Having dinner in your backyard during warm weather has always been a way to make a meal seem more special, whether it’s a family night or you’re having several guests over.
Yet these al fresco meals tend to come with a caveat of giving up a few of the conveniences of staying inside, such as easy access to the kitchen and less-than-posh seating. Sometimes, the super-casual ambiance can detract from any special-occasion vibes you’re trying to create.
But there are plenty of ways to upgrade your outdoor dining experiences to match your aspirations for unforgettable feasts served to the people you love and value.
A GOOD SEAT AT A GOOD TABLE
Start by taking a look at the table and chairs you’re asking people to relax and enjoy the outdoors in for an extended period of time. Is it aging or faded? If it’s made of wood, is the frame starting to split and splinter? Are the chairs designed more for lounging, which can make eating from the table awkward?
Jettison the aging patio set in favor of modern furnishings with updated materials engineered to withstand years spent in the elements. Think glossy black metal frames with white padded seating around a glass-top table or durable teak, eucalyptus or robinia for a more natural look.
Puffy seat cushions can deliver the ultimate in comfort, but it’s easy to get lost in them. Consider more modern, cooler mesh seating or tightly woven wicker.
Once you have the stunning new set, make it a focal point of your patio or backyard by moving competing pieces of furniture away to make it clear this is the star attraction!
Make sure your plates, glasses and silverware live up to the standard set by your outdoor dining set by using high-quality dinnerware. Porcelain or china, especially bone china, are surprisingly durable and can give your table an elegant yet airy feeling that’s perfect for the outdoors in summer. Melamine is an extremely stiff, nearly indestructible material that comes in every color and pattern imaginable, and has its limits. It is not microwave-safe and you should not heat food on it.
Stainless steel is the most durable type of flatware and is as suited for outdoor use as inside, while bamboo is an alternative that can lend a lighter feel and make for easier cleanup. For napkins, you can do the unexpected and use cloth napkins, which are beautiful and eco-friendly.
LIGHT IT UP
A successful outdoor summer soirée will extend well into the evening, so be sure lighting is tasteful but illuminating for everyone’s comfort and safety. This includes making sure the rest of the yard is well-lighted, too, even if the table is going to be the focal point.
If you are going to regularly use your outdoor space (and why wouldn’t you) invest in quality wall sconces or other outdoor light fixtures if you don’t have them already. These can be supplemented with lanterns, string lights, candles and even a pendant light over the table.