Summer and entertaining outdoors are almost synonymous, and now that the doors to our lives post covid are slowly opening, we are chomping at the bit to cook for our friends.
As the gathering house and garden for many a summer party, I have summer entertaining down to a veritable science. Here are some of my best tips for organizing your next outdoor dinner party.
Via Suzie Anderson
Shiree’s Summer and Outdoors Entertaining Blueprint
Monday- menu, table settings, and flower planning.
Tuesday- table linens washed and ironed. Place in a convenient place till the day before the party.
Wednesday- shopping for groceries, flowers and wine.
Thursday- have the house cleaned and do the “do-ahead” food prep. Pull out the necessary serving pieces and put them in a convenient place till the day before the party.
On Friday- do any baking or dessert that needs to be done, flower arrangements, choose music, more food prep, chill the wine, and do the table settings.
That leaves Saturday morning for the remaining food, a little time to get dressed, clean the kitchen one last time, and make the final preparations for your guests’ arrival.
Because I don’t have a lot of counter space in my kitchen, I usually set up a buffet on the dining room table and let guests serve themselves. There is a swinging door separating our dining room from the kitchen. This means I can close off the kitchen when it’s time for guests to come inside and serve themselves.
Getting in the Mood
I like to get into a festive mood a couple of hours before guests arrive by turning on the music and pouring a glass of iced tea. Right before they arrive, I assign the husband the jobs of door greeter and of lighting candles, opening and placing the wine on ice, and pouring us a glass. Since most guests enter our home by the front door, and access the patio through the living room, we open all the windows so we can catch the evening breezes and hear the fountains from outside.
No Excuses About the Food
Once the noshing begins, take this bit of advice: make no excuses for the food. Friends and family are happy to be in your home enjoying your hospitality, and they really don’t care if the asparagus is a little undercooked. And don’t remind them. Put your perfectionisms away and enjoy yourself without explanations. People won’t remember the chilled salad fork, they’ll remember your relaxed, contented demeanor.
Shiree’s Style File
- For parties of more than eight guests, encourage them to move around the home by doing a table for wine, glasses and chilled water in one room and a table of hors d’oeuvres in another. Shrimp is a great way to get people to circulate too.
- Keep last minute plans to a minimum to avoid stressful situations when guests start to arrive. Do menus that can be mostly done in advance.
- Remember to provide things such as a few throws for guests if the night turns cool.
- Use lanterns for candles so the wind won’t blow them out.
- I like to use white, unscented candles for entertaining. But still, I have been known to cheat and mix in battery operated ones too. They’re especially nice for hard-to-reach places or if children are present. And they don’t get messy as the night progresses.
- Grab a guest to assist you and personally serve the dessert course and coffee as an intimate touch. Let guests pass the tray with sugar and creamer.
- Never use paper plates, paper napkins, plastic cups, and plastic utensils for entertaining. I like plain white, ten-inch buffet plates (one of my caterer friends says they’re too big but I love them), vintage silverware, and simple, clear glass, high quality wine glasses so guests can appreciate the color of the wine.
- Cloth napkins that tend to go with the decor are my first choice. And white dinner plates work so well with them.
Via Cynthia Record
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Bye for now, Shiree
For tips on “Zhushing Your Nest” click here and get my 3-to-5 Things Framework, a great tool for freshening things up around the homestead.