Hosting Tips

A Southern-Style Dinner Party to Celebrate Spring!

By Camille Styles

Y’all, the countdown has begun: we’re only two weeks away from the first day of spring! Why not pick a free Saturday on your calendar and invite friends to your back patio (or a nearby picnic spot) to celebrate with an open air dinner party? When warmer temps arrive, I want to eat as many meals outside as possible, and the season’s most colorful bounty provides endless options for a tabletop inspired by nature. As a nod to my Texas roots, I recently kicked off the season by inviting friends to join me around a long farm table at Mattie’s for a Southern-inspired menu paired with refreshing La Crema wines. Keep scrolling for the recipes, pairings, and tabletop ideas, and cheers to an entire season of al fresco dining ahead!

photos by Kristen Kilpatrick, florals by Margot Blair, food styling by Amanda Darby, location Mattie’s // in partnership with La Crema

Southern entertaining is all about easy sophistication: breezy linens, bunches of happy flowers, and big platters of seasonal food set the stage for this meal. In keeping with the graciousness that defines a Southern host, I try to think about which details will make my guests feel comfortable, taken care of and well-fed.

For a casual weekend dinner party, I always serve food family style. There’s nothing like having guests pass around abundant platters of food to get them mingling and create a communal experience.

A fun way to elevate any dinner party is to suggest wine pairings with each menu item and let guests fill their glasses from the bottles on the table. For this dinner, we poured four different La Crema wines and paired them with the menu items below…

Our Southern-Inspired Dinner Party Menu:

These rainbow carrots with yogurt and pistachios are my new favorite side dish. Stay tuned for the recipe – I’ll share it soon!

Pre-dinner, we enjoyed a proper cocktail hour on the front porch to savor the warmer temps before the sun went down.

This salad is almost too easy for a recipe! It calls for just 5 main ingredients:

  • mixed baby lettuces
  • sliced strawberries
  • almonds (I love to use Marconas)
  • goat cheese crumbles
  • sliced mint

Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic, plus a sprinkle of flaky salt, and you’ve got spring’s simplest salad!

Jenn, Chanel, and Carmen from our team joined me at the table, along with our friends Walter and Ali. We started the meal with a crisp glass of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay — its stone fruit and melon flavors paired perfectly with the springtime breezes in the air.

Carly from House of Margot Blair created this gorgeous floral arrangement for the table. She used a combination of peonies, roses, ranunculus, dahlias, and poppies — in other words, all the most beautiful blooms of spring!

A whole side of salmon is hands-down my favorite dish for entertaining when I need to feed a crowd, especially since it looks impressive and is actually so easy. I roasted this one with chiles, citrus, and lots of fresh herbs.

Jenn, Ali, and Carmen taste the peach, papaya and crisp tangerine notes of the Monterey Chardonnay, balanced out with just the right amount of minerality.

Although many people default to always pairing fish with white wine, did you know that Pinot Noir and salmon are one of the most delicious combos ever? This one’s my favorite, thanks to its balanced acidity and multi-layered flavors of cherries, berries, and blood orange.

Our friend Walter is an incredible self-taught baker and brought along a basket of his homemade biscuits to dinner. Paired with lime-infused honey butter, they were the night’s greatest hit. And Walter officially gets my award for Best Guest Ever.

Guests filled their plates and savored the zesty, flavor-packed dishes over great conversation.

Jenn’s vote went to the Monterey Pinot Noir, with its juicy plum and berry flavors balanced by a subtle minerality. I personally drink this one with just about anything.

Get the recipe for our braised chicken thighs with olives, lemon, and thyme!

The trick to making this simple salmon dish look seriously party-worthy? It’s all in the garnishes. I bought citrus of every type and color, from lemons to tangerines to blood oranges, then thinly sliced them and layered all over the top of the salmon in a fish scale pattern for tons of “wow” factor.

We setup a simple self-serve bar in case guests wanted to venture inside and help themselves to a chilled glass of wine. Keep scrolling to get the details on this jaw-dropping floral ice bucket.

Chanel used a large champagne bucket as a mold to create this flower-filled wine chiller. Recreate the look at your next party with this nifty mold that makes the process super easy.

I’d never dream of hosting a dinner party without giving my guests a little something sweet to end the meal! I’m a proponent of picking up a delicious store-bought treat, especially if I made dinner from scratch – ’cause you know the hostess has got to enjoy her party, too!

I picked up this brown butter cake from a local bakery, then drizzled caramel sauce down the sides and crowned it with blackberries and fresh flowers to dress it up.

I sent my guests home with pickled veggie party favors. To make your own, chop up colorful veggies and place in jars with fresh herbs. Make a brine by combining equal parts water and apple cider vinegar and adding honey for sweetness. Fill the jars with your brine and your veggies will be good for a couple months!