Ingrid Pankonin loves to share meals with friends and prides herself on being a highly organized (Virgo) and easygoing hostess. If she had an outdoor-entertaining motto, it might be Plenty of drinks and plenty of common sense! Here's what she told us. Plan ahead, to make your party as self-service as possible. Anticipate what people might need because theyre outdoors, and put these things where your guests can find them, including sunscreen, beach towels (to sit on or wrap up in), sunhats, and even Kleenex. Assemble your outdoor entertaining kit in advance. I think real dishes are much more pleasing than paper or plastic. They don't all need to match. I also like mason jars, which are so inexpensive. I have a whole arsenal of different sizes. They are quite sturdy, and you can use them for hot or cold drinks. Mason jars are a wonderful way to serve mulled wine or hot cocoa. They even come with shaker lids now for making cocktails. Pitchers always look nice, whether vintage or modern. It's festive and helpful to tie a tag onto the handle with twine or ribbon, letting your fuests know which beverage is which: sweetened, unsweetened, non-alcoholic, etc. My three key points for entertaining when its warm: First, because fresh flowers will tend to wilt, use small potted plants or herbs for dcor. After the party, you can send them home with your guests, or plant them in your garden. Second, serve foods that are not foing to sweat or dry out. So save the cheese plate for another occasion. Third, keep your condiments tasty and cool by making a little ice bath for them. Buy a bag of ice, place it in a large bowl, and sprinkle a layer of rock salt on top. Nestle your bottled condiments, butter dishes, bowls of salsa, and so forth into the ice. My three key points for entertaining outdoors at night: First, I'm very big on battery-powered candles, especially festive little flickering votives. You can put them in hurricane lamps, or in used-up wax candle jars, or in paper bag luminarias on the ground. You can also safely use them in dangling containers, and they wont burn if you suspend them in trees. Second, if you want to serve food that is piping hot, select menu items that are bulky, like casseroles or chili, because individual pieces or slices lose heat more quickly. Third, put out mosquito repellent, and perhaps a big wicker basket of blankets, so your guests stay comfortable. Whether youre hosting an afternoon pool party, a barbecue, or a croquet match, set up a bar where people can serve themselves. Instead of being the bartender, you can enjoy your own party. INGRID PANKONIN Standard Fare in Berkeley, Calif. Ingrid Pankonin has cooked in a handful of San Francisco Bay Area restaurants, and she's also run her own catering business. She is currently cooking and baking at Standard Fare, a new high-end takeout kitchen and pantry in West Berkeley.
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Written by Alyson Kuhn Photography by Brent Holland
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