Summer Entertaining Ideas: 5 Foolproof Ways To Host An Outdoor Party
With lots of sunny weekends coming up, it’s a great time to start planning your next outdoor party. Of course, you’ll need to think about decor, drinks and food. But remember: it’s the overall vibe — how it all comes together — that will really stick in guests’ minds.
Click through for five foolproof summer entertaining ideas to try this season, whether your tastes skew rustic or romantic. Plus, discover a few of our most crowd-pleasing recipes.
Marketing guru Arlene Dickinson, of Dragon’s Den fame, loves to kick back at her rustic, ranch-style weekend home in Thornbury, Ontario. Here, relaxed family entertaining is the norm. “We’re not formal or fancy; it’s all about the relationships and the friendships,” she says.
Arlene’s table is as laid-back as her attitude toward entertaining. Simple linens and traditional seating create a comfortable gathering spot, while wildflowers and potted plants add texture. “Almost everything I’ve got up here is from Canadian and local artists, including my wooden bowls and ceramics,” says Arlene.
Summer meals regularly feature the best seasonal produce, and a combination of grilled corn, tomato salad, and sticky ribs is guaranteed to please. “Since it was rare to get them, ribs were a special treat for me growing up,” says Arlene. “I think, with ribs, the secret is always in the sauce — and this recipe has a killer sauce.”
Designer Colette van den Thillart’s ladies lunch makes the case for embracing refinement from time to time — even outdoors. At this gathering, Colette opted for a mix of elegant tableware and a crisp white tablecloth. “When I get to have people over during the day, it feels really special and a little decadent,” she says.
An all-pink bar is a fun way to add color to a party setup. It also keeps things simple, with guests serving themselves at their leisure. “I love Château Léoube rosé and rose-infused Pinky Botanical Vodka. That’s where I got the idea for an all-pink bar,” Colette says.
Fine silverware instantly elevates an al fresco lunch. When it comes to the food, Colette chooses “elegant but approachable” recipes, such as grilled tuna on a bed of fennel and olives. Colette grills the fish ahead of time, then serves the dish at room temperature. “It’s very forgiving!” she says.
A prosthodontist by day, Philip Haddad moonlights as a baker by night. With plans to open his own bakery-meets-restaurant, Emmer & Ash, within a year, he still makes time for casual entertaining in his Toronto backyard. Small, colorful plates and family-style platters encourage friends to sample as they mingle.
Refreshing cocktails get the party started. Here, Philip mixes a drink with snap pea-infused gin — a tipple that pairs beautifully with his easy-to-enjoy flatbread and dips. “My friends and I all like to cook simple foods,” he says. “People want to catch up and be around each other; they don’t necessarily want an eight-course meal.”
“I cook everything in the wood-burning oven in my backyard: pizza, whole fish, vegetables, flatbread…” says Philip. The latter pairs beautifully with his inspired hummus recipe. Topped with asparagus, it makes a great vegetarian appetizer. “The charred asparagus adds smokiness, while the raw pieces give it crunch.”
With three successful restaurants and a young son, Colin Tooke doesn’t have a lot of downtime. This means entertaining at home is always relaxed. “It’s all about having fun and keeping glasses full,” he says. While he used to blast music when cooking, he now prefers more relaxed tunes, like his son’s favorite: Willie Nelson.
Mix-and-match flatware, glasses and plates suit a casual backyard get together — and we particularly love the combination of mod black cutlery and brightly colored dishes. Here, Colin piled his partner Micah Cameron’s plate with a couple simple skewers and grilled slices of bread.
The star of the show? Colin’s mom’s famous, decidedly unfussy mud pie. “This is the most brainless dessert ever,” Colin says with a laugh. “My mom used to make this creamy mocha pie on our birthdays, and everyone loves it. Don’t bother with using fancy ice cream, though, because all you taste is the coffee.”
H&H‘s Lynda Reeves knows how to host a seriously memorable affair. Her backyard churrascaria, which she set up for her stepdaughter’s post-wedding brunch, featured tables topped with colorful linens and Brazilian earthenware, professional cooks and passadors (meat servers), plus one show-stopping samba band.
Made with tapioca starch, these small, cheesy bites — called pão de queijo in Brazil — made a super savory pre-barbecue nibble at Lynda and Michel’s Brazilian brunch. (They also happen to be a great recipe for your gluten-free guests!)