Summertime is here and if you are like me, I love being outside, I especially enjoy outdoor entertaining. I love setting fun tablescapes with candles, perhaps in recycled wine bottles, fresh seasonal flowers and incorporating the outdoors into my overall table design. Summertime entertaining can be anything from inviting the girls over for cocktails on the deck, a casual barbecue, to an intimate dinner party for twelve of my closest friends or a picnic lunch at one of the local vineyards. My happy place is outside and I like to take full advantage of the amazing locally grown fruits and vegetables this time of year. I embrace the whole farm-to-table concept and love to enjoy it anytime I can.
As much as I love my veggies this time of year, I really have a true passion for incorporating the lush flavors of the seasonal fruits into as many of my dishes and cocktails as possible. I never limit my use of fruits in desserts or cocktails. I love using them in salads or to accompany savory meat/fish dishes as well. Nothing better than a grilled salmon topped with a sweet mango chutney or a spinach salad tossed with fresh seasonal berries, goat cheese and a sweet vinaigrette. I find sometimes people are afraid to step outside their comfort zone and try these delightful combinations, but once they do, they never want to go back to their traditional way of using these ingredients.
Perhaps some of you are thinking right now, that entertaining is just not your cup of tea and that’s ok, I have some friends that get physically sick at the thought of entertaining. It is not for everyone, but I am here to help with a few tips that I hope will inspire you to open up your home and do a little summer entertaining.
- Keep it simple and start small. Cocktails on the deck with a few snacks, light menu. I don’t suggest trying a new recipe that you have never prepared before, it is too much pressure.
- You don’t have to make everything yourself. There are so many amazing products on the market these days that you can use. Everything from dips to desserts, of course remember to present them on your own serving pieces and not in the container you purchased them in! Jazz them up with a little garnish, if you buy a store-bought cake, put it on a nice platter and garnish with a few fresh berries.
- When entertaining, I think it is important to carefully plan your guest list, to make sure the group of people you are inviting, have some common interests. This will help to take the pressure off of you, to carry the conversation and entertain everyone.
- I truly believe when you first start entertaining, sometimes it is easier to have a set theme, it will help keep you on track when planning your menu and beverages. The theme should be reflected in as much as possible, starting with the invitation. A theme can be anything from a winetasting to Tex-Mex with Margaritas, to Italian.
- It’s okay to do a potluck if you are not totally comfortable preparing everything. Perhaps a barbecue, where you provide the drinks, burgers, hotdogs…ask your guests to bring side dishes and desserts.
- The last tip I want to leave you with, is to relax and enjoy the experience of welcoming your friends and family. Remember you have been gracious enough to invite them into your home, provided great food and drinks, now the rest is up to them to enjoy and have fun.
I hope I have inspired you to at least entertain the idea of opening up your home this Summer and invite some friends over. Maybe this will push you to step outside your comfort zone and try entertaining for the first time. Remember, no one’s going to be upset at an invitation for cocktails or to dinner and not having to cook themselves. But more importantly, I encourage you get out, enjoy the outdoors and all of the flavors of the season! Cheers!
Tammy L. Shapiro