The Joy of Outdoor Entertaining plus…Three Great Summer Menus

joy of nesting

Celebrating summer properly takes a little effort as well as a little ease: you get out of it what you put into it but you want to be equally relaxed too. I celebrate summer every single weekend with a blend of events like something as simple as a Saturday morning trip with David to the local farmer’s market, a hike around Pinecrest Lake, or a breakfast outdoors of fresh fruit, homemade granola and Greek yogurt on our shady planted patio. Credits posted last.

There’s something about dining outside that takes meal time to a whole new level, especially when it involves having good friends to dinner. What could be more hospitable or evoke more positive feelings than gathering together a small group of your friends and family for a meal and great California wines?


When I entertain, especially in the summer, I focus on fresh ingredients that are easy to prepare. I love to use lots of color my meals, olive oils, a variety of artisan vinegars and citrus juices, and grains like cous cous and polenta. If meat is featured in my meals, which it often has to be for company, I find grass fed, free range, humanely treated ones. Whole Foods rates all their meats and poultry for humane treatment. I often find inspiration for food combinations in their deli cases too.

Eating outside takes a bit of organization mainly because of walking distance from the kitchen, and insects and flies. I like to set the table first, sometimes even the day before, to get the vibe going. No one likes an overset table so I try to design one that looks lovely but doesn’t encumber my guests. I set the buffet up on the dining room table or kitchen island and have the plates next to the food, ready for service.

Planning the menu is the fun part. I like to go through my old recipe files, search online, and flip through my cookbook collection for inspiration though I hardly ever follow the recipes. Most of my meals for parties are about fresh ingredients with grilled turkey, chicken, fish, or beef and vegetables. I don’t like to do overly fussy things because they make me nervous and then I can’t relax when the guests arrive.


Table linens for outdoor dining can be as simple or ornate as you please. A wonderful, patterned table cloth in such quality fabrics as Madeline Weinrib  or John Robshaw designs, or in a solid, saturated color such as fuschia, magenta, or turquoise can really set your table apart. I’ve actually purchased beautiful sheet sets for my outdoor tablecloths and had my seamstress custom make them for me. Use mismatched napkins to keep the table from looking too fussy and use low vases of flowers, olive branches, or herbs as your centerpiece interspersed with plain white candles in stylish hurricanes.

The table above is beautiful. Just take a few precautions with high centerpieces. You can pull it off at events where people don’t know one another or by placing guests’ chairs off to the side of the vase so they don’t have to crane their necks to see each other. But for smaller initmate gatherings keep the centerpieces low.


I like my outdoor guests to be as comfortable as possible and that means providing a few throws in case it gets chilly and baby mosquito repellent. The baby version smells so much better and is gentler on the skin.

I also have to have background music. I play anything ranging from hits of the 60’s and 70’s to Lucinda Williams to Vivaldi. I love a wide range of musicians and styles and guests appreciate the extra thought that goes into my music choices.


My favorite summer menus always have a healthy slant to them often incorporating a Mediterranean fare. When I entertain I stick to things that are simple, things I’ve prepared before.

Menu 1

Rosemary marinated chicken breast sandwhiches on homemade focaccia created by my friend caterer Jennifer Stoicheff of Wren Creative Foods; grilled mixed summer vegetables brushed with basil infused olive oil; spinach salad with feta cheese, kalamata olives, cucumber and thyme, basil, and oregano, lemon juice, and olive oil. Homemade chocolate ice cream.

Menu 2

Grilled salmon with peach salsa; corn on the cob with basil butter; and arugula salad with figs, chevre, and balsamic vinaigrettte. Homemade peach pie with vanilla ice cream.

Menu 3

Vine ripened tomato tart with gruyere and basil , grilled Japanese eggplant, misto salad with large shrimp, chevre, and nectarines and white wine vinaigrette, blackberries with creme fraiche.

Photos courtesy Veranda, House Beautiful, Country Living, Elle Decor, and Southern Living. Designers Kathryn Ireland, John Bossard, Lamberston Truex, Allesandra Branca, Harriet Maxwell MacDonald, and Art Luna.

Happy Summer!

June 26, 2012

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The Joy of Outdoor Entertaining plus…Three Great Summer Menus

The Joy of Outdoor Entertaining plus…Three Great Summer Menus

The Joy of Outdoor Entertaining plus…Three Great Summer Menus