Thursday, August 8

Easy Entertaining: How to set a stylish outdoor summer table using creativity and ingenuity

7 Easy tips:
how to throw a stylish outdoor summer party and set a creative table while serving delicious food! 
Our weekly summer "Family Parties"
happen rain or shine!
And, yes there have been disasters, 
and even a tornado came through one year as we made a dash for the kitchen grabbing our plates as several trees came toppling down outside.

I love summer entertaining, and it can be spontaneous and casual, yet stylish.  You can use creativity more easily than with formal entertaining by preparing local fresh food and keeping costs down by utilizing nature and unusual accessories for a beautifully set table and decor.
One downside of outdoor entertaining, 
however, is the unpredictability of Mother Nature.

Patrice making last minute adjustments to our table
Since my two children were in nursery school, we have dubbed our Wednesday get togethers the "family parties" by our group of friends.  During most Wednesday evenings in summer we take turns hosting dinner parties to celebrate and share a meal together.  It's become a wonderful summer tradition to watch our children grow up together in the ease of the summer months.  We swim, laugh and share dinner after our daily activities.  Over a decade later, we have created lasting memories.  With two of the girls (my daughter included) leaving for college in a few weeks, this year is particularly special for all of us. I hosted my party outside but with the threat of a thunderstorm we had to prepare bringing the festivities indoors at any moment . I set up the tables only an hour before everyone arrived.  Phew!  Not a raindrop in sight, so it was clear sailing and a beautiful evening was spent under the pergola.  My friend Patrice and I hosted together and she arrived to my home with many decorative items (it helps she is a talented decorator--check out the profile on Patrice and the renovation of her historic townhouse in NYC on Nest by Tamara) and lots of food, so together we collaborated on this special evening.   

tip #1: prepare for bad weather, just in case
When hosting outdoor parties, first make adjustments inside your home in case of a weather change.  I moved tables around in my dining room to accommodate for a last minute move.   

tip #2: mix & match for an interesting table
Next, to prepare for a large crowd, I combined my dishes -- I brought out my antique Blue Willow collection with some blue and white Spode plates, LL Bean blueberry dessert plates, blue rimmed white platters, Mexican blue rimmed goblets and my Italian ceramic pieces from Ravello, Italy.  Additionally, I layer lots of textures and materials for a stylish table!

these beautiful blue and white pillows made with Quadrille fabric added to the layering of textures on my newly painted white garden chair

The colors were rich and I used flat, tumbled rocks my daughter had found when she was eight years old to hold the cobalt blue napkins in place on top of my antique Blue Willow collection (rather than my usual napkin rings), Patrice's gorgeous blue and white pillows, rattan chargers, pretty mercury glass votives, a variety of my antique plates, two earthy pitchers I bought in Italy.  For the second table I used my mother's antique garden fountain and filled it overflowing with white hydrangeas and used shells we collected at the beach (washed in the dishwasher) to hold the napkins.  The bar was set on a basket tray with local wine, a tasting of sweet wines and French Rose wine, plus lots of seltzers and non-sugary drinks for the kids.  

Initially our colors were blue and green, but as we added layers of pillows and accessories our table became a summer bountiful array of colors and textures, beginning with one large pretty Italian cloth created by Lisa Corti I picked up at Bermuda Party Rental.  Patrice and I collaborated on our table, which ended up taking on a country Italian aesthetic. 

tip #3: 
similar to an interior design project, 
start with one creative inspiration or idea
For our party, the inspiration began with these tablecloths-- 
the pink one is Indian and I bought it while on vacation in California.  With these summer inspired and colorful textiles we began to add details building on a look.  Using the garden fountain as a centerpiece it added height while bringing something unique to the table, then combined with my Italian pottery and the sparkling mercury glass votives, it all came together well.
I love this table linen from Italian company, Lisa Corti -- she has a wide array of gorgeous, brightly colored and whimsical linens, pillows and even pottery.  Check back soon for a full profile on the company soon here on Nest.  

tip #4:  use unexpected combinations on your table--
Ideas for table decorating can be simple items taken from nature or even your kitchen pantry, and once combined together creates something magical.  We used tumbled flat rocks, painted rocks, shells and a garden fountain to add whimsy and style to our table  

cocktail napkins secured by these pretty painted rocks, so they don't blow away with the wind -- Jeannie over at Round Swamp Farm sells her painted creations at the check out counter in East Hampton for babysitting money.  She has quite a collection and I love the Route 27 rock, which is our local road from NYC to the Hamptons. 
They make great hostess gifts too!

tip #5:  If not catered make it easy for yourself by setting up a self-serve bar
When I entertain outside at our cottage in the Hamptons, we set up a self-serve bar for guests to help themselves to refreshments.  This time I used our newly painted white iron table and laid out an ice bucket, wine, glassware, water and refreshments on a basket tray.   I always keep a large collection of small mason jars on hand for extra glass ware for large parties, and they are inexpensive, durable and stylish.

tip #6:  set a beautiful table but serve food on a buffet 
that way you combine the formality and style of fine dining but with the convenience of Do-It-Yourself entertaining!
Our table was country Italian but our food was quintessential Americana fare - ribs, homemade coleslaw, cut off the cob corn and a delicious watermelon & arugula salad! To bring in a little bit of Italy, I served fresh prosciutto and melon and caramelized onion pizzas as appetizers.  

feels like yesterday this group of teens and young adults were nursery school kids running through the yard!
  tip #7:  serve food that can be prepared before your guests arrive
For this party, I made the ribs, coleslaw and beans the morning before and simply heated them in the oven.  The salad was all chopped and prepped and we combined the ingredients just before serving.  Check out our menu and 
recipe links to make this meal at home:
  secret to my prosciutto plate:  squeeze the thinly sliced melon with a little lemon.  Wrap the prosciutto around then drizzle a touch of good honey and cracked pepper - it's amazing!
French Rose
prosciutto and melon with honey and black pepper
caramelized onion and tomato pizza
cheese and fruit plate
*cut off the cob and sauteed local, Long Island white corn
Fresh strawberries with cream fraiche
delicious lemon crisp and chocolate cookies

*beans:I have followed this baked beans recipe for years, however, if I'm pressed for time I buy three large cans of already soaked and cooked Boston beans, then add the same ingredients in the recipe and cook for less time on 400 degrees (about 40 minutes) and instead of the pork mentioned, I just place two slices of bacon cut into halves placed on top for flavor
*corn:  cut off the cob and in the prime ripeness of summer, sauteed corn with a little bit of butter is delicious served simply.  To make the arduous task of cutting the corn off the cob, use the tool I describe below.
*Ice Cream wine? What? Ok, I admit I was a skeptic and being a little bit of a wine "snob" the idea of ice cream and wine combined did not initially sound appealing, but just like a very chilled, slightly sweet Rose wine is perfect on a hot sunny afternoon, this French Vanilla flavor has the same appeal, and is  not overly-sweet. 
Thank You Ice Cream Cellars for the complimentary wine to taste!

Plus, a helpful cooking tool tip:  
handy tool from Williams Sonoma
takes only seconds to get sweet corn off the cob

as you'll see from my recipe, I first cook the ribs wrapped tightly in aluminum foil in the oven with a dry coffee rub, then add the bbq sauce and cook more.
Patrice's watermelon, arugula, feta, pinenut salad added the perfect freshness and lightness to balance this hearty meal.  
 when entertaining outside I use garden accessories and combine it with higher end antiques and silver to create an interesting mix on the table

With only a few weeks of summer, enjoy the parties! 
Happy Nesting 
XO Tamara