How to entertain outdoors

June 29, 2011

Here are some ideas Rieger has to share on summer entertaining, whether on a deck, in a garden or on the water.

1. Choose a menu of dishes that don’t have to be served piping hot. For a recent party, she made trays of spanakopita, the Greek spinach-and-feta cheese pie.

2. Organize plastic dinner plates, cutlery, tablecloths and napkins in large rope-handled plastic tubs. Then you can haul everything out of your house in one or two trips.


The gazebo at the end of the pier in Rieger’s backyard serves as the perfect venue for al fresco summer parties. (Andrew Hensler/For The Washington Post)

3. Bring lots of ice for beverages. Buy even more bags than you think you’ll need. Plunge beer, wine bottles (that you have already uncorked) and waters into plastic buckets filled with ice.

4. Ask several friends to show up with a couple of additional bags of ice so you can keep things chilled throughout the evening. You can dump those on top of the beverages and you won’t have to go back inside.

5. Serve all drinks in tumblers. Line up glasses on trays to bring outdoors. Rieger has discovered that stemmed glasses are too hard to balance on the water.

6. Be organized and bring everything you need down before guests arrive. “It’s a long way back,” Rieger says. In her case, the walk is about 40 feet to the start of the pier from her kitchen, then a 180-foot stroll down to the end of the pier.

7. Deal with clean- up after guests leave. Rieger asks everyone to pile their plates in tubs. She doesn’t worry about it until evening’s end, saying, “There’s nothing more disruptive to a party than shuttling back and forth with dirty dishes.”

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