This fabulous summer party is southern sophistication at its best, with stylish lighting, delicious cocktails and incredible food.
I love to entertain. I guess it might have something to do with being surrounded by Southern hospitality all my life. My grandmother was an incredible hostess. She taught me the small details that really make a party special, and as the weather cools off, I like to take the party outside. Early Fall is the time to bring a carefree relaxed attitude to entertaining. Light the grill and plug in the lights: it’s party time!
Backyard Dinner Party 101
Things to consider when planning:
How many guests can your backyard accommodate comfortably? You want your guests to be comfortable, so make sure everyone has a place to sit and enjoy casual conversation.
Menu Options: Stick with your theme and pick three to four dishes. Be smart: serve things that can be prepared for the day before, along with a few store bought items. And pick a signature cocktail – one that goes with your theme.
Enjoy yourself: If you are having fun, so will your guests!
A theme is an easy way to develop your menu and cocktails. Our rustic Italian dinner party is casual, elegant and easy to pull together, starting with a variety of cheeses, crackers and fruit. Sangria is one of my favorite summertime cocktails and is easy to make. I set this table up on the deck, where everyone enters the backyard. Guests can fill their glasses and get something to munch on right when they arrive.
Shop your house for items to pull outside to create a cozy environment. The table is laid with burlap and indoor plates, silverware and linens. Vine filled candle holders are tucked around to add a rustic look to the antique table. A flower arrangement adds color, texture and height to the setting. Put food tables in different areas to encourage guests to mingle, and set up the beverage station away from the food – it helps with traffic flow. Cold Italian beer is perfect on a warm night, along with Pellegrino mineral water for a non-alcoholic option.
Keep the food simple and easy to eat. Fig tarts, flank steak crostinis with gorgonzola and penne with goat cheese and panceta are on the main table, and a caesar salad is served once everyone sits down to keep it fresh and crisp.
Bruschetta is a favorite- so easy and very refreshing. You can toast the bread earlier in the day to save time. Right before guests arrive you can put it together and on the table quickly.
Make it special-lighting is a great accessory. I love using old things in my decor. Antique ladders are one of my favorite props. I have them scattered through out my home and yard and enjoy displaying candles and other decor on them. Layers are the key!
I love to seat my guests at the picnic table or a long table in the middle of the yard. Elbow to elbow is a great way to enjoy a meal. Good food and great friends always make a party a success!
Flank Steak Crostinis
Ingredients Flank Steak, marinated and grilled to medium rare, Gorgonzola, Crostinis (Italian bread sliced, brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven) Slice the flank steak thinly and place on the crostinis. Top with crumbled cheese and cook under broiler for 3 -5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Ingredients: Mini Phyllo Shells, Fig Preserves, Goat Cheese, Fresh Rosemary. Fill the shells halfway with the preserves and then top with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Place tarts on a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh rosemary.
Photography by Matt Huesmann
Featured in Southern Exposure Magazine