Relax, sit back and dine al fresco!
If you’re planning on entertaining guests ‘al fresco’ this season, make sure that you take a look at some of the top tips I’ve picked up over the years….
Whatever you do, don’t compromise the freedom of dining outside by going formal. Al fresco dining should be relaxed and low-key. By making sure that everything, from the seating, to the music, reflects this, you’ll find your guests will soon kick back and enjoy the informality of it all.
Make sure that everyone is comfortable and that there is plenty of seating available. Get any wooden garden furniture in tip-top condition by oiling or varnishing it weeks ahead of your event. And don’t forget, for that bohemian or festival feel, hay bales are an excellent source of extra outdoor seating, just make sure to throw a blanket across the top and front, to avoid any spikey mishaps!
Reflect the relaxed atmosphere of your event, by serving lots of flavoursome but simple foods. For a large number of guests, offer wooden platters of bite-sized savoury finger foods such as gourmet mini hotdogs or burgers, complimented with a variety of mustards and relishes. If a barbecue is more your style, in addition to a selection of locally sourced meats, consider your vegetarian guests by grilling thick slices of halloumi cheese – delicious with crusty artisan bread and a crisp salad.
If the weather is on your side, the only dessert option is, of course, ice cream. There are some terrific vintage ice cream vans available to hire and some will even create a unique flavour just for your guests!If your event is during the day, make sure that you have created an area of shade, or, dare I say it, shelter! In addition to the usual sun shades, drape brightly coloured fabric across larger, over-hanging branches or erect canvas ‘sails’ across more open spaces. Alternatively, a lovely idea is to present your guests with a practical and elegant keepsake of your event, a bespoke cotton or lacquered paper parasol, perfect on a lazy, sunny afternoon.
So once you have an area for your guests to chill-out, your next challenge is how to keep your drinks cool! A rather stylish way to cool your bottles is to place them in an old-fashioned style roll-top bath with ice but if you’re after something even cooler (!) I would recommend investing in a large block of ice, rather than ice cubes for your event. The block will melt more slowly and watching your bar tender chipping at the ice with a pick, adds a certain drama to the whole process!
And finally, I have to mention one of my secret al-fresco- event weapons – a hands-free wine glass holder (£4.49 for a pack of 4 from Lakeland). Too many gardens across the country have been accidentally ‘watered’ over the years with vintage champagne and fine wines, so, no guest should be without one! Rather than trying to balance a glass on a bumpy lawn, this simply ingenious spiked gadget, holds your glass in place, ensuring not a drop is lost to the grass!