Are you ready to celebrate the arrival of summer? I am! A few friends, along with Ed and I, headed over to our good friends, Harry and Toni’s house this past weekend for some casual outdoor entertaining in the form of a “no-dining table dinner party.”
Their backyard is the perfect place to hold a kick-off to summer. A variety of seating areas and an open lounging area by a pool created a perfect venue to sit back and relax and enjoy everyone’s company while watching the sun go down.
I like summer entertaining the best since it is less stressful. I exchange the word“Entertaining” for a less-intimidating and less-stress-prompting phrase: “Having people over.” When the stress factor is taken away, entertaining is not about being a style-setter, a caterer, or the perfect host. Instead, it can be about creating a happy occasion that permits you to enjoy family and friends. More important, however, is that you have fun doing it.
Here are a few of my tried and true tips to help you throw a casual evening soiree.
THE SETTING: My friend Toni and Harry’s backyard
On a warm evening a deck, patio or rooftop can be a magical setting for a no-dining-table dinner party as the sun sets and the sky begins to darken. Illuminating the setting with TIKI® Brand torches in the yard and on tables adds the perfect atmosphere from sunset to twilight to after-dinner night sky viewing.
THE SET UP:
- Forgo the paper and plastic. If there is even a slight breeze it will send these items flying. Use regular dishes and cloth napkins. If you are afraid your dishes will break, head to the dollar store for a set of white plates and bowls to use for outdoor parties.
- Bring out the indoors: Add a few pillows or throw blankets around the patio or deck seating. These will add a comfy cozy feeling for guests who may get chilly after the sun goes down.
- Layer the lighting. Set up tabletop as well as yard TIKI® Brand torches filled with citronella torch fuel to help keep pesky bugs away and to add festive ambiance that won’t blow out from a breeze.
- Washi tape makes colorful temporary name tags for drink glasses.
- Make sure to run the dishwasher and empty it before the party so it’s ready for cleanup after the party.
Make a playlist to add to the festive party atmosphere. This is the one we listened to created by playlist master, my neighbor Harry.
- Jimmy Buffet Live in Hawaii: The Tiki Bar is Open | Great Heart with Don Ho intro
- Bob Marley Greatest Hits: One Love | Stir It Up | Sun is Shining
- Bill Bass Steel Pans Drum Music (from St. Croix): I Can See Clearly Now…
- Club Trini-Margaritaville Cafe: Party Time | Come on In
Once you create the perfect outdoor dining atmosphere, add the final key ingredients: good food + good friends – then enjoy the evening together.
As the host, prepare the main dish and ask each guest to bring something to complement it such as an appetizer, side dish, salad or dessert. This keeps the tone of the party casual and easy for everyone. When TIKI® Brand invited me to play host with their latest tabletop collection of torches, I asked Toni if I could bring the ambiance along with the main dish of chicken and shrimp for grilling. She got the night off from preparing the main dish.
- Choose foods that can be made ahead or grilled to keep things easy. This way you get to enjoy your own party.
Pull out all of your serving dishes and platters from storage and mark what will go on each with a Post-It Note.
- As you welcome guests into your deck, patio, or garden, pass easy-to-eat hors d’oeuvres like Ina Garten’s Grilled Herb Shrimp along with a small napkin.
- Serve food that does not need a knife so guests can easily eat from plates on their laps. I made this Lemon Herb Chicken that is sliced into bite size pieces on a platter before serving, so all that is needed to enjoy it is a fork.
Don’t be surprised if your party attracts more than your intended crowd. “Why can’t I have some of that yummy chicken?”
This Molded Glass Table Torch is my favorite. It also comes in green and red glass. It is going to look nice in my backyard, too!
Toni made these Raspberry Bars….. they were a hit! DELICIOUS! She found the recipe on BHG.
Once everyone is finished eating, serve up a way for your guests to clean their hands.
Herb-Infused Hand Towels perfumed with lemon and herbs, are always welcome after eating food with your hands. Rolled and tied in advance, these cloths are steeped in warm lemon-herb infusion just before you offer them to guests.
How to Make Herb-Infused Hand Towels:
- Roll napkins, facecloths, or tea towels into cylinders. Tie with raffia, beach grass, or ribbon.
- Steep fresh herbs, such as rosemary or mint, in boiling water in a teapot for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour the herbal infusion into a wide heatproof bowl with lemon slices and let stand for about 10 seconds.
- Soak the rolled towels in the infusion. When cool enough to handle, wring them out slightly and arrange on tray.
After dinner is over and the sun sets, let TIKI® Brand Bamboo Royal Polynesian torches light the way to open viewing of the show that is about to start called starry, starry night.
“Hey…don’t forget about me.” “I think the Lemon Herb Chicken leftovers would look mighty fine in my orange Frisbee…I have been sooooo good all night.” Pretty please…
Lemon Herb Chicken Breasts
- 3 lb boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon plus shredded zest for garnish (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary plus whole leaves and springs for garnish (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. In large, shallow nonreactive dish, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, grated lemon zest and juice, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Add the chicken breasts and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 8 hours.
- Prepare grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack and position it about 6 inches from heat source.
- Grill the chicken breasts, turning once, until firm to the touch and opaque throughout, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board and cut on the diagonal against the grain with a sharp knife into slices 1/2 inch thick. Capture any carving juices, if possible.
- Arrange the chicken slices on a warmed serving platter and drizzle and carving juices over the top. To garnish, sprinkle with rosemary leaves and sprigs and shredded lemon zest, if desired.
- Serves 8