Throw a Charming Garden Party

Create a charming garden party like the ones you see in the magazines. Utah food icon, Marguerite Henderson, takes you on a tour of her enchanting backyard patio and shares her secrets for easy, elegant outdoor entertaining.

1. Just because you are entertaining outdoors, it doesn’t mean you need to get lazy in presentation. Casual is key. Your setting sets the mood for table décor. Let’s keep the paper plates – you know the cheap, flimsy white variety – for picnics in the mountains. Use china. Use silverware. Use glassware. And by all means, set an inviting table.

2. Flowers, whether from the garden or from the local markets, always set the mood. Huge colorful sunflowers are inexpensive. Use different sized pottery pitchers to hold flowers. Sturdy fresh from the garden herbs included in your arrangement make for a most fragrant floral spray. Try mint leaves, tarragon, rosemary or sage.

3. As for food – it’s hot outside. And food should reflect the temperatures. No heavy dishes like casseroles. Keep it light. And use the prepared food products so readily available now in markets. A large antipasto platter is the perfect first course (or make it your light dinner!), using pre-sliced meats and cheeses, jars of marinated vegetables, olives and containers of hummus and tapenades. Baskets, lined with linen napkins, filled to the brim with assorted breads and crackers make for a lovely display.

4. Cook ahead. Make your salads in advance then dress them just before serving. NO COOKING INDOORS AT THE LAST MINUTE! It’s so annoying to guests if the host/hostess is fussing in the kitchen while they are outside enjoying the evening without you!

5. Cook seasonal. Shop the local farmer’s market to discover the freshest produce, cheeses, meats, fish, breads, salsas, pasta, etc. Canned fruits and vegetables are not allowed in mid-summer when so many alternatives are right there for the picking, literally.

6. Serve your food on platters of various shapes and sizes. Use square plates, oval platters, rectangular trays and remember height. Tall cakes stands are perfect cheese platters, clear vases make the ideal breadstick holders, etc. Use larger trays rather than smaller ones. Food always looks better “big”, not crowded.

7. Get into the habit of using your “good” serving pieces daily. Save the plastic ware for food storage, please. And use tablecloths. And linen napkins. Please!

8. Always keep an eye out for that one perfect “sale” item…one imported napkin to line a bread basket, the one little bowl for olives or nuts, 2 odd goblets to hold salsa or sauces and the mismatched platter for a wedge of cheese and a cluster of champagne grapes.

9. I always buy my linens at the end of the season, so in September, look for sales of summer tableware. Sometimes stores mark them down by 75%!

10. My rule of thumb for entertaining…mix, match and have fun. Use color, texture, style and most of all, sit back and savor the moment. A relaxed host makes for happy guests.

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