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Outdoor Dining Tips

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The outdoors is unpredictable. Things don’t always go as planned. In fact, things often go better. When the weather is right, or even close to it, people naturally gravitate there. Add food to the equation, and you’ll never hear complaints about the fact that there isn’t television or air conditioning. Who needs them? You’ve got familiar faces for entertainment. And, if you want to keep cool, just wait for a breeze to come along.

Alfresco is a lot of things. Alfresco gatherings imply a bolder menu and a closer commune with nature. Guests should be able to feel grass under their flip-flops. The idea is to move away from the house and its creature comforts and closer to the way things are done in temperate locations around the world. Outside, it turns out, is the perfect space for entertaining guests.

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Make it seem effortless.  It’s never fun for guests to see a host straining to pull things off. So, plan ahead. Prepare a menu that accounts for how far it is from the oven to the table. Alfresco is no time to get fancy with sauces or intricate plate presentations. You want to include dishes and drinks that are resilient and bold. Family or buffet-style are always good options. Consider entrées and side dishes that travel well and derive flavor from simple ingredients.

Make life easier with snack and drink stations strategically placed throughout the yard. They will save you and your guests an unnecessary trudge to the kitchen for refills. For drinks, distribute several small ice buckets for bottled beverages to keep cool. Include a variety for all ages and diet restrictions. As long as the container is watertight, go with something more imaginative than a plastic chest. Hosts have employed everything from ice-filled birdbaths to flower planters to make drinks accessible. And guests never mind recycling so long as there’s a discrete container within easy reach.

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Dessert can be arranged in advance. Create a dessert station guests can approach buffet-style. Fresh fruit from your local market is always a good choice. And, if you want to make a statement with seasonal flare, include a memorable dessert like a peach and berries trifle. It’s quite easy to make, yet an indulgence that is sure to please everyone.

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Set the table. Set the mood.    Alfresco is about maximizing the outdoors, and doing so with minimum effort. Table location and setting go a long way toward establishing the tone. Hosts can utilize distressed furniture and dress it up with china, silver and an elegant runner. Consider a theme utilizing a variety of secondhand tableware. Add a simple arrangement of fresh cut flowers from the yard to echo the natural surroundings. When night falls, heighten the mood with candle-filled mason jars suspended from tree limbs, or placed around the perimeter of your yard. You can even string Christmas lights around a tree, or suspend them overhead.  And don’t forget the music. Pair sound with taste by including music native to the same region as the food. Just keep the volume at a level conducive to easy conversation.

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Outdoor Dining Tips

1. Simply Beautiful: Use elements you have on hand. A potting bench can  double as a dessert station. Artfully arranged fruit is both decorative and delicious.

2. Local Attractions: By gathering just a few fresh ingredients, you can create a simple and mouthwatering salad.

3. Cool and Refreshing: This Brazilian Limeade offers a uniquely creative twist on quenching outdoor thirst.

4. Lighting adds ambience to alfresco dining long into the evening.

5. Create a seasonal and local menu of fresh produce. A trio of grilled yellow squash, red bell peppers and scallions makes a colorful side dish.

6. By serving delicious items hot off the grill, you can create the perfect recipe for friends and family to enjoy the festivities.

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