Lucinda Scala Quinn, Executive Editorial Director of Food and Entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia offers tips to make outdoor entertaining easy. Plus, check out the July/August issue of Everyday Food (on newsstands June 22) for menu and recipe ideas.
1. Create a summer home for dishes. Station an armoire on a covered patio or clear a few shelves in the garage to hold items devoted to alfresco dining.
2. Accommodating a large group for a sit-down meal outside can be accomplished easily and elegantly by topping a few folding tables with a rustic flat-panel door or a single piece of plywood covered with cloth.
3. Tackle grill-related tasks more than just a few minutes ahead of time. Stock up on charcoal or refill the propane tank a week before. Clean and season the grill rack the morning of your party, and place a table nearby, complete with the various grilling tools and serving platters you’ll need. For specific grilling ideas check-out www.marthastewart.com/grilling.
4. Running a fan near your dining area will help keep mosquitoes at bay — and keep your guests cool, too.
5. Multiple beverage stations help ensure that guests can get a refill without waiting. Galvanized tubs, colorful enamel buckets, and planters work perfectly. Place an assortment of drinks in each bin destined for different locations throughout the yard.
6. Take advantage of seasonal produce when creating a summer menu for delicious and budget-friendly meals. Sweet corn is at its best, so try it grilled or steamed as a side dish, or turn it into a salad by tossing fresh kernels with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs, and a little sweet onion or scallion; season with salt and pepper. For more ideas see the July/August issue of Everyday Food or http://www.everydayfoodmag.com/.
7. When getting ready for barbecues, clambakes, and other hands-on occasions, set out damp paper towels or cloths, sprinkled with lemon juice and rolled, to remedy sticky fingers. For easy cleanup, cover the table with split garbage bags topped with kraft or butcher paper. Keep crayons nearby for creative guests, young and old.
8. Informal gatherings, planned weeks ahead or convened at a moments notice, don’t require traditional invitations. Spread the word via e-mail using an online invitation site like http://www.pingg.com/.