Warm weather and perfect nights means it’s time to take your dinner party outside. Whether in the backyard, out on the deck or at the neighborhood park, a few simple tips will ensure an easy summer soiree.
1. Limit your cooking
I know we’re a cooking school, but my biggest tip for a perfect summer party is to keep the cooking to a minimum. Make the main course a meat and veg event that can be thrown on a hot grill all at once. Or opt for cold cut sandwiches. I like something with a crunchy twist like spicy Banh-Mis or a giant Muffuletta. They are easy to assemble and can be made in advance.
2. Keep your appetizers cool, raw and refreshing
Make starters that can be arranged and assembled rather than cooked. Charcuterie, assorted cheeses, fruit, veggies and a mix of dips will satisfy all tastes and account for most allergies.
3. Stock that outdoor bar
Fill punch bowls or beverage dispensers with a few batched cocktail options and let guests help themselves. Stock lots of glasses, ice and garnishes along with a chalice of ice for beer and wine.
4. Keep everyone hydrated
Fill your biggest dispenser with water and set smaller pitchers on tables. Throw some herbs or citrus fruit in for visual appeal and to encourage people to keep drinking.
5. Use real dishes
No matter how casual your food, using china, napkins and real cutlery will instantly elevate an outdoor event from a “BBQ” to a “PARTY!” So pull out all those mismatched plates and Grandma’s dishes that your mom just gave you, along with random glasses and assorted serviceware and go for elegant eclectic in your party decor. Mother Nature and your actual mother will both thank you.
6. Scent the scene
As chefs we think about smells a lot and nothing is better than the scents of summer. Those smells are different for everyone, but for me the smell of summer is rosemary and lavender from my mom’s garden. I light candles, and tie up bunches of rosemary and lavender to lay on the tables, but when I’ve got the grill going, I just throw a handful of each on the grill to fill the whole yard with their savory smell.
7. Stay safe in the sun
Provide adequate shade and keep a bucket stocked with sunscreen, spare sunglasses and spare hats for guests.
8. Keep mosquitos at bay the natural way
If you’re enjoying the backyard or park be sure to set up citronella torches and candles to repel any flying insects. Backyards can be sprayed with a natural pest repellents like peppermint oil to keep bugs away without harming pets or children. A stiff breeze is another great defense against flying pests, so plug in a fan to blow those babies away.
9. Skip dessert (making it at least) and call the ice cream truck.
There’s nothing more nostalgic than running up to the ice cream truck on a warm summer night. If your neighborhood has local ice cream man, get him to swing by your block the evening of your party. Have cash on hand and treat your guests to their childhood favorites. No local ice cream truck? Stock your freezer with nostalgic treats like drumsticks, bombpops and fudgesicles. Or, opt for boozy popsicles.
10. Come to The Chopping Block
We'll help you master grilling, get creative with your cocktails or teach you how to make delicious Bahn-Mis at some of our most popular classes.
Grilling Boot Camp on July 20th at Lincoln Square will teach you to grill all the meat and sides you’ll need for a perfect, stress-free outdoor party.
Classic Cocktails on July 26th at the Merchandise Mart will have you stirring up a custom Smash just in time for your next bash.
And Street Food on July 24th at Lincoln Square will get you familiar with some international favorites perfect to wow your party guests.