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How to Throw an Al Fresco Dinner Party (with herbs from your garden)

June 12, 2019

We break down the key elements of a summer soiree outdoors and how you can share your flourishing garden with friends by incorporating herbs into your dishes and table decor! 

 

 

Now that summer is here--we have been using our herb garden so much! We decided to throw a little dinner party al fresco style in early May before the weather got too terribly hot. With some greenery from the garden for the menu and the place settings--the entire evening felt earthy and effortless. We decided to keep it simple and not go overboard on the centerpieces--just focusing on the simplicity of the herbs on the white napkins and tieing in blue and green hues. We really wanted to throw a party that felt laid back but still celebratory--all while not breaking the bank.

 

Here are the key points we focused on:

 

Budget

 

We've all been there. You want to have friends over but also don't want to shell out tons of cash to put on a great evening. You could ask everyone to bring a dish but sometimes potlucks can turn weird and you end up with 4 different types of cuisines from around the world. Here's how you don't do that:

  • Use herbs from garden for table settings

    • Just search on Pinterest "table settings with herbs" and you will be overloaded with gorgeous place settings bursting with greenery and life. We used Rosemary and Lavendar from our garden to great simple and elegant touches--securing them with brown twine and a hand painted oyster shell on top as an anchor. We found a lot of great wedding tablescape inspiration under this search too. 

  • Use what you have

    • ​Don't let your fear of not having 10 matching water glasses limit you from inviting who you want. Mixing and matching (especially any vintage pieces you might have) can look very elegant and adds to the rustic, outdoor vibe. Here, we only had 6 china plates--so we alternated between a china plate and glass plate for each setting. 

  • Shop sales weeks ahead 

    • Start looking a few weeks ahead at sales and best deals for what you need. We were able to score these placemats at World Market on sale for only $1 each (normally $2/each). 

 

Menu

 

Creating a versatile menu is key in saving money and wowing you guests. We planned out our menu the week before and tried to use as many ingredients from our garden as we could. Here are a few tips below on how to create a standout menu:

  • Prep food beforehand

    • One of the easiest ways to save time is by making everything before hand so you can relax and enjoy the party with your guests! This may seem like a no-brainer but if you wait until the last minute to throw the salad together or appetizer plate--you may find yourself alone in the kitchen while everyone else is mingling and arriving 

  • Ask guests to bring a small appetizer 

    • Guests will want to bring something but you don't want to have it interfere with your menu if they forget a key ingredient. By asking them to bring a meat or cheese to share, all you have to do is set out a platter and let the guests add on their cheese as they arrive! 

  • Use ingredients from the garden 

    • Mint for Mojitos 

    • Rosemary Chicken--cook and store in fridge until 20 min before ready to eat, then heat up in oven with cover so it doesn't dry out. Slice the chicken so it's easy for guests to put a few pieces on their plate and it will go further too

    • Arugula salad with tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden 

    • Basil, tomato and mozzarella toothpick skewers 

    • Dessert--sliced watermelon with fresh chopped mint 

 

Ambiance

 

The last but arguably the most important part of planning your dinner party is creating the perfect atmosphere for your guests. Here are a few key factors to consider:

  • Music

    • Select your playlist ahead of time and set up a speaker outside so there aren't any awkward silences as guests start to arrive. With a good playlist already created--you won't have to waste time skipping through or finding the right song 

  • Outdoor Lights

    • Never underestimate the power of mood lighting! String lights add SO much to a backyard and you can find some great deals--we found ours on Amazon

  • Fan to keep air cirulating and bugs away

    • In addition to a citronella candle--set up a fan facing the table (but not too close) to create a breeze and keep bugs away. It's the simpliest thing but it really does keep the mosquitos and gnats away because they can't swarm around in the middle of the wind 

  • Pitchers of water on the table

    • This was one thing I forgot to do and had to get up several times to get guests more water. Having a few pitchers of water with ice already on the table will allow guests to serve themselves and keep everyone hydrated. 

And that's it! The key thing to remember is your guests will be delighted to enjoy a dinner al fresco no matter how perfectly it's planned--so don't stress and just enjoy the process!

 

To learn how to start your own herb garden visit our blog posts below. 

 

How to Start an Herb Garden

How to Build a Raised Bed Garden 

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed Cover

 

 

 

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