In Arizona, we’re super lucky to be able to eat outdoors most of the year. The funny thing is, when we’re tucked inside during the sweltering summer, the rest of the country is enjoying their weather. In the winter, it’s the complete opposite for us. Al fresco dining is one of my favorite themes — here’s how I pull it off, time after time:
Setting the table
There are so many ways to set up an al fresco table. Keep it organic and simple, and you can’t go wrong. Try mixing and matching plates and silverware with different materials to keep the place setting interesting. The black and white striped napkin above gives a fresh feel and the silver charger lends a vintage vibe.
For a great ambiance, I like to set up a table in the yard under a tree strung with lights. There’s something wonderful about that string light glow from above that can make even the most ordinary setting feel magical. Costco has a great set of outdoor lights, but they’re also available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
To me, al fresco dining calls for a menu that is simple and casual, yet a bit upscale. A meat dish and a fish dish seem to please all palates. Here are my favorites for each.
Roasted Balsamic Beef Tenderloin
Get the recipe here.
Get the salmon recipe here.
The tenderloin can be prepped ahead of time and the salmon is a quick prep. This grain side is easy and yummy. It’s from Trader Joe’s, called Harvest Grains Blend. Sometimes I will add toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley for texture and color.
A fresh, green salad is a great option. I love this one.
Keep your drinks on ice, and use them as an opportunity to add to the ambiance. I found some vintage wine buckets at a local antique store called Piece & Story — what a great find! Keep a look out for good galvanized options in both buckets and beverage tubs too.
One of the best ideas I have seen for wine is putting magnums of rosé wine (so chic) in a nice cooler. It gives the vibe of a cool, casual party, while still making a statement. After all, you can never have enough rosé.