The spring and summer months are my favorite times of year to enjoy the great outdoors and to dine on the terrace Alfresco style. This mode of entertaining all began when I was a child and my parents, who entertained extensively, would host outdoor dinner parties at our home in Miami. Being the weather was always great, a social gathering was always on the horizon.
My mother, Margo the chef and decorator, and father, HB, could whip up a party in no time. I guess that is where I get my urge to entertain and host "spur of the moment" events that are both fun and creative, thus this weeks article about Dining Alfresco.
Dining "Alfresco" is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: 1. in the open air 2. outside a building. For you, it's a carefree way to entertain outdoors for just two or for a group of friends and family. Most important is to keep the dining experience simple and carefree. Here's how to host a great yet simple dining event.
Location: Whether you are a condo dweller or cozy bungalow homeowner, picking the spot to dine outdoors should be fun and creative. For the condo set, your outdoor balcony can be quickly transformed into a bistro for two. For the Midtown bungalow homeowner, a romantic table setting on the front porch or under the shade of a magnolia tree can be the perfect spot to chill and relax. And for the outdoor park enthusiast, a picnic setting atop a hill in Piedmont Park is the place to be. Whatever place you choose make sure the setting is quick and easy to do. That's what makes dining outside fun.
Setting the Mood: Here are a few quick suggestions for setting the mood.
Balcony Setting- Arrange your balcony so that the focal part of the set up is your dining table. Drape your table with either a neutral or festive color tablecloth or better yet a bold and colorful sheet (yes I said sheet, lol). Next bring out some pillows from indoors and place on your chairs to add comfort to your seating. Set the table with casual dinnerware and stemmed glasses. For a centerpiece, add a vase of flowers (either store bought or gently lifted from the entrance flower garden of your condominium...lol). Add a few votive candles to enhance your presentation. To complete your "table for two" setup, incorporate music to set the mood. To ensure your evening is quick and easy, have a side table close by so that food & beverage servings can be housed at arms reach so as to eliminate back and forth interruptions.
Home Bungalow Setting- Your options here are many. Either it's a cozy table setting on the front porch veranda or a romantic niche under the shade of a tree in your backyard. Either choice...make the setting special. Cover the table with a crisp white sheet. Dust off your favorite china and set the table to suit your dining needs. For a creative PLACE MAT, snip off a few leaves from your magnolia or elephant ear tree/bush and tuck it under your dinner plate. NOTE: wash off the leaves to remove bugs before placing...lol. Add a table candelabra to the center of the table (you know, the wedding gift from Aunt Sally that you thought you would never use). Scent the air around you with burning incense to add some spice to the setting. Tuck mood-enhancing music under the table to complete the scene. And as mentioned above, include a side table that enables food and beverage to be stored thus eliminating steps back into your home.
Park Picnic Setting- One of my favorite outdoor dining locations is Piedmont Park. There are many locations within the park to have a tranquil dinner view. Either it's the lakeside lawn adjacent to the boathouse, the bocce ball court's bistro terrace around the corner from the tennis courts, or the hilltop lawn overlooking the skyscrapers of Midtown. Anyway you choose, the setting is breathtaking and FREE. To enhance your dining experience, grab an over sized bed throw or sheet to set the boundaries of your table setting. An ice chest placed in the center of the setting could be covered in another throw or sheet forming a raised table. To expand the table surface space, bring along a favorite board game. Use the foldout game board atop the ice chest and cover over with throw or sheet. When your dinner is complete you can wrap the evening up with some fun playing a great board game. To keep things simple, be sure to use colorful disposable plates, napkins, utensils and cups in order to make cleanup easy. Bring along some candles and music and your good to go.
The overall message of this story is to spark your creativity and allow your outside home or park to be the canvas for an easy and exciting dining experience. Everything I have described can be accomplished without a lot of work... and can be fun doing it also. I reach out to our Patch readers to share your favorite Alfresco dining experience. It would be cool to share what other creative modes of dining there are for enjoying the great outdoors Midtown has to offer. CHEERS!!!