Outdoor Entertaining with Style: Go Out on a Limb (That's Where the Fruit Is)

Apples in the orchard
Mellowing one by one;
Strawberries upturning
Soft cheeks to the sun;
Roses faint with sweetness,
Lilies fair of face,
Drowsy scents and murmurs
Haunting every place;
Lengths of golden sunshine,
Moonlight bright as day,--
Don't you think that summer's
Pleasanter than early May?

-- Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Marjorie's Almanac

The summer sunshine brings out the best in us and stimulates the desire to bring friends and family together. Outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the majority of Americans entertain the most between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Outdoor entertaining may present some different challenges but you can also consider them opportunities. I do.

Although twilight sparkles as dusk descends, it often isn't enough to illuminate outside dining. Consider the prepackaged paper lanterns that come in a rainbow of colors. Manufacturers have also created battery operated options in case you don't have an outside outlet. And natch always include votives and hurricane lamps for extra lighting. With all these varying heights, the eyes can dance all over the table and embrace the warmth that envelops the overall ambiance.

Suzanne Lovell, a Chicago-based interior designer and architect, uses the vibrant colors of summer fruits to inspire her menus as well as her table settings. "Often people make the mistake of worrying about how the food will look on a plate and then opt for boring white plates instead of trying different options," she says. "But after the meal, people only remember how beautiful the table looked when they arrive and the taste of the food, not how the food looks on a plate."

Considering that the majority of meals are served buffet style during the summer with the grill in active use, perhaps it's time to use the colors of summer as a launching pad.

Pears can become weights on napkins to prevent it from blowing away while simultaneously pleasing the aesthetic senses. Foods ranging from garlic, corn and lemons can be used in vases along with flowers. Fill cups with strawberries. For a dash of daring, mix up plates while keeping the tangerine colored napkins consistent.

In life, don't be afraid to go out on a limb. After all, that is where the best fruit is.

Summer Tablesetting Ideas