Hosting Tips

A Garden-to-Table Summer Feast

By Chanel Dror
flower arrangement

Summer is blazing by, and it’s made me realize that we’re a quarter-way through July and I still haven’t hosted a proper al fresco dinner party… shame! Granted, we have been experiencing a disproportionately rainy summer this year, but that’s still no excuse. Today’s refreshing party from Sophie Collins — what with its picturesque backyard setting, garden inspired menu and fizzy rosé spritzers — has inspired me to get my act together and plan something impromptu for this Sunday evening, as long as the weather cooperates! Finding that you need a dose of inspiration as well? This casual backyard gathering is sure to be the boost you need, and armed with Sophie’s recipes and tips to recreating her laid back summer vibe, you’ll be able to entertain effortlessly all summer long…

*photography by Christie Graham

Tell us about the inspiration behind this gathering:

I love dining outside in the summer. The sun stays around for a few extra hours, and the general pace of life is just that much more relaxed. My boyfriend’s family is Italian and we’ve spent almost every Sunday for the last few summers eating salads directly from the garden. I thought that a casual dinner with fresh food and flavors would be a perfect way to celebrate all that the season has to offer.

Sophie is wearing a chambray shirt from Old Navy and a necklace by Leah Alexandra.

Sophie’s party took place in her boyfriend’s parents’ backyard. They are avid gardeners who never miss a chance to utilize their outdoor space, whether its relaxing with family or sharing a glass of wine with friends. 

Sophie: I’m lucky to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour!

I’m always inspired by what is on the tables at the farmers’ market and what I’m finding in vegetable gardens. There’s just something about fresh produce that is so refreshing. You can never go wrong with garden lettuce, especially arugula (my personal favorite).

What’s on the menu?

As always with my menus, I like to keep it simple and fresh, with a few dishes that I can make ahead of time. Everything on the table is seasonal and can be found at the farmer’s market. While it isn’t a traditional barbecue with meat on the grill, it’s great because you can jump in the pool afterwards without feeling too weighed down. I bought a fresh loaf of multigrain bread (keeping with the healthy vibe) and put out some figs to munch on. For the main salads, I made a take on a Caprese Salad inspired by my favorite dish from a charming little restaurant in Rome called La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. I also made an Herb and Lemon Israeli couscous dish. We finished it off with some fresh nectarine and mint (spritzed with lemon juice).

Click here to get the recipe for Sophie’s simple Caprese Salad.

Tell us about your gorgeous flower arrangement:

Gloria from Flower Factory put together this incredible garden arrangement. If you look closely, you’ll see that she added fresh figs from her garden, which totally tie the whole table setting together. It’s unfussy and stunningly beautiful at the same time, the perfect summer arrangement.

Your three main tips for hosting a relaxed outdoor dinner party:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! My friends and I often get together and each bring one course. It cuts down on the work the host has to do, and makes everyone more relaxed.
  2. Keep the dress code casual – bathing suits mandatory when poolside.
  3. Have a signature cocktail that is easy to throw together so you’re not worrying about manning a full bar.

What drinks did you serve?

I served my favorite wine which is rosé. It’s so versatile and everyone loves it! This particular rosé is extremely cost effective with a beautiful label to boot! Since summer parties tend to start in the afternoon, I made spritzers so people could also be hydrated.

Your favorite thing about summer entertaining:

The sun! Everyone’s in a great mood, the smell of fresh food is abundant, and people always want to linger a little longer.

Sophie uses these bowls from Crate & Barrel and drinking glasses from Paesano; the hand painted table and chairs were purchased in Florence.

Follow Sophie on Instagram for more swoon worthy party inspiration!