Dining Alfresco: A Guide to Elegant Outdoor Tablescapes
Summer’s in full swing and what better way to enjoy the cheerful weather than by spending as much time outdoors as possible? One of our favorite summer pastime activities is having a picnic in nature or going to outdoors restaurants. So much so that we’ve decided to fuse two into one and try our hand at alfresco dining.
What is alfresco dining?
The term al fresco comes from the Italian language and loosely translated means "in fresh air." Dining alfresco simply means eating outside, but it’s not your regular picnic on the blanket — this type of dining usually involves refined tablescapes, comfortable seating and a generally more party-like atmosphere.
Alfresco dining can happen anywhere: from cafes, pubs, and restaurants to gardens, picnic-ready spots with seating and even your own backyard. You might’ve seen alfresco dining options offered by some establishments, which generally means you’ll be seated in a patio or another designated outdoor space.
Things to consider when dining alfresco
There are many benefits to dining outdoors: you get to enjoy the beautiful nature around you, breathe fresh air, gaze at the stars… But to make the most of your experience, here are some important things to consider.
1. Pick the location and check the weather
One of the main reasons to dine outdoors is to marvel at the nature that surrounds us so pick a scenic spot: lush greenery, blue skies, mountains, flower fields, bodies of water will really help with setting the mood. However, do consider the fact that your guests will have to use a restroom at some point or if you’re serving multiple meals having to walk miles to the nearest house will not be very convenient.
Also, depending on your location, check the weather to make sure there’s so rain or heavy winds in the forecast. If it gets chilly, have some blankets ready or maybe even a heater or a fireplace to keep your guests warm.
2. Decide on the table setting
Besides the gorgeous nature surrounding you, the table will be the second most important thing everyone’s eyes are going to be drawn to. So make sure you prop it up nicely! When creating a tablescape, you have to arrange many decorative ornaments together and make sure they don’t clash.
It doesn’t take fancy porcelain dishes or expensive glassware to exude the feeling of opulence and refinement. You can create effortlessly elegant tablescapes by mixing and matching your table linens, layering your plates, bringing in fresh flowers or candles. Even such small things as the length of a tablecloth or how the napkins are folded contribute to the ambiance.
3. Consider the food
Keep the recipes simple and let natural tastes shine through. It’s summer season so you’ve got lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and berries to choose from — make these ingredients the core of your dinner. Focaccia bread, cold gazpacho-like soup, and freshly grilled fish with goods from your garden or a local farmer’s market would be our go-to servings at a function like this.
4. Keep the bugs away
Oh, we all know these pesky bastards can really ruin the fun. Consider having some natural bug-repellents nearby, such as citronella candles, apple cider vinegar and lavender mix or something along those lines. If they’re particularly annoying, maybe it’s a good idea to offer your guests some bug spray. Don’t forget to protect your dishes as well — no one wants flies and mosquitos all over their meal.
5. Remember to have fun!
Hosting can be a dire task — you have to make sure the food is good, the drinks are cool, the guests are entertained, and so on. Not to mention constantly worrying about the weather and other forces of nature. But as we’ve recently learned from the interview with Julie Pointer Adams, author of Wabi-Sabi Welcome, hosting doesn’t have to be all that stressful.
According to Julie, embracing wabi-sabi principles will make you a more relaxed host: you’ll learn to embrace the natural imperfections, cherish the meaningful moments and not focus on superfluous things.