5 Tips For Better Outdoor Entertaining
The temperatures are finally rising and the days getting longer after a uniquely brutal winter. After being stuck inside for months, the backyard and patio become irresistible. When it's finally time to invite over friends and fire up the grill, follow these tips to make your outdoor entertaining memorable.
Pick the Right Time
After winter's wind and cold, everyone is eager to get outside. However you need to do a little planning to make sure your guests don't shiver after sunset, or melt in the noon sun. Light lunches on the patio are wonderful ideas in May and June, but the night air may still be too brisk for relaxing outside at dinner. Save your summer supper ideas until July and August, when the sweltering days that zap energy from your guests often end in refreshing evenings practically made for outdoor entertaining.
No matter what your plans, keep an eye on the weather forecast. Summer's reputation for fast-changing skies is well earned, so make sure you have plenty of umbrellas available just in case.
The Importance of Prep Work
Like any gathering, the success of an outdoor party often depends on what the host does before the guests arrive. The yard, deck or balcony will be on display, so put away any toys or gardening tools. Mow and rake the grass. While cleaning, don't forget rooms where your guests will likely visit, such as the kitchen and bath. If you are going to grill, make sure it's clean and stocked with gas or charcoal. Don't forget to have cooking utensils and a meat thermometer at the ready.
To lessen your stress during the party, prepare things like appetizers and side dishes ahead of time. If kabobs are on the menu, have the skewers filled and ready to go in a container in the fridge. Set up the table, and don't forget to use fresh cuttings from your garden or purchased blooms as a centerpiece. For a fresh look and smell, you can slip a few springs of aromatic herbs like lemon or lime basil, rosemary, or mint into the display. If you don't have your own herb garden, look in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.
If you plan to entertain past dusk, make sure lighting is at hand. Paper lanterns illuminated by a string of lights have a whimsical effect, while candles are a romantic, sophisticated touch. If you're worried about open flames, try battery-operated LED candles. You can scatter them safely around the patio or yard to define the space.
Keep it Simple
Avoid anything too elaborate. The fresh-cooked food, sunshine, and fresh air should be the stars of the event. You can say "no" to fussy china and flatware by trying the laid-back trend of an eclectic mix of dish patterns. Consider skipping the tablecloth if there's a breeze because wind can create a floppy mess. To lower your stress level, keep the food simple and straightforward. One fun idea to try for appetizers, brunch, or lunch is Japanese-style small plates, called izakaya. Long a staple of Japanese pubs, izakaya-style dining focuses on mouthwatering and inexpensive bites combined with lively conversation. You can give the idea an American twist with foods like deviled eggs, mini burgers, fruit salad, salmon rolls, and bruschetta made with baguette slices toasted on the grill.
Match the Fare to the Weather
When the weather gets hot and steamy, people hunger for light and savory refreshments like sparkling drinks, crudités, and other appetizer-style offerings. The right tastes can also enhance the fun feeling of your party. Flavors like mango, papaya, pineapple, and coconut instantly send the mind on vacation. Gather them on a platter with lime wedges and a zesty dipping salt made of three parts kosher salt and one part cayenne.
These flavors will get your guests' taste buds ready for juicy beef and chicken fresh from the grill. If you're serving alcohol remember these drinks cause dehydration, so be sure to put out a pitcher of water. Consider closing your home bar early if the temperature really soars.
Don't Bug Out
No matter what time of day or what location you choose for your outdoor entertaining, there is one fact of summer that will always be a potential nuisance: bugs. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to counter the swarm. Start by keeping pests away from individual dishes using wire domes, sometimes called flywalks, which are available at kitchenware stores. Lightweight mesh versions that fold for storage are also available. In a pinch, cover food with an upended wire-mesh colander.
Serve drinks in glasses or clear bottles rather than cans, which have small openings that may hide bugs. You can also keep your party pest-free by avoiding red or yellow drinks, as these colors can attract insects. Try lighting a few citronella candles; they feature oil believed to ward off mosquitoes. Your guests may need extra bug repellent, so have plenty on hand.
Summer is a wonderful time to get together with friends and family. With a little extra effort, you can ensure a wonderful, stress-free time for everyone.
Kelli Quinn shares her passion for creativity with LTD Commodities in her role as a Communications Editor. She is delighted to help you find new ways to express yourself, embrace the world outside your door, and make wherever you are an exciting place to be.