The Home Edit: Outdoor entertaining tips
I hope all of my U.S. readers had a wonderful Fourth of July. My parents live nearby one of our area’s big Fourth of July festivals, so we enjoyed browsing the vendors in the morning and went back to their house for a cookout afterwards.
Although it poured sheets of rain in between bursts of sunshine on Monday, the weather did finally clear before the Dayton fireworks kicked off. Our cold, rainy June is over, and the weather seems to be shifting to summertime in earnest. We might be able to think about hosting a gathering in the near future. I love the ease and casual elegance of an outdoor gathering, and have polished up a post from the old WordPress site with a few tips below.
A deck or patio is the perfect gathering space when the weather cooperates. We have our deck set up with three different sections for entertaining – a bar area, a dining area, and a conversation area. This setup works well for seamlessly moving from cocktails to dinner to an evening of chatting and relaxing.
The guest list
Keep it on the smaller side. Three or four couples is a good size for mingling and still getting enough quality time with every guest. Plus, you want to be sure everyone fits comfortably in the space!
I wrote last week about our favorite cocktails/mocktails for summer 2023. I often just serve one signature offering at parties to avoid bringing out our entire liquor stash. The seltzer cocktails would be a great option for a casual get together - offer a few flavors of water, one or two liquor choices, and a variety of garnishes such as fruit and mint. Your guests can take it from there.
A bottle of rosé and a case of summer shandy are also a nice touch, as well as plain, unadulterated lemonade.
What to serve
You could always fire up the grill and make all the traditional picnic sides. Otherwise, I’m all about charcuterie boards and sometimes like to make a heavier one as a meal. One of our favorites is a Caprese board.
Here’s what you need to create the Caprese board (quantities depend on how many you’re serving, err on the side of extra because this goes quickly!): sliced Italian bread, sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, basil leaves, salami, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella cheese, assorted olives, and dipping oil for the bread. Simply arrange as you would any charcuterie board and enjoy.
If you go the Caprese board for dinner route, you’ll want to supplement with a salad and another heavy hors d’oeuvre or two. One of my favorite summer salads is spring mix with grilled peaches, crumbled Boursin cheese, chopped walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. This Old Bay crab dip with Ritz crackers obviously needs a spot on your table and mine. If you make this crab dip, please add me to #1 above.
For dessert, keep it simple. Pick up a pound cake at the bakery and serve with sliced berries or peaches and fresh whipped cream.
Unfortunately, you can only control so much of the ambience outdoors. Our neighborhood is big on randomly setting off fireworks throughout the summer. They’re not just for the Fourth of July! East Dayton also loves additional holidays like Bastille Day and Wednesday. Perhaps you have noisy next-door neighbors. Someone nearby usually chooses to mow their lawn the second my outdoor gathering guests arrive. All you and your guests can really do is laugh about those things. The neighbors will go indoors, and the mowing will stop eventually. If you’re a guest at someone else’s outdoor party, please don’t complain about these things. Your host can’t control them.
A bigger problem than ill-timed lawn mowing are mosquitoes. For the past several summers, we’ve had a lawn service spray our lawn, and it has worked wonders. We hesitated over using chemicals, but previously couldn’t even cross the threshold without being devoured. If you’d rather not use chemicals, make sure to set out citronella candles and torches.
Another good reason to go the heavy hors d’oeuvre route for dinner is to minimize bringing a lot of your tabletop items outdoors. Although I love seeing a long outdoor table set with block prints and candlelight, for a casual gathering, you don’t need much. Set out cocktail and full-size napkins, use melamine plates to avoid shattered glass on your deck, and place a few jelly jars of flowers around your table, coffee table and bar.
I hope you found these tips helpful – wishing you fun summer parties and a good rest of the week!