So you might be wondering why I'm writing about outdoor entertaining in winter when it's nearly May. It's because I'm currently on the Sunshine Coast in Australia where it's just over 5 weeks away from the beginning of Winter.
This is a sub-tropical region so although it does get a little cooler here the temperature on the coast never drops below freezing even on the coldest days and evenings. In fact I like the climate so much that I'm currently looking to find a new place to live here.
I have a lot of family in this part of the world, so I expect I'll be doing quite a bit of entertaining, and due to the local customs a lot of that will be done outside.
Actually it's rather reminiscent of Southern California here - the temperature averages around 20°C (68°F) during the day and about 9°C (48°F) at night here during the winter, so a little bit of outdoor heating is still needed at night.
Keeping the Guests Warm
The most important thing when you're entertaining outside is to make sure everyone is warm and comfortable, and you can do that with heating, lighting and with the kinds of food you serve.
Over the last two weekends I've been to evening outdoor dinner parties held in backyard patios with a roof but not walled in on all four sides. Although they were warm enough the temperature is starting to drop now and these occasions will soon need to be warmed up a little with heaters like the ones in the picture above from Thermofilm showing outdoor radiant heaters on the ceiling.
My brother Daniel who has a small organic farm inland from the coast takes a slightly different approach. The temperatures can drop quite a bit more there however he still does most of his entertaining outside.
His patio has a steep earth wall behind it into which he's built a stone oven (pictured right when it was only partially completed). The clever thing about this is that not only does it keep the guests warm, but it also allows for fun activities as guests cook their own baked potatoes, pizzas, and even roast marshmallows in the oven.
He also puts on a huge party once a year known as "Dan Fest" right in the middle of winter - because that's when his birthday is. These parties are way too big to host on the patio so instead they're held in a small valley below his house where he has a stage set up for live bands. To keep everyone warm and toasty he uses fire pits, and when he can get a fire permit he also creates a large bonfire. Obviously you can't take the bonfire approach if you live in the suburbs, but fire pits are certainly a great alternative.
I believe the best kinds of foods and dishes are ones which are both inherently warm while at the same time creating a psychological association with warmth.
Here are a few of my favorites to serve (yes I am vegetarian):
- Spicy fondue
- Pumpkin lasagne
- Baked potatoes
- Pasta bake
- Truffled eggplant stacks (pictured right)
To my mind nothing beats candles when it comes to creating a sense of warmth. If you are using a table setting like the one in the picture above then placing them on the table in glasses is the best way to go - the glasses help prevent wax spills and other little accidents, and by choosing a warm colored glasses you add to the effect. If you're not going with a table setting then you can use candles to line pathways - it can also be a easy way to show people where to go when they arrive at the front of your house.
Alternatively you can use outdoor lights with warm orange and red colors - you might already have some you use for Christmas and using these for parties helps add to the festivity of the occasion.
So there you have it - keep your guests both feeling and thinking warm and you'll have a great setting for an enjoyable occasion!
You might also like to read:
• Warm Your Home: Short & Long Term Solutions for the Festive Period
• Extremely Cool Things To Get For Your Garden
• The Purpose of Pool Winterizing Chemicals
• Gardening in Winter - A Few Tips for Small Scale Home Growers