Summer Entertaining: Tips and Trends

By Kathy Reilly, founder and CEO of Lifestyle Advisory

As we head into mid-summer, I really relish the idea of entertaining at home. It’s more personal, more relaxed, and no one is waiting for your table to turn over!

After a few summers of entertaining at home and watching some friends who pull it off effortlessly at a moment’s notice, here are some ideas, tips, trends and food for thought (pardon the pun) for you to consider as you think through the remainder of your summer festivities.

I find it helpful at the outset of summer to really think through my wine needs and plan accordingly. You can typically get good pricing if you buy by the case and couple that with some on-sale items, you really get some good savings which make racing through bottles on a balmy evening a little easier to swallow!

My list:

  • Copious amounts of rosé! Buy a case and have it on hand for impromptu pop-ins after the beach.
  • The yummy white to pair with the lobster you are consuming with good friends.
  • The fancy bottles to bring as gifts for the various cocktail and dinner parties you will be attending. I also find it helpful to stock up on wine bags, cards and ribbon to save last-minute scrambling as you head out the door!
  • Some nice reds to complement the ever-present steak on the grill. We have been leaning more toward pinot noir and away from heavier cabs, particularly in summer.
  • Some sparkling wine or Prosecco to have on hand for mimosas for brunch entertaining.

Our wine partners can help you curate a terrific summer drinking list with both familiar favorites and new varietals!

One thing I now find helpful to do is to either clearly mark or separate out my wines because, when the evening gets going, sometimes it is hard to distinguish the cheap and cheerful from the special occasion. I have emptied the trash the next morning and said “Geez, when did that bottle get opened??!!!”

Food and Decor
For summer food inspirations, consider a food truck for one of your upcoming events. Completely self-contained, the food truck saves a lot of wear and tear on your kitchen and is still novel enough that both kids and adults really enjoy it. I have seen pizza trucks with wood burning ovens, taco trucks, juice trucks, natural food trucks, just about anything you can imagine. Depending on what the truck is serving, you can supplement with some appetizers, sides and salads.

For a bit more of a DIY, casual vibe, a make-your-own food bar can be very fun and lets guests customize their meal. Hamburger, taco, salad and pizza bars, all with varied toppings, can also help with accommodating various food preferences, diets and allergies.

This also works for your bar. Multiple types of mixers, garnishes, and add-ons allow your guests to customize their own cocktail. I have even seen a Margarita bar with five different types of salt for the rim! (Himalayan pink, anyone?)

Speaking of mixers, one of the key time-savers I have found is the premade mixers that can be found in gourmet grocery and cooking stores as well as online. I used to be more of a purist and make my own cocktail mixers, but these have really come a long way in taste and integrity of ingredients. And they really make concocting some tasty cocktails very easy and quick. There are mixers that come in Moscow Mule, Margarita, Mojito, Cosmopolitan—just add the appropriate alcohol. I also found some great sangria mixers that also reduced prep time; just add a bottle of wine and some diced fruit and, voila, festive, delicious and easy to make in batches for a large group

In summertime, I tend to entertain with a bit of whimsy and personalization. Cocktail napkins with cheeky and fun sayings, color-coordinated drinking straws, monogrammed napkins and trays, quirky pool lights, mismatched but coordinating sets of melamine plates are all in my entertaining arsenal.  I collect things all year round and can find things from high to low that blend beautifully.

I think it is helpful to have a bit of a theme as well as it can help give you some direction when the fun choices for food, décor, table setting, etc. can be overwhelming. Colors are a good starting point (all white or navy and turquoise tend to be my favorites as that is my outdoor color palette) or a wild medley of things that are reflective of your garden.

Regional food themes also tend to work across food and décor.  Mediterranean, Moroccan and all-American are a few that give a hostess many options!

Cultivating signature hors d’oeuvres and drinks is also a great shortcut to being ready on short notice to have guests. I used to try and be creative and fresh with my entertaining. Never wanting to serve the same things twice to my guests, I would pore over new ideas, print out the recipes and show them to my husband. His answer was always the same: “Nope”. His philosophy is keep it simple, easy to execute and tasty. He didn’t mind that we served it before; he really wanted to stick with the tried-and-true! I since have come around to his way of thinking and now happily have a few standards that we have mastered in our rotation.

My go-to appetizers in a pinch:

  • Watermelon, feta and mint on a skewer
  • Mozzarella, tomato and torn basil leaf (also on a skewer)
  • Prosciutto wrapped around melon
  • Marcona almonds with some sea salt and a little olive oil drizzle

I am not particularly athletic so have always shied away from group activities, content to be on the sideline with a delicious beverage in hand. But, recently, I have been having a lot of fun with some backyard games—badminton, croquet, bocce, petanque—all great party games that are fun for all ages and can accommodate varying skill levels (even mine!).

You can find the games at a toy store or at one of the big-box retailers and, of course, online. I like to read up a little bit about each game before we play and give out little print-outs of the rules, the scorekeeping and the etiquette to my guests. Makes for a good party keepsake, too.

My last tip is the most important. A relaxed host is the best one. Your guests are happy to be in your company and share in your hospitality.

Wishing all our Reserved clients a happy and safe summer.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC reserves the right to change or terminate the Reserved program at any time and without notice. Reserved program participants accounts and activity are reviewed periodically to confirm that they continue to qualify for this program.

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