Say bye-bye to boring barbecues

More than a corral of lawn furniture, your back yard can be a real escape

Make summer memorable this year by turning your backyard entertaining into a special event. Let others throw another shrimp (or steak or burger) on the barbie: Set your gatherings apart by dressing them up with accessories and a colourful theme.

You and your family probably have plenty of cookouts on the deck or patio. So when guests are invited, it’s fun to jazz things up a little. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind, along with some theme ideas to get you started:

Tips for a great outdoors

Leave the paper in the cupboard. Paper plates, napkins and tablecloths do not scream “special.” If your sense of style calls for it, and your budget allows, invest in beautiful fabric table coverings and cloth napkins. For an elegant event, use your best china.

If you’re working with a more informal theme, check import stores and second-hand shops for cheap and cheerful fabric table coverings and napkins. Or do it yourself with fabric by the metre or a big sheet. (A sharp pair of pinking shears can work wonders.)

You can find fun plates in dollar stores, or try bright solid and floral melamine dishes from the Loblaws PC Home collection and other home decor stores.

Don’t settle for plain-Jane beverage glasses. If you’re going for class, get out the crystal and let it sparkle under the stars. For a more casual atmosphere, look for pretty acrylic drinking glasses in every kind of pattern from flowers to butterflies to nautical (all unbreakable and great for kids). You can even find high-tech plastic glasses for wine and other beverages at Loblaws and some specialty stores — ideal for around the pool.

Let there be light — but softly, please. Glaring spotlights are for parking lots, not patios. Think candles — in tall silver holders, vintage metal lanterns or frosted glass votives — on the table and throughout the garden. Use strings of mini-bulbs or tube lighting for safety in high-traffic areas or dense foliage.

You’re outdoors — decorate with live plants and flowers. Garden centres are overflowing with gorgeous things right now. If your own garden looks a bit thin, pick up some new flowering plants and poke them in the ground in pretty groupings.

If it’s a very special event, you can order a custom container planting (or several) from florists and many garden centres. Don’t stop there — flowers belong on the table, too. Whether formal or rustic, ready-made or do-it-yourself, flowers and food belong together.

Goodie bags aren’t just for kids. Surprise your guests with a small keepsake of the event. Herbs or other plants in small metal or clay pots are charming. For a touch of luxury, set out beaded ornaments or tassels. Mini-bouquets/posies in inexpensive glass containers are another option. Let your imagination play with all the possibilities.

Beverages (alcoholic and non) should look as good as they taste. Add berries, slices of lemon or lime, even edible flowers like begonia or rose petals (pesticide-free, naturally). Freeman Herbs, a commercial grower in Beamsville, suggests sprigs of lemon verbena or lemon balm in lemonade. Mints are fabulous with iced tea and most fruit juices. Be sure to have plenty of ice on hand. (If you make your own, you can freeze herb flowers or leaves in the cubes.)

Themes set the scene

Create a theme to suit your style or adapt one of these, ranging from simple to classic.

Exotic tropical barbecue

-Colourful batik tablecloth and napkins

-Bright multi-coloured acrylic glassware

-Tropical/floral glass or melamine plates

-Glazed pork, shrimp, and fruit barbecued on skewers

-Tropical plant and flower decorations (cannas, coleus, orange lilies)

-Painted fans, paper lanterns, bamboo coasters as keepsakes

Mediterranean intermezzo

-Natural linen or embroidered tablecloth and napkins

-Heavy glass tumblers, glass or acrylic wine glasses

-Floral-patterned pottery or melamine plates

-Grilled vegetables, pasta and veggie salads, selection of breads and cheeses

-Bright red geraniums in urns, terra cotta mixed-herb planters

-Pots or mini-wreaths of rosemary or thyme to take home.

Country-casual backyard picnic

-Rustic red-and-white checked cloth table coverings

-Bright bandana napkins

-Barnyard-themed glassware

-White enamelled-metal or melamine plates

-Classic menu of barbecued chicken, potato salad and lemonade

-Native flowers decorating the table and for guest keepsakes.

About this article:

By: Mary Fran McQuade
Posted: Jul 15 2010 2:06 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto