Summer Dining Al Fresco – Keep It Simple

 Summer Dining Al Fresco is at it’s best right now here in the Northeast.

Summer Picnics

August is the Perfect Time for a Picnic

                                                                                                           Photo via The Sweetest Occasion

It’s the perfect time to call your friends and the neighbors you haven’t seen since you were shoveling out this past winter  (40″ here in Hamden, CT. in one storm…completely hideous) and invite them over for a simple, casual backyard picnic or dinner under the stars.To my snow loving friends and skiers….I’m sorry but y’all know I’m a warm weather girl. It was my son, living in sunny San Diego that called me and told me how much snow we actually had out my front door. It made CNN Headline News.

It’s time for the ubiquitous summer backyard picnic. A picnic should have these three components to be successful “Keep it Casual/Simple, Keep it Colorful and Keep it Fun. Naturally good food and drink goes without saying but honestly the food could be mediocre and if you have the three essentials.This photo is of a backyard wedding (how fun) but there’s no reason this can’t be your next backyard picnic.

This past Saturday evening our neighbors invited us over for a spontaneous dinner. When this happens it’s a treat in and of itself because Gina is an amazing cook and Kari a very creative gardener. Just to be able to meander through their “Secret Garden” backyard is a treat. He’s an architect here at Yale and I believe he has a pretty stressful day. He runs mid size projects all throughout the University. No small task as Yale has projects going up everywhere always. When he’s home his garden is his haven. He’s out there early morning and late into the evening EVERY day. The small garage many years ago was turned into a garden shed/workshop where he’s always building something. The front yard is also a garden, the walkway, a display of magnificent peonies in June. He builds magnificent trellis’ out of branches he trims just from the yard. I think the meaning of green and thrifty began in this garden. As I write this piece sitting out on my screened in porch overlooking his garden, I can hear him out there doing something before he hops on his bike to Yale. Being an architect he’s quite creative and has been repurposing found objects for years. From the second floor of my home we have a lovely glimpse down into the garden. So this past Saturday they called spontaneously ( I love this ) to invite us to dinner. A couple of hours later we see this teepee garden setting magically appear in the yard. So now I’m so excited for the evening. Little did they know I had a birthday on Monday and this was more than perfect to kick off the celebration. I’m so sorry I forgot to get a picture of it lit with the twinkling lights nestled at the top and the hanging lanterns that enveloped us as we dined. You’ll see why below. The food was divine, it was a gorgeous night and we got to catch up with neighbors we just don’t see enough. Enjoy!

Summer Dining Perfection

Summer Dining Perfection

A teepee like structure creating a charming canopy for our dinner and he always builds a fire for added ambiance. It’s so welcoming.This lit up was so inviting. Dining under a magical summer evening is perfection in the purest sense of the word.


                                  Just a few goodies to start. You can never go wrong with a french baguette, cheese, some parma and good wine.


Gina just has a knack for displaying everything so beautifully. The vintage tablecloths are always a colorful and charming reminder of how simple it can be to throw this together. These things make it easy. And naturally there’s always something colorful from the garden to add to the table. This type of dining is not about perfection or putting out a “Martha Stewart” like table. It’s all about simplicity and casual fun. It just take s a few colorful elements to pull it off and a vintage table-cloth and flowers are the best place to begin. One of the things Gina does that I love is she uses al different  tea towels and oversized dish towels to roll up her silverware in a little bundle making it easy to carry and easy to set out for everyone. Casual!


What’s in this bowl below is truly hard to put into words. I’ll try. It was succulent, clams sweet and briny, mussels tender and the roasted garlic. OMG! Heaven in a bowl. And then the best part is all the yummy juices at the bottom of the bowl…. clam juice, white wine, olive oil and herbs.


So the night went on as it does when we have diner here. Very European style as it always is. Many courses, bread and wine, course after cource,
(did I mention the next course of lobsters??? Yeah perfection also)  and then an amazing chocolate mouse cake, etc, etc…

A wonderful summer dining AL Fresco experience. Plan yours now as the nights will begin to get a little cooler and our summer produce won’t be as plentiful. Bon Apetite!

 I came across this newly published book by Annie Bell called, The Picnic Cookbook and I thought…..
how perfectly sweet and simple.
A book devoted just to picnics

The Picnic Cookbook

The Picnic Cookbook

She had me sold at the cover with the word picnic written in the sand. I for one would love this cookbook. Im kind of a cooking nerd, I actually read cookbooks cover to cover) I can’t think of a more perfect hostess gift to bring a couple friends this summer.

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