Relaxed Outdoor Entertaining: Throwing a Crisp, Clean Summertime Dinner Party

Studio 5 Contributor Susan Neal shares tips for throwing a crisp, clean summertime dinner party.

Tips for a successful dinner party

• Preparation: Start by writing it all down and planning your time-line. What are you making to eat? What can you make ahead? What can you chop, measure or grate ahead of time.

• Keep it simple: A dinner party is not the time to experiment with new dishes. Create something you are familiar with, it will be much less stressful. Find dishes that are simple to prepare and that can be made in advance.

• Keep it casual: A dinner party does not have to be a formal affair. The best dinner parties are when you’re all gathered in the kitchen watching or helping the hostess or host cook. This will help your guests and yourself relax. Don’t look at the clock once the guests arrive. It’s all party from here on out!

• Take it outside: Take advantage of those last lingering warm summer evenings by eating outside. Regardless of what kind of backyard you have; a tablecloth, some candles and your delicious meal will make it special. Let the sun be your timepiece and enjoy the scents and sounds of your relaxing evening.

• Quality vs. Quantity: This is NOT your run of the mill week-day meal. It’s special. It’s a gift to you and your guests. Spend a little extra on quality ingredients. Use fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, either from your garden or the farmer’s market.

• Keep it light: Plate lightly. You don’t want to ‘stuff’ your guests, just satisfy them. With 4 courses, you just need a little to keep them happy and socialable, not sleepy!

• Keep it clean: Making sure to clean the kitchen as you are preparing your meal (this is a great time to enlist your partner) is a great way to stay relaxed. Be sure your fridge is clean and open so you have room for drinks, food and leftovers. Run and unload the dishwasher before you start the dinner. Clean up will be a breeze.

• Special touches: A printed menu is elegant and exciting to read if you write it properly. Describe your food, make their mouths water! Use your garden and some paper to create personal touches on the table. Lots of white space, organic touches and one color scheme will keep it all looking fresh, crisp and clean.

Take a walk in your garden (or your neighbors…with permission) and look for things to decorate your table. I have a grape vine that needs to be thinned regularly. Instead of throwing away the unripe grapes, I place them in a vase with water. Water is soothing, so make sure that plays a part of your table scape…and it’s free!

I found these miniature rose leaves that were tiny and pretty and held up really well after several hours.

Simple candles can add a dreamy feel to your table…don’t forget to light them, even if it’s still light.

White is a crisp and clean color and most of us have a set of white dishes. Add just one dish or bowl of a different color for an inexpensive way of brightening up the table without having to buy a complete set of dishes.

Pick one color for your table for a soothing effect. Add just a tiny splash of a complementary color for interest (I used a sunflower).

I kept the paper-crafting SUPER simple here and it works beautifully with the clean look of the table. It also is so quick & easy that you’ll want to and CAN add this special touch. I’ve simply printed my menu and invitation on white cardstock, leaving space for the rose leaves, which I’ve stapled on. I tore the top and bottom of each piece and matted it on a coordinating color.

If you have a little extra time, you can create a favor for your guests. Find something in what you’ve already prepared for dinner or the table to be your guide. Example: A mini rosebush plant with a “thank you for coming” tag, a small bottle of the Dried-Tomato Vinaigrette to take home or a small basket of produce from your garden.


For more great ideas and inspiration check out my blog:

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