Owning Outdoor Entertaining
The backyard barbie has been a mainstay of the Kiwi summer for decades. So long, in fact, that it’s now associated with a few unfortunate clichés – charred snags, tacky tableware and mosquito bites, to mention just a few.
But as our outdoor spaces have become an extension of our home interiors, summer barbie style has been elevated to a whole new level. We’re cooking with gas (pardon the pun) and using wood-fired pizza ovens, outdoor fires and all sorts of other equipment to up the ante when entertaining outside. Chipotle aioli, artisanal sausages and whole fish have been added to the menu alongside saveloy-style snarlers and coleslaw.
It makes sense, then, that outdoor tableware is also becoming much more stylish. Kitsch paper plates and plastic cutlery are out; pieces that are tailormade for outdoor conditions (but would look equally great indoors) are in.
After being cooped up indoors over winter, gaining a bit of space by hosting a gathering outdoors gets everyone excited about entertaining again. And this means it’s time to have a bit of fun with your outdoor dining setting. It’s simply a matter of a little al fresco set dressing and styling. Set the scene with greenery, glassware, napkins, candles and lovely lighting, then light the barbecue, get some good tunes going and kick back in the fresh evening air.
10 Outdoor Entertaining Tips
- If you want to create an impact with a table centrepiece, go for a low vase filled with simple flowers or sprigs of greenery to enhance the outdoor theme. If you don’t have room at the centre of the table for a vase, placing a stem or two of flowers or herbs on each napkin looks lovely. Alternatively, for an instantly Instagrammable look, drape vines all the way down the centre of the table.
- If you don’t have enough room for everyone to sit down at a table outdoors, go for food that can be served in buns or lettuce wraps, so that people can eat while standing up/perched on a step — think sausages, pulled meats, chunky salads and so on. Alternatively, go for a Middle Eastern vibe with lots of outdoor rugs, beanbags and cushions for people to sit around on the ground and eat.
- If you don’t have space for people to mill about and eat, or you live in an apartment, think about hosting a picnic at a nearby park, or simply invite people over for cocktails and a few canapes on your balcony (check out our excellent cocktail ideas here).
- Make life easier for yourself by getting as much food as possible prepped ahead. Chop and shred (and cook, if necessary) vegetables for salads on the morning of the event, then put them in serving bowls, ready to be dressed just before serving. Also make your dressings ahead of time by shaking the ingredients up in a jar and storing in the fridge. Other components — from crumbled cheese to toasted nuts and croutons — should also be prepped, then stored in airtight containers ready to toss through at the last minute. Marinade meats the night before to add flavour, and slice citrus fruit ready for drink garnishes/ water jugs. If you’re serving dessert, go for something that can be made the day before — a classic pavlova is always a hit.
- If you’re catering for more people than you have crockery available, bamboo products are a great option; they’re better for the environment than plastic and look good too.
- Think about what people might be drinking and make sure you have a chilly bin filled with ice ready for beer/wine bottles, as well as some non-alcoholic options available. Flavoured syrups are a nice addition to your bar area — add a drop to sparkling water for an interesting non-alcoholic option; mix in a shot of vodka for an instant cocktail.
- Think about music prior to your event, and have a good playlist cued to go — Spotify has plenty of great playlists to help you out, from summer-themed tunes to 80s classics. If you really want to be down with the kids, check out the Laneway Festival 2018 playlist, which features artists playing at next year’s Laneway music festival in Auckland’s Albert Park.
- If your barbecue’s likely to include a gang of children running around, go for drinkware that’s not going to break if it’s accidentally knocked over. We’re biased, of course, but it’s hard to go past the unbreakable Tritan range, which is both good-looking and durable.
- Guard against pesky bugs as much as possible with citronella coils, scented candles and covers for food.
- When night falls, fairy lights or lanterns will add charm and romance to your setting – hang paper lanterns or strands of twinkling lights for great effect. For extra style bonus points, intertwine the lights with foliage.