Even when I am traveling, I always find time to entertain. When I was in Paris last month working on my new book, I invited some friends over for a casual kitchen picnic. After recipe testing all day long, cooking was not on the menu! I made things easy for myself and bought some gorgeous and deliciously French bites that I knew would be instant crowd-pleasers, like a couple of sweet and savory tarts, mini quiches, fresh fruit and super-luxe truffle potato chips. I wanted to make sure that I had a variety of flavors and textures on the table, but also kept in mind what would make it easy for my guests to help themselves throughout the evening. The best part? You can recreate this with items from your favorite grocery store! Most supermarkets have prepared food sections that offer a great selection of delicious picnic-ready components, like tarts, salads and olives. Pick up a few condiments, like fig preserves and dijon mustard, grab a fresh baguette, some fresh flowers and of course wine! Most definitely cannot forget the wine!
Recipes & Entertaining Ideas
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Hosting an al fresco soirée is one of my favorite things to do when the weather is just too beautiful to stay indoors. For this years Le Dîner en Blanc Chicago I partnered with Caspari to create the ultimate, portable tablescape perfect for an all-white dinner outside! Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, and shoppable links (all from behind the scenes!) so you can easily recreate my tablescape for yourself at home or on-location!
Watch: WGN News Segment featuring Caspari and Le Dîner en Blanc
S&P Potato Chips
Entertaining during the summer should be all about ease, simplicity, and should include things that can be done ahead of time for your soirée! For any holiday-themed event food is a fun (and easy!) way to bring it to life. But, keeping it simple and stress-free is important. These six do-ahead ideas can be done with simple items found easily at the grocery store, craft store, and even items already in your own pantry that will bring the party to life!
Kick off your own fireworks with these six do-ahead ideas for a summer soirée in red-white-and-blue style!
Champagne or wine glasses get a festive makeover with streaming ribbon
Red, white, and blue ribbons tied with a simple knot onto the stems of glassware is an effortless transformation with a dramatic effect! Make sure the tails are extra-long! As your guests hold their glasses the ribbon cascades for a stunning look, especially when multiplied across the backdrop of the party. Matching-patterned cocktail napkins will pull this look together. Use this simple idea to accentuate those savvy cheers-worthy moments!
Get organized right from the beginning
Once you have decided on your menu, choosing the right serving dish is a helpful and time-saving next step. Write on a sticky note with each of your menu items and label each serving piece with the corresponding sticky note. This is also helpful during prep the day of the party when a guest asks, “Where should I put the veggie burgers?” All they have to do is look for the labeled platter! Your food table is planned, organized, and ready to go.
Create a color-pop platter
Having platters and other serving pieces for every holiday can be an expensive investment, not to mention a storage overload. Instead, use acrylic rock crystals (they are typically used as filler in vases or scattered around a table) to punch-up an everyday white platter! Choose a combination of colors (two or three—four or more is a bit overwhelming) that captures the colors of your theme. Then, simply use a hot glue gun to affix the faux gems to the rim of a heat-proof platter. You can do them in a pattern, a cluster, or arranged as section dividers on the platter. After the party is over, the acrylic rocks just pop off leaving behind your simple white platter ready for the next holiday!
Candles are key
Hurricanes had height, light, and a bit of drama to any décor. Use the same acrylic rock crystals as the color-pop platter idea to create hurricanes on theme with your holiday look! Place your candles in the hurricanes. Mix together the three rock crystal colors, in this case red, silver, and blue. Pour the rock crystals around the candles in each hurricane, about half way up the height of the candle.
Take-out containers filled with make-ahead recipes
Doing as much ahead of time is key to keeping your soirée simple and stress-free. After all, you want to enjoy the party, too! A delicious and easy-to-make summer pasta salad is the answer. Pasta salads taste better when you make them in advance and allow the flavors time to meld together. Since you are already in the kitchen making a fabulous summer pasta salad (like my Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad!), why not do one more small step to package it up in individual servings using take-out containers, also dressed with ribbon tails. This is the easiest way to pack food for large groups without having to worry about serving bowls and utensils, spoons, and forks—just include a set of to-go chopsticks for each guest! Best of all, the container, ribbon, and chopsticks are all recyclable, making clean-up easiest of all!
Ribbon napkin rings
Do you have a drawer filled with mix-and-match napkin rings? Where do their counterparts go? It’s like the tabletop equivalent of socks “eaten” by the dryer! Ribbon is the go-to solution when you need to add a bit of flair to a tablesetting, BBQ, or picnic. Wired-edge ribbon is a perfect substitute for dedicated holiday napkin rings. Instead of owning a set of twelve red- white-and-blue glittered star napkins rings to use once (maybe twice) a year, buy a spool of glittery star ribbon as a perfect alternative!