During the summer months, al-fresco dining is a beautiful way to share a meal with friends and family. Dining outdoors changes the entire ambiance of dinner, bringing a close casualness that the warm months are made of. Two things to think about are the menu and the decor.
For an al-fresco menu, think about light, fresh foods. Because outdoor dining is very Italian, take a cue from this cuisine to begin the menu. An antipasto plate of cold meats, cheeses, olives and vegetables would make a show stopping start. Have a lightly dressed green salad and a grilled meal of vegetables and meats. Any dessert will be delicious. Go for lighter beverages, too, lemonades and sparkling waters along with light wines, spritzers, or delicate cocktails for those wanting an alcoholic drink. Just keep it all light and airy.
As far as decorations go, try to keep the setting rustic and natural, but focus on the little things to make the guests take notice. If the space has a shade tree, set the table up under the tree for immediate and natural shade. Some people like to string lights or lanterns in the trees to provide gentle lighting as the sun goes down. Candles are also ideal, there is no such thing as too many when it comes to al-fresco dining. Candles are also budget friendly, and most people already have plenty to start with.
For seating, chairs and tables do not all have to match. In fact, a mismatched setting adds to the casual flair. Bring some indoor chairs outside, gather small and large tables together. Some people like table cloths, some prefer the rustic look of uncovered tables. Use what you have. When setting the table mismatched dishes will work well together if a complete set is not available. Think to the airy, casual look again – mason jars for flowers or candles are lovely on an al-fresco table; wooden salad and serving bowls, galvanized and metal pieces all work together for a great look.
An outdoor bar is a great addition to the setting and can be created out of most anything, from a garden table to a side table from inside, even a piece of hard-scaping like a wall. Add some terra cotta pots filled with green plants and a few candles, a bar is at the ready. A dessert bar can be set up this same way to finish off the evening.
Think about what is inside the home that can be brought outside to decorate. Whether it is furniture like tables or chairs, dishes, or jars or other decorations, stick to what you already have. Al-fresco is casual; you should not have to spend much money on decor. Skip buying paper plates and plastic utensils, use your real dishes to save money and add elegance. Cut flowers from your yard instead of buying them. It will not only save money again, but will keep the look cohesive.
The beautiful thing about al-fresco dining is how the “room” changes as the evening progresses. Though it may be warm and sunny when the dinner party begins, the guests will witness nature’s transformation as the sun goes down providing delicate darkness. The real decoration and ambiance is already there, complements of Mother Nature.
Vanessa, employee of PartSelect.ca, online seller of Appliance Parts wrote this article. She can be found eating outside most days during the summer.