Entertaining: Big-Rig Style

Entertaining: Big-Rig Style
Tips for making the most of a larger RV, whether hosting guests indoors or outside.
By: Don Cohen

Horizon parked near outdoor kitchen

Six for cocktails. Four for dinner. Two for sleeping. Years ago, I learned this RVer’s axiom and whether you’re in a compact C or a cavernous A coach, it’s a pretty good guide. Switching from our explorative Navion to the more frequently rooted Horizon not only changed our approach to RV travel, but also the way we approached entertaining.

Biggest Differences in a Bigger Coach

Universally, our switch from small to large RVing moved us more from a camping to residential mindset. In a compact coach, storage is the gating factor on just about everything. From tableware to serving bowls and pantry items to wine bottles, packing a compact coach is all about items that are small in size and do double duty.

Big rig entertaining is less about compromise and more about options. At the heart of it all is the joy of a full-sized residential refrigerator. Our Samsung would be welcomed in just about any kitchen with 23 cubic feet of storage, French doors, divided freezer, and ice maker. This gives us plenty of options to buy both from-scratch and pre-made foods for entertaining. The fridge, more than any other appliance, has transformed our daily experience from RVing to condominium-like living.

Freshly squeezed orange juice and oranges on the counter

It doesn’t get any fresher than hand-picked oranges being readied for perfect mimosas.

And while we still use our extremely space-efficient Magma nesting pans (originally bought for the Navion), our underneath storage easily handles our bulky InstantPot and a small cellar of wine bottles.

Expanding the Entertainment Possibilities

Spending the entire winter at our lot at Outdoor Resorts Indio is exactly the same as living in a condo or townhome. While not full-timers, we’ll spend 4-5 months in our desert second home. Wrapping around the Horizon, we built a full outdoor kitchen (including washer and dryer), dining area, living area, and entertainment center. We have heaters and windscreens for cool evenings and ceiling fans for warm days. For convenience, we fully provisioned both the Horizon and the outside kitchen with their own cookware, table service, knives, and gadgets.

Outdoor kitchen with Horizon and palm trees in background

An outdoor kitchen and entertainment center wrapped around our Winnebago Horizon extends both our entertaining options and living experience.

For years, our style of entertainment has been hosting small dinner parties of six to eight. The smaller size promotes better conversation and also lets guests be self-entertaining when Terry and I are plating up. Recently, we’ve been trying out another alternative: heavy appetizers. While similar to a coursed dinner, this approach melds cocktail hour into an earlier dinner. While prep time is similar, preparing apps in advance reduces hosting duties and allows us to more fully enjoy our guests.

Dining Indoors with the Horizon

When having friends over for dinner, six is the magic number. With our two-dinette extension leaves and two extra folding chairs (all stored in the big bay below), we have four at the table and two in the living room.

Our ottomans have reversing cushions that turn into trays. To maximize space, we’ve equipped the galley with service for six, which can be stretched to eight by mixing both larger and small plates and cutlery.

We sometimes grill the entree outside, but Terry has created numerous main courses in the kitchen itself. And again, having a full-size refrigerator is a boon for both appetizer, salad, dessert, and beverage storage.

Another big-rig luxury is using large cloth napkins which, especially for lap diners, is useful. With an onboard washer and dryer, it’s easy to toss them in with the next clothing load.

There is frequent debate among RV buyers as to the benefit of a dishwasher versus using that space for storage. On a day-to-day basis, we hand wash the few items we use. However, when we have people over, that’s the time I find a lot of love for the Fisher & Paykel. It makes clean-up so much quicker and easier.

Three people eating at kitchen table

Nothing could be further from camping than using china and nice silverware. It’s like dining at home - because it is. Especially with a dishwasher.

The final touch that moves RV indoor dining into the realm of residential entertaining is light. The Firefly lighting control (via panel or Bluetooth on my phone) lets me set different zones of light for a softer evening look. A couple of battery-operated LED candles complete the intimate setting.

Dining Outside the RV

One of the compelling reasons we bought and improved our lot at ORI was how much time we could spend outdoors.

This changes the role of the Horizon when entertaining. We will often transfer items from the Samsung fridge in the Horizon to the one in our kitchen island. One of our underneath storage bays in the Horizon holds wine and liquor, while another has a slide-out Norcold electric dual-use (refrigerator or freezer) chest which we use for things like holding extra ice or keeping ice cream ready for dessert.

Norcold electric dual-use refrigerator/freezer in basement compartment

In the evenings, our coach underlighting LEDs can be set at any color to create a nice mood glow.

In addition to our built-in outdoor kitchen appliances, we’ve added some other niceties. For grilling, I purchased a Fuego propane grill. With limited space between our two islands, the Fuego’s circular design takes up less space than a traditional grill. It comes up to temp quickly and heats evenly. Its best feature is that the grill is higher than most, which makes a surprising difference in comfortably tending to food.

And then there’s the Traeger. If you have one - you know. If you don’t, and if you like smoked foods, then you need to know about the Traeger. It uses wood pellets fed continuously by an augur through a fire chamber to create both heat and smoke. The results are delicious, highly repeatable, and simple to accomplish. They also make a tiny version for RV travel. This year, for Thanksgiving in the desert, we roasted a family favorite - brined turkey in the oven. Tasty as always. We also cut a fresh turkey into parts and smoked it in the Traeger (90 minutes for 14 pounds). Outstanding. Succulent and flavorful. Clearly, the Traeger smoked turkey was the taste winner as declared by our eighteen guests.

Smoke and sear on patio

Smoke and sear. The compact Traeger smoker is on the left and, for regular grilling, the Fuego has a small footprint and good working height.

When we finally unmoor the Horizon from its winter desert home, other features get used. If a picnic table isn’t available, we’ve got our Helinox and REI folding camp chairs and aluminum slat table. Our super-long Carefree motorized awning protects from sun and rain. (And yes, the wind sensor really does work when it gets too breezy). Finally, for outdoor grilling, we have a petite Cuisinart grill which I took to a local LP gas dealer for a long hose and proper modification to hook it up to the Horizon’s convenience outlet. As an all-electric coach, the Horizon doesn’t require LP gas. However, Winnebago has placed a standard 20-pound bottle underneath on the driver’s side and run a quick-connect outlet to the passenger side. This eliminates the need for expensive and short-lived one-pound bottles. Brilliant!

With more storage and lots of residential features, there are no compromises with big rig entertaining. I marvel at how “at home” we feel about it and, even better, so do our guests.