As the weather gets warmer, there’s nothing more fun than taking the party outdoors. Whether you’re having a backyard bash or an intimate gathering on your condo balcony or rooftop, here are some tips for a simple, sophisticated summer ‘do.
Be deliciously different.
Think outside the burger, and try something like marinated vegetable skewers or grilled pizza. If you plan to barbecue something that falls apart easily, like fish or veggies, use a grill rack. Put a sprig or two of fresh rosemary on the coals while you’re grilling. Not only will the food taste great, but your party will smell wonderful.
Serve a signature cocktail.
Set up a margarita or mojito station. Set out rimmed glasses, slice some limes, then serve the drink in pitchers with lots of ice and let guests help themselves. Be sure to offer lots of non-alcoholic options, too.
Let your guests help themselves.
Spend time enjoying your guests instead of serving them. Set up an elegant outdoor buffet by covering a side table with a crisp white tablecloth. Create “bouquets” of cutlery in vases, or make a neat pile of restaurant-style “roll-ups” with paper napkins. Decorate with candles, flowers and fresh herbs.
Have an upscale picnic.
For the ultimate casual get-together, plan a backyard picnic (or a picnic in the park) on a big blanket. Bring some cushions to keep everyone comfortable, and use serving trays as level surfaces for drinks, snacks and other wobbly items like vases of flowers and pillar candles.
Light up the night.
String holiday lights along railings and in trees. Go with white for an elegant look, or coloured lights for a more whimsical mood.
Inexpensive citronella torches add a great ambiance and get rid of bugs.
Set out lots of candles in open mason jars or glass hurricane covers. Group them in big multi-level bunches for an intimate feel, or space them in equal increments along a fence or railing for a modern touch.
Break out the marshmallows.
Pick up a portable patio campfire for unbeatable ambiance at your evening soiree. The campfire (available at some home improvement stores) looks like a stone-ringed pit, but is gas-fueled and easy to move around. Be sure to check fire codes in your area, and if you’re entertaining on a balcony or a rooftop, check with your building to see what the rules are.
Be on bug patrol.
Use citronella lamps and candles to keep mosquitoes away, and put a bottle of insect repellent in plain sight so your guests don’t have to ask.
Always remember the first rule of summer entertaining: keep it simple and enjoy yourself. Plan ahead, get everything ready well ahead of time, then sit down and enjoy the sunshine or starlight – and the warm company of friends and family.
Balsamic grilled asparagus
A delicious take on a warm-weather favourite
Snap tough ends off 1 pound of asparagus. Combine 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp chopped shallots, and a dash of salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus and let stand 30 minutes. Brush grill rack with oil, and grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.