Dining Alfresco Is Better When Done This Way

Many posts found online this time of year are about entertaining outdoors for a crowd, throwing backyard parties for family and friends, girls’ night out as well as setting up bar carts with aplomb to have a cocktail party on the patio.

Summer is all about dining alfresco. It is fun to eat our meals outside. When you put a fancy term to the festivities makes it even more so.

outdoor dining on small table

Dining alfresco can boost your mood. A outdoor setting can make you feel at ease, relaxed and happy.

It is one reason the French and Italian’s do it so much.

Today, I am posting about dining alfresco, but not in the ways I just listed.

Dining outside is a great way to enjoy summer, but you don’t have to wait to have a party to enjoy doing it or spend hours in the kitchen preparing food for a large alfresco gathering.

These alfresco gatherings are great, but this summer almost everyday if the weather permits, I want to inspire you to do it with only one guest in mind… yourself.

I know a great little spot for doing this special solo ritual. It’s warm, inviting and right in your neighborhood, in fact… it is in your own backyard, or on your porch, deck, patio, balcony, in your garden or whatever little space you can carve outside to call your own.

It doesn’t have to be a designated outdoor dining area.

Outdoor furniture made out of recycled milk cartons

Summer is the best time to perch yourself outside to sip a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, enjoy a causal lunch or to watch the sun go down with a glass of your favorite wine in the evening.

No outdoor party menu planning, exhausting party preparations or guests needed.

Pick an Alfresco Dining Spot

There is no need to set an alfresco dining table, fire up a grill, set up a bar, or create a party-like atmosphere.

To set up your own solo outdoor cafe or restaurant to enjoy one or all of your meals, all you need is a comfy chair, a small table and a favorite spot and of course something to eat which could be as simple as last night’s leftovers.

Solo Alfresco Dining Necessity

To make solo alfresco dining at home easy, yet feel like a stylish event to enIighten your day, I like to look for unique plates, bowls and trays to make dining alone outside special for me.

white dinner plate with salad on it. On a pink tray to dine alfresco.

I found a pretty tray at a thrift store that I painted pink that is the perfect size for taking a plate of food, coffee or drinks outside to enjoy eating a meal in the fresh air.

Handmade coffee mugs and a few stylish utensils are other things I like to have on hand to make alfresco dining a more pleasurable experience.

Monogram outdoor drinkware

I have a “party basket” set up in my pantry so I can easily grab what I need when we entertain friends and family outside.

I also keep the items I need when I want to eat alfresco by myself – pretty paper plates, napkins and unbreakable water glasses.

Breakfast

I enjoy starting the day outside, even if it is hot. I like hearing the birds chirp and the sounds of the day beginning. I keep a collection of decorative and outdoor trays handy to carry whatever I make for breakfast outside.

Breakfast dining ideas for eating outside
  • If you have a garden, reap the rewards and pick the fresh bounty to enjoy. Embellish your plate with some fresh herbs. It is the little touches that will make the 15-20 minutes spent eating outside a little more special before you have to start your day.
  • Pour juice into a pretty glass.
  • I buy pretty paper napkins at the dollar store, Target, and Walmart. They elevate the pretty factor of my outdoor meals.
  • Place fresh flowers in a small vase. When not used to embellish your tray, they add fresh color when moved inside your house.
Love this umbrella and base that don't need a table to hold it up

My deck and yard gets full sun all day.  When the temperature rises, to be able to sit in comfort, I need patio umbrellas. One of the umbrellas goes into the center hole of our high outdoor table.

Polywood high top table with an umbrella

The second umbrella’s position changes depending on where the sun is in the sky. I keep a large stand on the deck that I move where I need it.

Sunday Brunch

Sunday brunch is a special meal no matter what time of year you partake it. In the summer months, freshly squeezed OJ and champagne elevate to staycation status when enjoyed alfresco.

Sunday brunch alfresco ideas
  • The monogrammed outdoor stemware makes a few morning hours reading the a newspaper the old fashioned way and not on my phone feel like a celebration.
  • I have all sizes of paper doilies that I buy at the dollar store to use as coasters or to line bread baskets and serving trays.
  • Buy “tinkle ice”. That is what a friend calls ice you buy in small cubes at the supermarket.  I didn’t have any to use when I was taking this photo, but it is much better to use in drinks as it makes a pretty “tinkle” sound when you swirl your drink instead of ice that most refrigerators make that make a clicking sound when you swirl.  These little details can make something as simple as a glass of OJ feel special.
Breakfast alfresco ideas

Lunch

Create magic not only for yourself, but ask your child to join you outside for lunch and call it a picnic. Simple finger food set up in an easy but out of the ordinary way will have your child asking to have a picnic everyday.

Outdoor ideas for eating lunch outside
  • Grab a large outdoor serving tray with handles to use as your tabletop and to place everything on so you can carry it outside easily.
  • No utensils needed. Make your normal sandwiches, but instead of cutting them in half, cut them into squares or triangles. Pile on a pretty paper plate. Do the same for summer fresh watermelon or in-season fruit.
  • Add a slice of lemon or fruit to your drinks. A colorful straw makes ordinary water look and feel extra special.
  • Grab a glass jar from your recycling bin, wash it out. Ask your child to gather flowers from your yard to create a pretty arrangement to add style to your picnic.
  • Move your umbrella and chairs to a grassy area. If you don’t have movable chairs, spread out an old quilt or bedspread to create your picnic area.

Dinner

Unwind and dine outside for dinner.  Since it is dinner, you can ask your spouse or family member to join in.

Meal ideas for dining alfresco for sinner

A simple white tablecloth and napkins will make you feel like you are enjoying reserved outside seating at a chic French bistro.

Outdoor candle chandelier

I found white Vintage Bulb String Lights for the deck in my previous house.

  • I used white cup hooks to hang the lights.

You can find the tutorial for this outdoor chandelier I made a few years ago. It has been well used. I use battery operated candles that don’t go out when a breeze blows by.

Outdoor alfresco meals

Keep the Meal Simple

  • Zucchini from the garden spiralized and served with tomato sauce and meatballs.   A salad and glass of wine in acrylic glasses I grabbed from my pantry make for one easy, breezy elegant meal to wind down with your significant other.
Using good silver
  • Keep a few pieces of your “good stuff” in your “alfresco basket”. It will be effortless to heighten the elegant factor to your outdoor tablescape.
Eating alfresco at dusk
  • For flowers, fill a large vase with one type of flower from your yard. For this meal, I snipped a few branches from one of the Butterfly bushes we have in the yard.
Vintage string lights

This is my fave time on the deck, watching the sun go down.

Vintage bulb string lights on a deck

It feels magical and worth the few extra minutes it took to set up.

If eating alfresco solo sounds good to you, don’t put it off to start someday…

…begin the ritual of movable feasts this week to add a little joie de vivre to brighten your day. No reservations needed. The only thing that could stop you of course… is mother nature.

Alfresco Dining Trays & Utensils

I am always on the lookout for affordable flatware to use when the seasons change. I have wanted a bamboo set, but they can be expensive.

Bamboo Utensil Set

I was happy to recently find a bamboo set that looks like this set from Pottery Barn.

Natural Bamboo flatware set
Pottery Barn Splurge Set | My Budget Find Set

I find most of my outdoor serving trays at thrift stores and HomeGoods, but here are a few I found online.

Alfresco Dining TRAYS

You can find even more pretty trays on my Amazon shop under Kitchen Items and Home Decorating Accessories.

Don't wait for someday. Set up a "movable feast basket" so you can make dining alfresco quick and easy. Simple ideas to make your warm weather meals feel like you are on vacation. | In My Own Style

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26 Comments

  1. Ellen Hernandez says:

    Looks pretty, but at 105* in Texas with Saharan desert sand and field smoke from Mexico in the air, not to mention the mosquitos, there is no way we enjoy being outside in the summer. Lucky you.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Ellen – It is going to get hot here this week. Over 100 degrees, but not like the heat that Texas gets. Maybe something to look forward to doing in the fall?

  2. Al fresco is an Italian phrase!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks for taking the time to tell me Molly – I realize now my typo and mixing up the countries.

  3. Lots of inspiration..giving me ideas for my small deck, just realized all the components for a lovely dining tray are already stashed around my small home. Looking to redo my very sunny deck this weekend so I can start dining al fresco, so much better than in front of tv with a plate balanced on my lap……love all your posts and ideas…I live in the SF Bay area, so heat isn’t as always on tap during the summer………have a great weekend….

  4. What a great post! Your table looks so inviting and welcoming. It is too late at night to eat and I am getting hungry just reading this post. Great job!

  5. This was a delightful post. Thank you so much.

  6. What a lovely post!! You’ve inspired me to organize a little “entertaining basket”. And those mimosa’s don’t look too bad either!!! B

  7. Really beautiful. You have such talent. Because of you pending move, I thought you might want to check out this blog. It’s one I read that you will at least find interesting in the similarities.
    http://www.fromthissideofthepond.com/

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sally – Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me about From This Side of the Pond :-) We have many similarities and quite a bit in common. I will connect with her and tell her you sent me. XO

  8. Paul @ Eco Stores Direct says:

    Really lovely stuff. We don’t always get outdoor eating weather in England, but we take advantage of it when we can

  9. That was lovely – I hope your husband, children, and grands appreciate how special you make your meals. I love the idea of breakfast outside. My husband and I often go out on the deck with coffee and the paper, but I’ve never gone so far as the monogrammed glasses and Prosecco – fresh berries – delightful! I took a mini-vacation just reading your blog!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Barbara – When my daughters were little, I always tried to make some of their meals feel special. Now that they are older and out on their own, it makes me smile when they bring up the times we had “picnic” lunches in the backyard or on the banks of a creek in our neighborhood. It makes me happy that I made the effort to make fun memories for them.

  10. Catherine D says:

    Wonderful ideas!!!! And yes…. we deserve to treat ourselves good!!! One question…. how do you manage the mosquitos ? I live in a very humid central Virginia, and the mosquitos are miserable. I have had a professional company come and spray the outdoors early summer, but has done very little. I keep all mosquito breeding water empty, pot saucers etc….

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Catherine –

      That is a good question and one that I have learned how to deal with. I set up Citronella candles and or torches. I have used many brands and types and they all work, but the key is to light them about a half hour before you plan to go outside. I have 7 and place them all around where we will be sitting. I need to to this most evenings, especially now that the summer is in full swing.

      I did a post for TIKI brand a few weeks ago ( https://inmyownstyle.com/2015/05/outdoor-entertaining-ideas-giveaway.html ) and love the glass tabletop torches they sell. They are pretty and are refillable with TIKI torch oil. I have used both the Citronella formula and last week bought the BiteFighter with Citronella and Cedar. They keep the bugs away.

  11. Heather C says:

    enjoyed your post, think I’ll have a little get-together, even if the weather is melting us all here in the south, at least we can melt having a good time.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Heather – It is starting to get hot here, too. :-) Lunch may have to be inside until September rolls around. :-)

  12. I will often eat my breakfast or lunch outside…..but I usually just carry it…okay STACK it….in one hand with a glass of tea in the other and find a shady spot. I need to start treating myself better! Really enjoyed this post, Diane. And your deck really looks inviting. Thanks for sharing!

  13. christine gowing says:

    We eat outside a lot but not in style!
    Ok, I’m getting a party basket ready for those spur of the moment, Al Fresco dining moments!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Christine – Having the party basket filled with what you need truly makes setting up a special little tray or table a lot easier since everything you need is in or near the basket, except the food. Enjoy your dining!

  14. I love the idea of eating outside, breakfast, lunch or dinner, but here in the south, it’s just really not possible! Too hot! Looking forward to cooler weather then we’ll be giving it a try. Your set up is beautiful!

    1. Christine says:

      That’s the truth, Debbie! I love these ideas and we used to eat Al Fresco when I was growing up…in the Northeast. But we live in North Carolina and the heat is not conducive to enjoyable outdoor eating! Plus, this must be the buggiest place in the world!! Between the flies, the mosquitoes, the gnats, the no-see-ems, sand fleas, fire ants, etc…we are always driven indoors!! Even in our screened gazebo they get in somehow…sneaky!! But I just love the presentation and care given here to the meals and the porch area and lighting is beautiful, Diane!! I am really enjoying the blog!!

      1. Diane Henkler says:

        Hi Christine – I lived in Durham NC for 3 years back in the 80’s. I remember the bees being very bad and we always had to eat inside the screened-in porch. When we visited my MIL in Florida…the NoSee-ems were the worst. We couldn’t even go outside at night when we visited her during certain times. We do get mosquitos here at night, but if I set up a collection of citronella candles and light them 30 minutes before we plan to go outside, we can eat in peace. Thanks for reading my blog. XO

    2. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Debbe – It is starting to get hot here, too. The dog days of August will soon be upon us and will drive me inside if it gets too humid.

  15. Diane,
    Great ideas…feeling the need to slow life down.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks June – Even if it is only for 15 minutes, the break in your day to make a meal a bit more special makes a big difference for your mental wellbeing.