Summer is here!  The garden is flourishing, the weather is warm, and it is time to dine outside.  Here is a quick menu and a few decorating tips for your next dinner party, al fresco.

To set the table, I put a large banquet table in the middle of the backyard and brought out the dining room chairs from inside.  A simple burlap tablecloth was the foundation, and then I used these vintage cotton and lace napkins as form and function – by folding them into a square, and dipping one corner down into the mason jar, you get get a water glass, silverware, and napkin all in one pretty place.

Lots of blue and red candles accented the blue and red plates we used (but I kept the tall candles at each end of the table so that we had no problem seeing each other during dinner).  More red lanterns and roses from the yard finished off a pretty, and very casual table.

When your guests arrive, serve a refreshing sangria or a raspberry beer cooler – recipes for both are found in my prior blog postings.  Put out some light snacks, but nothing too fancy (cheese and olives, or some grilled Kielbasa with different mustards for dipping) – you want to keep this vibe casual and easygoing.  What music are you playing?  Is it loud enough?  You need music!

If your guests are meat eaters, this is the time to embrace a steak.  I love a well rubbed tri-tip or InStyle Parties has a great recipe for Sliced Steak with Radicchio and Parmesan on Arugula (I have used this for many a Tuscan-inspired dinner, and it is always a success).    This weekend I added potatoes au gratin and haricot verts with shallots and sea salt and that was it.  The haricot verts went on the grill wrapped in foil, so I even had one less dish to wash!

Barefoot Contessa

Dessert was the Barefoot Contessa’s country cake with sliced strawberries and homemade whipped cream – delicious.  Thanks to Food Network for their photo.  Enjoy your summer dining, friends.  I will be adding menus and ideas for dinners from 20 – 100 throughout the rest of the year, so I hope you will continue to visit.