In good company
The balmy nights of summer make a magical backdrop for dining al fresco! Everyone has access to the dark night sky, the twinkling of the stars and glow of the moon. So how does one go about planning dining outdoors? Plop down a blanket and have a picnic and enjoy a romantic meal with your loved one. Design an outdoor dinner party that your guests will never forget. Let me share my planning steps for creating the perfect outdoor dinner party during the wonderful mild weather season.
Of course, I carefully plan the guest list. Les and I discusswhat personalities would create a nice synergy. We enjoy great intellectual conversation and laughter. Once the guest list is complete and confirmed, I plan the menu.
Next of course is making sure all the chores are done so that there is no pressure the day of the dinner. For example, mow the lawn (don’t fret, it’s small and the rest is drought-tolerant blue grama), deadhead the garden, clean the house, and wash the windows.
A day or two before the dinner, we shop for all the ingredients we need to prepare the dishes for our special evening. We do prep work (chopping, brining, or anything necessary) to make the “day of ” as easy as possible.
Then the fun begins. We decide on cloth napkins, dinner plates, serving dishes, and table decorations. Usually, there is a bit of a tug-of-war for the final decisions on the decorations. We both enjoy creating the perfect table. We use a very long Lithuanian linen fabric that has an amazing hand for a table cloth. We have a chandelier that we use outdoors (with a dimmer) and we make sure all the light bulbs are good. We scour our collection of hurricane candle holders and decide whatwewant to use on the table or in any other areaswhere we might sit with our guests. Setting up the table is next, and we wait to light all the candles until 15 minutes before our guests are set to arrive.
We usually receive the guests in our entrance courtyard, which is surrounded by a quivering cadre of aspen trees, day lilies, hostas, and Asiatic lilies; a softly gurgling stone fountain; and comfortable outdoor seating. Here, we enjoy appetizers and wine or champagne and lively conversation, including designful introductions.
We then retreat to the backyard garden where the table is now set and the candles are lit. It is a delightful sight to behold. Attention to detail and the effort and creativity make our guests feel overwhelmingly welcome. The meal is coursed out and plates are cleared after each course. We enjoy the experience completely, indulging in meaningful conversation. The last such outdoor dinner party took place on the 4th of July. The evening was amazing, as we have a terrific view of the city’s fireworks display. The night was brought to a supreme finish with sounds of oohs and ahs and our guests feeling like we had arranged front-row seats for the colorful explosive display!
Lisa Samuel ASID, IIDA, is a Santa Fe native and principal of Samuel Design Group, located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. She is an award-winning interior designer known for creating unique interiors imbued with warmth and elegance. Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is passionate about good design that supports well-being.
Drawing by Lisa Samuel: The dinner party design