Last week my husband and I hosted a summer gathering for the VPs at his company and their partners — a way for us to say thank you and to celebrate the season (and a reason for us all to have dinner together!) Looking back, I wanted to share a few of my tips for the ins and outs of hosting a summer dinner to guide you in gathering group get-togethers of your own.
You don’t have to do it all
When we host big parties, the last thing I want to be doing is spending the evening in the kitchen cooking for 30+ people. I love to bake and entertain and make spaces beautiful but have learned that outsourcing some responsibility—ie, bringing in a little help with the food—is always worth it. I’ve been known to “cater” an entire dinner party by ordering dinner from a favorite restaurant to-go on Favor and then re-plating it into nice serving bowls. Keep it simple.
For this we enlisted the help of a local favorite restaurant, Contigo, who does a spit-grilled whole roasted pig dinner that’s a total crowdpleaser and just elaborate enough. That said, if cooking is your thing, consider hiring out for part of the planning: the flowers, the decorations, or the clean-up. Make the occasion suit what you’re good at and everything will run more smoothly (and you’ll probably have a lot more fun, too).
Divide and conquer
My husband Greg and I work together when we’re planning an event — I love running with a creative vision so I enjoy taking the reigns on options and we figure out as a team what’s the best fit for the occasion. And where I love handling the decor and the concept, Greg’s MO is all about hospitality, making sure our guests feel comfortable and taken care of (since this was a party for his team, we gave them all gift bags with a candle and a Yeti tumbler as a takeaway gift).
Create a welcoming environment
Think about the space, the time of day, and the duration of your gathering: if there’s down time, what can you do to make your guests comfortable? For this we decided to have lawn games (corn hole!) to mix it up.
Use what’s around you
A good party is one that feels natural and easy — to me, a big part of this is cultivating relationships with local spots that can become your go-tos. I always use the same spot for flowers: Posey Floral (they even did the flowers at my wedding!) Find people you love and stick with them — a true mantra for life, actually.
The Contigo menu
El Pepino—Tequila, cucumber juice, lime juice, mint simple syrup, cucumber, and mint to garnish.
The Nor’easter—Bourbon, lime juice, maple syrup, allspice, bitters, ginger beer, lime
– Preserved peach, almonds, almond oil, housemade ricotta toasts on grilled country bread
– Ceviche with cucumber, melon, serrano, olive oil, lemon, herbs, and served with tortilla chips
– Smoked duck breast, preserved summer vegetables, and arugula served with fennel cracker
– Panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes, shallot, and herbs
– Grilled corn on the cob with avocado and creme fraiche
– Crispy fingerling potatoes, beer mustard, house bacon, celery, roasted onion, herbs (GF)
– Whole roasted pig from Richardson Farms
Photography by Dennis Burnett Photography