As the weather begins to improve and the idea of dining outdoors begins to emerge, we thought the timing was perfect to share some quick tips and tricks for easy outdoor dining.
There’s nothing Sheila and I like more than to move the dining experience outside. But for many people, the prospect of entertaining outdoors brings with it the impression that you need to do more work. Well first, when it comes to entertaining, a little effort goes a long way! Yes, there may be a bit more back-and-forth when you host outside away from the convenience of being near your kitchen – but there are ways to make entertaining outdoors easier and more enjoyable.
1) If you are setting a dining table outdoors, consider using a heavier decor piece to weigh down your napkins, to avoid them blowing out of place or away altogether if the wind picks up. These “napkin weights” can be themed to match your meal, or simply use a decor piece that fits the environment. (Example: seashells for a beach theme!)
2) We always like to set our table well in advance of our guests arriving. While indoors this never causes an issue, outdoors between dust, debris and falling leaves, your perfectly set (and clean) dishes and glasses can get dirty when left for too long. The solution is easy: simply turn your plates and glasses upside down as you are setting the table, then right before your guests arrive, flip everything right side up. If you are using napkins and weights like we did with Tip #1, this still leaves you plenty of time to add these elements once the dishes are flipped over.
3) When hosting outdoors, it’s always nice to have a small basket of amenities available for your guests. We like to stock a basket with sunscreen, bug spray, hand fans and, if you happen to be by a pool or setting your table on grass, some inexpensive flip-flops in varying sizes.
4) While in mid-summer the temperature dropping may be less of a concern, we all know how chilly those fringe spring and fall nights can get as the sun sets. Having a few pashminas (or even just simple thin blankets) around is a good idea, as they will come in handy for guests who perhaps didn’t think of the later evening temperature when they left their house to come to yours. These pashminas can be added to the basket from tip #3 or, if they match your decor, can be laid over the backs of the dining chairs, for a pop of colour in a truly functional way!
5) As the sun sets there is nothing quite like candlelight to enhance the mood of any dining setting, indoors or out. Outdoors, however, we have to face the elements, and classic wax candles offer some challenges. For daytime entertaining, wax candles tend to melt when they get too warm, so either bring them out later when the sun sets, or consider using electric faux candles, which won’t melt but also won’t need to be constantly relit if it’s a breezy night.
6) One of the biggest challenges of outdoor entertaining is running back and forth between the kitchen and your outdoor setting. A bar cart is a great way to help make this easier. A traditional bar cart is an amazingly useful piece of furniture when used indoors, but if you have one at your disposal, bringing it outdoors gives you an effective “service station,” where you can keep everything from mixers and ice to extra plates, glassware, napkins and cutlery. The lower tray can also serve as a clearing area or to stage your next course (like dessert).
7) When it comes to designing your al fresco menu, our key tip is to aim for less temperature-sensitive dishes! You want courses that can be served cool or room temperature, while avoiding extremes. Hot dishes that lose their lustre when they cool, or cold desserts like ice cream that melt quickly, should be avoided unless they specifically work for your setting.
We often like to use poached fish, and salmon in particular, as a staple for outdoor entertaining since it can be served warm or cold but generally can be enjoyed in either state or even anywhere in between.
So there you have it, a few of our top tips and best tricks to make outdoor “al fresco” entertaining easier than ever. And as always, drop us a note if you have any entertaining questions or just want to share your favourite outdoor entertaining ideas!
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