To help you host a dinner party outdoors this season, Inspirations & Celebrations’ Entertaining Contributor, Fran Berger (Founder of The Farm of Beverly Hills and an entertaining expert), shares her expertise on al fresco dining in today’s entertaining guide.
Days are getting longer and the nights are warming up – a perfect combination to dine al fresco with friends or a significant other. It’s more than simply eating outside or just two Italian words that mean “in the cool air” – it’s a whole experience when done properly. It’s creating the perfect table setting, candle-lit ambiance, just the right amount of casual and, of course, the perfect menu.
Al Fresco Dining Guide
Many people think of white paper plates and red solo cups when they think of al fresco dining, but for me it’s always more than that. Whether it’s dinner in the backyard, by the pool, or in the park with a big group of friends or perhaps an outdoor concert, it’s important to make every dining occasion special but also worry-free. There are so many fantastic unbreakable options now.
Williams-Sonoma has an entire selection of beautiful rustic melamine (plastic!) in several colors that all coordinate well with bowls, plates and service pieces in their Iznik Tile patterns (also melamine). Add their “glassware” made from different polymer materials – some from DuraClear – unbreakable glasses in all shapes including stemmed wine glasses and margarita glasses – and you have the basics for a colorful, fun and worry-free table setting. Use woven placemats in a coordinating color with a white linen napkin and colorful napkin ring to complete the look. All you need now is simple flatware (really only a fork and knife) and you’re set.
Candle light is important to set the mood. Hurricane lamps with candles (include some citronella candles – to keep away the flying insects) to set around. Make sure that the top of the candle is lower than the top of the hurricane lamp otherwise even a small breeze will blow out the flame.
Create simple centerpieces for height and color. Keep it casual. You can use flowers but then you need to worry about vases with water that can tip over. Some of my favorite centerpieces are just twigs with small flowers (cherry blossom branches, birch branches, manzanita branches, etc.). Sometimes it’s even simpler than that – just a large bunch of green – even Magnolia leaves in a big enough bunch are casual and beautiful. You don’t need water – just a fun container.
Plan the menu appropriately for wherever you will be dining and how far you will be traveling to get there. If you’re in the backyard it can include hot food straight from the kitchen or BBQ, but if you’re traveling (even around the corner to the park with friends), plan a menu that only includes food that can be served room temperature – salads, grilled in season vegetables. Foods like asparagus, artichokes, and broccolini are great choices. Look at the farmer’s market for ideas – simple foods like these can even be added to a cold pasta salad to add color and flavor, as well as cold sliced roast, cold fried chicken, etc..
When it comes to beverages, don’t forget an easy batch cocktail (such as margaritas or negronis), or keep it simple and bring wine. Last but not least, don’t forget the wine-opener!
For more al fresco dining tips and party planning ideas, visit the Entertaining section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
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Entertaining Contributor: Fran Berger
Fran Berger is an entrepreneur, sophisticated home entertaining and lifestyle expert, and media personality. With her twenty-plus years of experience as a popular restaurateur entertaining celebrities, family and friends in Beverly Hills as the original founder of The Farm of Beverly Hills, and with her own personal life stories as a guide, she is passionate about sharing her unique food memories stored in her heart with others around the world; examples that epitomize the magnificently intimate as well as communal experience that enjoying food around the table can be. As an entertaining contributor to Inspirations & Celebrations, Fran shares her expertise about entertaining, party planning, and food & wine.
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