Thursday, August 2

easy, stylish & delicious summer outdoor dinner party

nest by tamara, nesting, interior design, tabletop, house and garden
August let's celebrate with vigor.  
Are you planning a summer party? 
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nest by tamara, nesting, interior design, tabletop, house and garden
bring your inside style outside, either nestled under a shady tree or set next to a sparkling pool or perhaps beneath a breezy pergola.   
With a few unexpected details and fun stylizing it can be easy to transform your outdoor patio or yard into a cozy nook. 
Let me know show you how I created an intimate dinner spot, 
like a room outside.  You can do this too, no matter how small or large the space by bringing fabrics, accessories and a potted garden to your outdoor dinner table.
 I set a table 
under my pergola for our annual 
Family Dinner Party with friends
This year my garden was nearly destroyed by the deer roaming my property and my beautiful, bountiful bright hydrangeas, roses and flowers were eaten to stumps.  After enjoying a decade of flowering summers, it appears one particular family of deer made a judgment that my garden was their buffet of choice.  We managed to salvage some but not before my blooming blue hydrangeas went into hibernation for the season.
 a look at past year's abundance of hydrangeas - 
but, alas this is not to be summer of 2012!
Without the blue surrounding my grass, I decided to plant a patio garden.  After having attended a few select garden and house tours this year I was influenced by the mobility and beauty of potted gardens. 

nest by tamara, nesting, interior design, new york city, tabletop, house and garden
I brought out an eclectic collection of pottery, glass and iron urns then filled my teak table and brick patio with potted geranium, gardenia, a potted orange tree, rosemary, tomato, basil, parsley, lavender, pansy, fuchsia.  I created an abundant flowering and herb potted garden and filled in the patio with sculpture, shells, trays, pitchers of water and drink for afternoon parties by the pool.  
Once my potted garden provided the space color and greenery, it was time to set the table for our dinner.  I hosted the party with my good friend Patrice, and together we prepared an eclectic dinner for the evening. For over ten years this particular group has been getting together on select summer evenings, and we call it our Family Party Night.  It has been a wonderful tradition for all of us, and we come together with our children regularly to swim, laugh and share a dinner outside. Now over a decade later, some of the children who were mere nursery school aged when we began this tradition are almost off to college.  It remains one of our summer's highlights to share a dinner with the same group of friends.  Over the years, we have had to withstand a variety of different weather elements.  Remember when you plan an outdoor party, there are inevitably conditions that may be out of your control.  One year we had a raging hurricane, and as my guests arrived two very large oak trees were struck by lightning in my front yard and came crashing to the ground.  As the storm raged, we lost power and rushed outside to bring our food and dishes safely inside.  The power was knocked out, we lit lanterns and candles but proceeded with the dinner in happy spirits. 
 This year, however, my party came off without a weather hitch.  
Take a look at how easy it is to create an warm ambiance with delicious food for a large group...
Patrice and I hosted this summer dinner with friends under the pergola.  She brought a beautiful collection of Roberta Freymann linens, and they worked well with my ceramic orange napkin rings and potted orange tree.

the dark wood rattan chargers and bamboo chairs paired nicely with the orange, pink linens and white plates.

It wouldn't be a summer party without the passing of delicious food. Let me show you the meal we made.  We prepared a combination of picnic style food: lobster rolls, hot dogs, fried chicken, baked beans, watermelon salad (see Patrice's recipe for this yummy yet easy salad below), coleslaw.  My strawberry shortcake topped off the evening.
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we serve dinner buffet style then sit outside under the set tables 

mini lobster salad rolls 
in buttery toasted buns 
lobster rolls was an indulgent addition to the dinner.  
I buttered the inside of the rolls and pan seared them slightly, then filled them with a small amount of lobster salad.
Note: lobster salad is pricey but very simple to make. Most fish markets sell lobster by the pound.  I cut it up slightly (since they sell it very chunky) and add a little bit of mayonnaise, salt and pepper and nothing else. 
we stopped into Lucy's Whey cheese store in East Hampton to pick up a collection of crudites, cheese and dips for before dinner nibbles.  I chose a delicious grassy cheese from New Hampshire called Landaff, select artisinal salami, fresh figs, hazelnut crackers and an artichoke lemon pesto.  Lucy's Whey has locations in East Hampton and in NYC in the Chelsea neighborhood.  Many of the guests came straight from camp, work or a day at the beach so everyone arrived hungry.  I always pass a tray of tastings which gives something for everyone's tastes, but does not fill them up before dinner.  

these pretty Roberta Freymann votives added a little sparkle as the sun set.  You may have seen these mason jars on the blog before, and they made their debut at my culinary dinner party this spring at the Poggenpohl showroom French dinner.  
These are an inexpensive, stylish way to keep extra drinking glasses on hand for summer parties.  At a mere $10 for a dozen (with lids in case you want to use them for their mason jar purpose) at the local Agway store they make for a stylish and durable investment, reminding of casual French cafe dining. 
In summer I like to have lots of trays on hand to provide a mobile refreshment stand.  Here I brought our ice bucket, water, wine and sliced lemons  outside to enjoy.
an indoor pillow brought out just for the evening to add texture
 we placed a few tables around the yard and under the pergola.
Patrice's summer watermelon salad recipe
is light and delicious and the perfect accompaniment 
to many summer menus
Toss together fresh cut watermelon in small chunks, toasted pine nuts, washed arugula lettuce and on the side chopped feta cheese.
Toss with a combination salt, pepper, aged balsamic vinegar and good olive oil. 
Tamara's easy 1-2-3 
delicious Strawberry Shortcake recipe

  1. one box of either Betty Crocker or Dunkin Hines all butter cake mix.  follow the easy instructions and bake in two round 9" pans.  Cool on a rack.  
  2. Pick up two large cartons fresh strawberries (best from local farm stand and they are best in late June and July) slice 3/4 of the berries a few hours before and add a little sugar so they macerate a bit and get juicy.  The other 1/4 bunch of berries simply slice the stems off and keep whole, but dip in a touch of fine fine sugar.  set in fridge.
  3. whip fresh heavy cream (about a quart) together with a touch of vanilla and confectionery sugar to taste until stiff (about two hours before and refrigerate). On the bottom cake layer (put on a cake stand) layer a think coat of the macerated strawberries and cover completely with a layer of whipped cream them put the second cake on top.  One layer of whipped cream on top and then cover the entire top of cream with the whole strawberries dipped in sugar.  refrigerate until serving and you can compile this an hour before.  Simple and delicious!

Our Family Party Night was fun, easy and delicious and this year the potted garden under the pergola created a cozy nook to settle in and enjoy.  I hope you can take some of these ideas and incorporate them into your next summer outdoor gala!

tamara matthews stephenson, nesting, nest by tamara, tabletop
Happy Nesting
XO Tamara