Jennifer Lott on the shores of Dog River after a summer swim. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

From the back of the property, a golden retriever bounds exuberantly toward the water, tongue lolling and eyes bright. He wears a red bandana, that won’t stay dry for long, in honor of the Fourth of July. He heads straight to the end of the wharf and immediately lunges off into Dog River for a swim. Hamp is in his happy place.

Lucy Lott and Hamp

It turns out his owner Lucy Lott, is in her happy place, too. Whether it’s Dog River, Mobile Bay or the beach, Lucy loves spending time on the water with friends and, of course, Hamp. I guess that’s why these two are such a great pair.

Lucy has travelled the world and lived in a number of places, but she has always been drawn back home to the water. For that reason, summer is her favorite time of year. The season brings back plenty of coastal childhood memories, and she works hard to make fun, new memories each weekend, as well.

Lucy keeps her waterfront entertaining simple and summery. “It’s not a party in the summer without a watermelon,” she laughs. “It’s the easiest — and quite frequently most popular — dish at any gathering.” She equates slicing the watermelon to cutting the cake at a wedding: It can be an event in and of itself, calling friends to gather around and wait with anticipation for that first taste. She also suggests watermelon to remove all of the indecision on choosing the perfect hostess gift to bring to a party. Worrying about what kind of wine everyone might enjoy or what kind of side will go with a host’s main dish can take the cool air out of wharf party prep. But everyone is thrilled to see the girl who shows up toting a fresh summer melon. If it was picked up at a roadside stand, all the better.

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While a watermelon and good wine are standards for the ideal impromptu gathering, for some occasions a few perfectly planned summer recipes are in order. Tomato pie, potato salad and good old West Indies salad line the table this holiday, with a cookie cake brought out of the fridge at just the right moment.

Lucy looks for classic recipes that are easy to make for waterfront weekends, but there is no shortage of attention to detail. She says the ticket to her tomato pie is to drain the tomato slices first. “Nothing is worse than a soggy tomato pie!” She played around with recipes until she perfected her own, replacing the typical mayonnaise with ricotta and using plenty of basil for freshness.

Left to right: Jennifer Lott and Lindsey Lott swing baby Heintz in the shade of the wharf. Annie Henseler and Mary Helene McLean refill their glasses.

With one foot always in the water, it’s no wonder seafood makes an appearance on Lucy’s table as well. “My parents have made West Indies since I was little, and I’ve always loved it,” she explains as she carefully breaks apart a head of local bibb lettuce for serving. While most people think of saltine crackers as the utensil for this delectable local dip, Lucy loves to offer a lighter way to eat the crabmeat, as well. Like the watermelon, she has never found someone who wasn’t thrilled to have a friend tote a big bowl of crabmeat to a party.

It seems her friends enjoy time on the water as much as she does. As people get married and start families, “I make it known that all the babies and dogs are welcome,” she says. “It’s super special to have the next generation growing up doing the same fun waterfront  things we did. The party just keeps getting bigger and better.”

Left to right: Cold watermelon is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. Mary Helene McLean, Lucy Lott, Jennifer Lott, Annie Henseler, Ann Brooks Morrissette and Samantha Morrissette enjoy waterfront time together on a regular basis. Having sisters-in-law, children and dear friends close at hand adds meaning to weekend gatherings. Samantha Morrissette and Ann Brooks Morrissette carry twins Taylor and Philip down to the river.

When asked about her upcoming Fourth of July plans, Lucy says she doesn’t know where she will be, but it will “definitely be somewhere on the water with friends. We will get together and swim and eat and drink and have good conversation, maybe late into the night. I’m always just happy and thankful that we have this life right here at our fingertips.” It seems we should all take Hamp’s lead this Fourth and take a long walk off a short pier.

Tomato Pie

Lucy says the ticket to this recipe is to dry the tomatoes. The pie can be served warm, but cold leftovers the next day are also amazing!

4 fresh Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 pie crust
2 tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (optional)
1 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons basil, minced, plus more whole leaves for garnish
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped bacon
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice tomatoes thinly and lay flat on a paper towel to dry. Flip after 15 to 20 minutes and continue to let dry.
3. Roll out dough and fit to a pie pan. Trim edges to fit pan and then pierce with a fork multiple times. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly scatter shredded Swiss. Return to oven and cook for 7 minutes. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, yogurt, Parmesan, basil, egg, and salt and pepper. Add chopped bacon, reserving a small amount for garnish, and combine.
5. Place one layer of tomatoes on pastry crust. Top with a single layer of Vidalia onions. Pour cheese mixture over, then add a final layer of sliced tomatoes.
6. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with basil leaves and reserved bacon. Bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8

Dill and Feta Potato Salad

Lucy loves to serve light meals in the summer, but growing up surrounded by boys, she has always needed something substantial on the plate. This light potato salad checks all the boxes. Recipe from the blog, Living with Landyn.

2 pounds small red potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus more for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Scrub potatoes and rinse. Drop into boiling water and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and let cool.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and scallions. Set aside.
3. Quarter potatoes and add to bowl with dressing. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
4. Remove potatoes from fridge and add red wine vinegar, dill and feta cheese. Mix well. Garnish with additional feta and serve. Serves 6 – 8

West Indies Salad

Lucy says she was a quirky little girl. When most kids were looking for Goldfish, her favorite foods were crab claws and West Indies salad. This recipe is widely known and always appreciated.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked through for shells
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
1 head bibb lettuce leaves
1 sleeve saltine crackers

1. Line the bottom of a serving bowl with half the chopped onion. Add crabmeat, and top with remaining chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour oil, vinegar and water one at a time over crab and onion layers. Do not stir. Cover and chill for 2 to 12 hours. Serve cold over bibb lettuce, alongside crackers or both! Serves 10

Holiday Flag Sugar Cookie Cake

Fresh summer berries are the perfect way to style this festive sweet treat.

2 packages dry sugar cookie mix,
plus required ingredients

8 ounces sugar-free Cool Whip
1/2 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
50 blueberries, washed and dried

1. Mix cookie dough according to package directions and spread evenly across a large-rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven according to package directions, baking an additional 8 to 10 minutes until evenly golden brown. Let cake cool to room temperature.
2. Spread Cool Whip evenly across top of cake and refrigerate.
3. Before serving, add fruit into flag pattern. Keep cool until serving. Serves 10 – 12

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