With a savvy garden plan, a bit of imagination and a dedicated do-it-yourself approach, Jackie Charest created the outdoor space of her dreams. (See A fuss-free yard with shade-loving plants.) Here, she shares some dinner party tips that allow her and her husband, Barry Maruk, to spend more time with their guests.
1. Greet guests with a "house drink" of Prosecco or rosé, and after that let them help themselves to beer and wine.
2. Serve an easy appetizer, such as whole tomatoes stuffed with herbs from the garden, bread crumbs, bocconcini and olive oil. Jackie and Barry grill them on the barbecue until they’re oozing and ready to explode—delicious!
3. For the main, serve flank steak because it’s easy to marinate the day before and is big on flavour.
4. Prepare assorted cold salads a day in advance so you’re not in the kitchen when guests are outside. Orzo with grilled veggies and artichoke pesto, wild rice salad and good greens are Jackie’s favourites.
5. Ice-cream sandwiches are a no-fail dessert. "I cheat and buy the cookies from a bakery," admits Jackie. "Chocolate chip, oatmeal, ginger, peanut butter, whatever—and put a layer of good vanilla ice cream inside. Everybody loves them!"
Check out the following pages to discover more finishing touches for your alfresco dinner party.
Main image: A pitcher of fresh lime water on a tray with freshly cut spider mums makes an easy yet pleasing display.