Open Air Affair
Ready to entertain … alfresco? Contributing stylist and Creative Culinary Group owner Kara Mickelson offers suggestions for the perfect outdoor party.
1: Prepare the Space
2: Set the Mood
- Provide live entertainment or make and put on your favorite playlist. Keep volume at conversation-friendly levels.
- Add decorative and functional lighting for evening events.
- Create comfortable seating around the party space.
- Set up “help-yourself” stations for self-serve items like beverages, extra utensils, glassware, napkins, paper towels, etc. Add a basket with items like bug spray, sunscreen, a few first aid items, sunglasses, hats, flip-flops, blankets/wraps and towels.
- Add candles. Keep in mind that battery-operated ones are safer and won’t blow out. Also, citronella candles minimize bugs but come with a strong fragrance.
- Skip a full-length table linen if your area is prone to wind and opt for heavy, mat-style runners or placemats.
- Put together or purchase a few signature mixed drinks for guests to sample with ease, as it will cut down on the need for a full bar.
- Invest in some outdoor games, such as croquet, badminton, cornhole, lawn bowling or pool toys.
3: Plan the Meal
- Minimize your shopping stress and have farm-fresh groceries delivered.
- Par-cook items and finish in the oven or over indirect heat to avoid smoke from the grill and save cooking time during the event.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and practice basic food safety. Refrigerate perishable food within two hours (one hour when the temperature is above 90°).
- Foods that can be served cold, “room temperature” or hot off the grill are best. Use hardy greens for salads, like cabbage and kale, that won’t wilt. Slaws and chilled cooked vegetables are good options. Add delicate garnishes or micro-greens just before serving.
- Rent full place settings and glassware or consider elegant disposables for easier cleanup.
- For family-style service such as food platters on the table to pass, make sure ahead of time that everything fits with all the place settings and any centerpieces.
Have your serving utensils ready to go with each dish. If needed, add an extra table for larger platters.
- Keep items covered and temperature-safe until ready to serve.
- Help your guests with a menu card at each place setting.