Dana Slatkin

Summer Entertaining

Still Life with Flowers

Summer entertaining is what I wish for all year. It’s always casual, convivial, and fuss-free. But what I love most is that everyone slows down this time of year. A late morning brunch will flow into siesta time, and early sunset dinners linger well past midnight. Your friends aren’t sneaking neurotic glances at their iPhones or rushing out to their next appointment. Kids can stay up late with the grown-ups. Summer is the perfect excuse to loosen up, to decelerate. And it’s when I get to spoil my friends and family without stressing out.

 

Cucumber Gazpacho

If you want your company to hang around a long time, keep the food and drink flowing. Because temperatures are warmer and appetites tend to diminish in the summertime, portions can be smaller than usual (count on no more than 4 to 5 ounces of protein per person). To make sure no one rushes off too soon, I typically add an extra course to summer meals: cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, cold soup shooters, an extra vegetable to accompany the main course, or chocolates and cordials. Try stirring up a frisky concoction, like Kumquat Passion Potion, to greet guests when they arrive. A platter of juice glasses filled with a cold soup (try Summertime Gazpacho) and Crispy Kale Chips will curb anyone’s hunger, so there’s no need to rush into dinner.

Artichokes 1

Looking for inspiration for your table? Shop no further than your farmers market. While you are hunting for your feast, pick up some additional fruit, such as beautiful kiwis, apricots and champagne grapes, to adorn a centerpiece. Clementines, plums, baby melons and dragon fruit become edible table jewelry. I recently bought a rustic three-tiered wooden server that I dress with all kinds of whole and halved fruits, depending on what catches my eye at the market. Mix in some small votives and bud vases and you’ll have a sumptuous still life on your table.

Artichokes 2

Artichokes always say “summer” to me, and I love to decorate with them this time of year. Artichoke flowers with long stems are worth seeking out at your farmers market; you just need a few to fill a vase and add whimsy to your table. Or mix in a couple of artichokes with flowers and herbs from your garden to give a lovely seasonal twist on a traditional bouquet. For a clever votive holder, scoop out the chokes and inner leaves of a large artichoke and pop the candle right in.

Flower Arrangement

Speaking of candles, I am always looking for new ways to decorate my stash of glass hurricanes (see Eight Ways to Decorate a Glass Hurricane), and last week’s trip to the market gave me a multitude of ideas. Apples, apricots, citrus fruits, assorted nuts in their shells, asparagus spears, even pee wee potatoes have all made their way into a hurricane. Start by nestling a candle in the middle and then just pour in your delicious loot. For a centerpiece, you can forgo the candle and steady a bunch of flowers into the middle.

To me, summer is all about making memories to hold on to the rest of the year. When I have a large dinner party, I’ll give my guests a little treat to take home with them. Of course, my party favors usually come from the farmers market. Little potted herbs that are used to decorate the dining table make perfect take-home gifts. And everyone loves a bag of munchies for the ride home or next morning: candied nuts, dried fruit, and — my personal addiction — kettle corn. Buy them in bulk and then repackage them in small brown bags tied with a ribbon and a sprig of lavender.

For more outdoor entertaining tips, check out my interview in this month’s issue of C Magazine.

Photo credits: Don Freeman via Brides Magazine, Mindy Sonshine via Real Green Weddings,Seaport Flowers and Vineyard Event Garden.

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