For me, summer is about simplicity. It’s the time of year when I pair down my wardrobe, freshen up my house with light, breezy fabrics, prepare unfussy meals, and spend the majority of my time outside with family. It is also my favorite season to entertain because I can take the party outdoors – and Mother Nature is a terrific co-hostess! She always brings magical gifts like butterflies, twinkling stars, and lightening bugs.
The other day, as I was enjoying a cup of coffee on our patio, I noticed that some of our hot pepper plants were exploding with fruit. After sitting and adoring them for a few minutes, I was inspired to make fresh salsa. So my husband and I gathered a bunch of beautiful Black Hungarian peppers and some handfuls of cilantro leaves and headed to the kitchen.
The thing about garden fresh salsa is that it is much better shared with friends! The perfect reason for a party….
Theme: Summer Fiesta
Number of Attendees: 8
Advance Notice: 4 days
Invitations: Informal emails
The day before our back yard fiesta, my family and I headed to a local farmers market to pick up heirloom tomatoes, onions, and other seasonal veggies and fruits for the party. My approach was to keep the dinner simple, using as many fresh and raw ingredients as possible.
The menu consisted of guacamole (to accompany my salsa), a vegetable salad, and black beans and rice as the main dish. For dessert, I was keeping it really easy – sliced nectarines and plums tossed with a dab of agave nectar and mint leaves from the garden. Summer may be the only time of year that such a lazy course is acceptable! See…just another reason to love this season… Every item on the menu was low-fuss and could be made ahead of time, giving me the freedom to mingle with my guests throughout the night.
After prepping in the kitchen, I was able to focus on creating an inviting and celebratory environment – my favorite aspect of entertaining. Because our tiny backyard is such a lovely summer setting, filled with greenery, flowers, and edibles, I wanted to keep the table relatively simple so the garden backdrop would shine. Rather than dragging one of our formal dining tables outside (yes, we have more than one dining room table…) and re-arranging the patio, my husband created a “table” by putting a square piece of plywood over our fire pit. Once we covered it with a pretty blanket, you wouldn’t have known it was a makeshift setup. I then layered colorful dishes and napkins to bring the summer fiesta theme front and center.
For a little extra pizzazz, I filled an empty bottle of Kah tequila (…love the Day of the Dead design…) with flowers and herbs clipped from our yard and then I took an arrangement of gladiolus, which had been adorning our dinning room table, outside for another pop of color. The patio looked quite festive!
About 30 minutes before our friends arrived, my husband pre-mixed two different Mezcal-ritas: watermelon cilantro and mango mint. Delicious! When the door bell rang, he poured the smoky drinks over ice and served them to our guests as they entered our home. For those not partaking in the margaritas, we had yummy non-alcoholic offerings: kiwi lemonade and cucumber mint water.
At the conclusion of dinner, we simply removed the impromptu table top and lit a fire. The new ambiance made it possible to talk and tell stories late into the evening.
After each party we host, I like to reflect on what went really well and what I’d like to change next time. The salsa, guac, and margaritas were especially delicious! I would serve them again and again. I also loved the furniture arrangement. I was so glad that we kept it informal – that was perfect for the fiesta theme (I knew there was a reason for the random piece of plywood taking up space in our garage). The one thing I would change? The rice and beans were very good, but under seasoned. Thankfully I had a salt shaker on the table…which everyone used. The good news is that even with that small glitch, by the end of the night everything was eaten – no leftovers. An entertainers dream.
In summer, let the outdoors be your entertaining inspiration. Take a party or picnic to the patio or…if you’re short on space, head to a local park! Keep the menu simple and instead focus on your surroundings and, of course, your guests. If you are looking for a theme – a summer fiesta is fun and easy to pull together with little advance notice.