When the weather is good there is nothing to match the experience of eating outdoors in the company of friends and family. And there is no doubt that having a veranda or patios area big enough to accommodate everyone is the ultimate in luxury.
But if you are fairly new to the idea of dining outside, how do you really make sure it goes with a swing?
Let’s assume first of all that you will be accepting your guests during the early evening. That means it may be light when they arrive, but dark by the time the meal is finished. Lighting is therefore a top concern, as you don’t want to be caught out running around trying to find some candles while the sun is going down!
Choose some elegant candles of a colour that matches any table linen you are using; white or cream always looks good if you are unsure. It also pays to choose ones that have a long burning life. Cheaper candles don’t tend to last as long and you don’t want to be up and down replacing them the whole evening.
If there are children present make sure the candles are well out of reach. The same applies with any patio heaters you might decide to use if it has a tendency to get a bit chilly as the evening wears on.
When it comes to the cutlery and crockery, some people have a separate set that they only use for outdoors. If you see this as a good excuse to treat yourself to a new set, then a simple white china design will always be a classic as far as style is concerned.
You also need to think about protecting any food from flies or midges, or any other flying insects that are about. If you are bringing the food to the table make sure you use covered dishes; glass lids are ideal so people can still see what’s inside. This will apply to both hot and cold food, and using a food warmer or hot plate to keep the hot food nice and warm during the meal is a great idea.
Obviously the best setting for a spot of outdoor dining is on a veranda or patio close to the house, since you will be able to bring food outside without having to walk too far to do so. Plan the practicalities of the meal in plenty of time so you can buy anything you need and set the table accordingly. There is nothing worse that having to rush round at the last minute trying to find what you need.
And of course once the table is laid and the guests have arrived, all that remains is to enjoy the good food you will be cooking. Make sure you plan your menu ahead of time and make anything that can be cooked and kept the day before if possible. It will give you less work to do on the day, and more time to enjoy the event itself.