How To Host The Ultimate Al Fresco Dinner Party

How to Host the Ultimate Al Fresco Dinner Party

The most beautiful dinner parties are the ones hosted on those balmy summer evenings, bathed in the golden light of the setting sun, with candles flickering in the dusk, chilled glasses of wine clinking, meat sizzling away on the grill, and the table filled with colorful, fresh summer salads. While there is obviously a time and a place for paper plates, plastic cups, and ketchup-covered hot dogs, your elegant al fresco dinner party isn't it. Take all your chairs, tableware, and fairy lights outside, cook up a feast, and serve the most relaxed, but beautiful dinner party, out in the warm summer air.


It may have been a hot day, but it will get cooler when the sun goes down. Set out blankets on the back of the chairs so that the guests can keep themselves warm if the temperature drops.

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

A platter of bright, beautiful cherry tomato bruschetta set out on the table for your guests to nibble on as an appetizer is the perfect summery way to begin your al fresco dinner.

For the Cherry Tomato Bruschetta recipe, click here.

Chilled Vodka and Tomato Gazpacho

Serving soup at a dinner party tends to be challenging, but this summer gazpacho is served at room temperature, making it totally hassle-free.

For the Chilled Vodka and Tomato Gazpacho recipe, click here.

Citronella Candles

Keep the bugs away from your meal by lighting many citronella candles on and around the table. You may also want to provide bug spray to keep your guests from being bothered by the mosquitoes.

Farro, Corn, and Runner Bean Salad With Goat Cheese

A few bowls filled with this bright, healthy, and elegant summer salad will match whichever grilled entrée you choose to serve.

For the Farro, Corn, and Runner Bean Salad With Goat Cheese recipe, click here.  

French Potato Salad

Don't serve a cloying, mayonnaise-laden potato salad at your summer party — opt for this bacon-filled French potato salad instead.

For the French Potato Salad recipe, click here.

Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb

A grilled leg of lamb is a fantastic dish to serve if you're feeding a small crowd. Cover it with herbs and sea salt, and slice it before bringing it to the table so that your guests can simply help themselves.

For the Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb recipe, click here.

Grilled Romaine Hearts With Caesar Vinaigrette

Don't miss an opportunity to introduce your guests to this summer's best salad discovery: grilled romaine hearts. These are best served when they have just come off the grill.

For the Grilled Romaine Hearts With Caesar Vinaigrette recipe, click here.

Herbs and Potted Plants

For a rustic, outdoor party, there's no need to spend all your money on fancy flower decorations. Fill your table with the pots of herbs and flowers that are already decorating the outdoor space, for a relaxed, bohemian feel.

Ice Buckets Filled With Drinks

You don't want to be running in and out the house every time someone wants another glass of wine or water. Either place ice buckets down the table or on a flat surface nearby so that perfectly chilled drinks are always within arm's reach.

Infused Water

Rather than serving bottled water, make your own, even more delicious version by infusing filtered water with slices of cucumber, sprigs of mint, and wedges of lemon for an incredibly refreshing drink.

Marinated Olives With Fennel, Lemon, and Chile Pepper

Add some wonderful bright, spicy flavors to your olives and hand them round with a chilled drink as soon as your guests arrive.

For the Marinated Olives With Fennel, Lemon, and Chile Pepper recipe, click here.

Proper Tableware

Dining outside doesn't have to be synonymous with paper plates, plastic cups, and recyclable flatware. Bring the indoors out, and set the table as you would for any other dinner party.

Smoked Jalapeño Peppers

Stuff those jalapeño peppers with cheese, wrap them in bacon, and cook them on the grill for an indulgent, fun, and wonderfully addictive appetizer.

For the Smoked Jalapeño Peppers recipe, click here.


Set out buckets of sand filled with sparklers and, when the sun goes down, encourage your guests to play around with the golden, fizzing light: This will be the best dinner party fun they've had for a long time.

Spice-Roasted Almonds

You can make these homemade spiced, roasted almonds a few days ahead of your party and simply put them out in small bowls for guests to nibble on when they arrive.

For the Spice-Roasted Almonds recipe, click here.

Summer Berry Clafoutis

Don't forget to incorporate summer's most delicious berries into your dinner party menu, by ending the meal with a French-inspired berry clafoutis.

For the Summer Berry Clafoutis recipe, click here.

Tipsy Affogato

For the simplest of dinner party desserts, take a scoop of vanilla ice cream and pour hot coffee and a splash of liqueur over the top.

For the Tipsy Affogato recipe, click here.

Whole Grilled Chicken With Citrus Butter

You don't need to turn the oven on to roast a chicken. Cook it on the grill and serve with plenty of citrus butter for a wonderfully summery entrée.

For the Whole Grilled Chicken With Citrus Butter recipe, click here.

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

This zucchini and ricotta tart works both as an appetizer and as a side dish: It's light, fluffy, zingy, and is always a winner whenever it's served.

For the Zucchini and Ricotta Tart recipe, click here.