Summer-style entertaining

Summertime, and the living is indeed easy at Cami Weinstein’s parties.

I love summer, and I love summer entertaining. There is a wonderful casualness about it, as it’s often an impromptu affair after a day at the beach. If the group is on the smaller side, I always use plates and glasses, not paper or plastic.

I love designing table settings and have an ever-growing selection of serving pieces and trays. My husband says I have never met a decorative serving plate that I could resist. Although I am not a theme decorator, I do find myself collecting pieces that vary on a theme and then mixing them with my other decorative serving pieces. Mixing my serving pieces creates a casual atmosphere, particularly with platters that can be passed around or set up buffet-style.

When entertaining outdoors in summer, I like to use easy, breezy tablecloths and linen napkins. A vase of flowers is a must along with hurricane candleholders. The hurricanes keep the candles from blowing out in the wind. The flowers are picked from my garden or bought from one of the many nearby farm stands and set the tone for the evening.  I use decorative trays to get everything in and out of the house and, depending on what I am serving, select from my serving pieces.

I have many “shell” designed pieces in porcelain, glass and ceramic that I use. I also collect brown and white transferware. (I had to stick with one color as the plate collecting can get a little out of control.) I also use a lot of white serving platters. Food always looks wonderful on white, and the white serving pieces mix easily with other colors and patterns of dinnerware that I have. I keep selections of both modern and vintage serving pieces, with the mood I’d like to convey determining which to use. Taking the time to care about the presentation lets guests know they are special and enhances the festive atmosphere. 

Don’t forget to set up a drink station.  I do love a stocked bar cart that can easily be moved around the patio or dining room. But if you don’t have one, you can easily create a drink station. Include an assortment of different glasses, cocktail napkins and snacks to accompany a signature drink that will set the tone for a fun summer evening. I also keep plenty of Rosé on hand, a summer standard. 

Setting up a drink station away from the kitchen also moves guests out of the kitchen, at least momentarily. (Usually, guests drift back into the kitchen, because, hey, that’s where the food is and often the hosts.) Another of my favorite summer additions is to fill a large beverage dispenser with lemonade, ice tea or fruit-flavored water. A simple recipe is to fill the dispenser with water and ice, then add sliced oranges or lemons, fresh mint or watermelon for a cool, refreshing summer drink.

I try to keep everyone’s dietary restrictions in mind and will include a platter of grilled veggies and gluten-free items so that everyone can have something they enjoy. We do have groups of friends with so many different eating issues that we often have potluck dinners. Everyone brings items they can eat and share. This takes a lot of pressure off the host and hostess, especially when there are multiple dietary issues in a group. It’s also really fun to try what everyone has brought. 

Desserts usually include something chocolate – a cake and some cookies – and a bowl of fresh fruit. We often linger far into the evening and, when in Montauk, often set up a contained beach fire to roast marshmallows and sit around on the beach. Watching the sunset and sharing an early evening dinner party with friends that goes far into the night is a perfect way to spend a summer evening. We have spent many such nights with family and friends that have created memories that we will treasure forever. 

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