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Easy Outdoor Entertaining

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Seating themselves on the greensward, they eat while the corks fly and there is talk, laughter and merriment, and perfect freedom, for the universe is their drawing room and the sun their lamp. Besides, they have appetite, Nature’s special gift, which lends to such a meal a vivacity unknown indoors, however beautiful the surroundings.”
-Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

It’s that time of year when longer days and warmer temperatures make dining “al fresco” possible, and what a joy that is! I absolutely love preparing a meal (usually on the grill), then sitting down to enjoy it outdoors, among the breeze, sights and sounds of summer. It seems to be an instant stress reliever and a beautiful opportunity to be present and enjoy the many gifts of this incredible season.

The best part is, outdoor entertaining can be surprisingly fuss-free. And we all know that the simpler things are, the more likely we are to do them. Here are some tips for hosting an intimate outdoor dinner party:

  1. Keep the menu simple: a salad, protein and a couple of sides are all that’s needed for a lovely dinner. Dessert can be as simple as some cut berries and ice cream/gelato.

  2. Build your menu around whatever is seasonal. Summer’s bounty gives us LOTS of healthy and delicious options.

  3. Include side dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature. Less time spent cooking means more time spent with your guests.

  4. Prep most of the meal ahead of time. Even grilled vegetables can be done in advance and served at room temperature (I love to add a drizzle of balsamic reduction right before serving to “fancy” them up!).

  5. Serve at least one course that you can purchase, rather than prepare yourself. This might be a cheese/charcuterie board, fois gras with crackers, cocktail shrimp, a hummus platter, etc. Certainly, a wonderful dessert may be purchased from the pastry shop. The point is…don’t feel that you need to make everything yourself. Choose how and where to invest your (limited) time and energy, so that you can have fun preparing for the party and not feel overextended and drained.

  6. If using the grill, make sure that it’s in working order and that you have enough gas/charcoal.

  7. Limit beverage choices; a fully stocked bar is not necessary. Still or sparkling water with slices of citrus fruit and a nice wine will satisfy most guests.

  8. Create a cozy outdoor space (click here for some inspiration).

  9. Use real china, stemware and cutlery (as opposed to paper/plastic) to create a more elegant meal. And if you want to add an extra elegant touch, bring your linens out (napkins and/or tablecloth).

  10. Include a couple of small bouquets of flowers, rather than one larger arrangement. If you’re lucky enough to have a flower garden, a few cut flowers and a few sprigs of greens will be perfect.

  11. Make sure to bring outside all of the the kitchen tools/equipment that you need (like tongs, spatula, etc.) ahead of time.

  12. Linger over the meal. Summer seems to beckon us to slow down and savor what’s going on around us. Savor the meal, the setting, the company, the warm weather, the night sky, etc. Enjoy every moment of your very Wellegant gathering!

I hope that these ideas have inspired to partake of this simple summer pleasure. In the words of Savarin, may you enjoy “laughter and merriment and perfect freedom.”



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