Easy Summer Entertaining


This week, I asked my friend Mara Papatheodorou — master foodie, and international tastes and traditions expert — how she entertains in her own back yard. For someone with global tastes, her response was deliciously uncomplicated. — MS

As George Gershwin so aptly pointed out, it’s “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” Heed his advice by taking a relaxed, no -muss-no-fuss approach to your summer entertaining style. Whether from the grill, fridge, or freezer, keep your menu and libations deliciously simple, and your casual get-together or family celebration will be a smashing success.


A Magical Look

The décor of the party sets the buzz and the tone. Screened-in-porch and patio pizazz is on the rise. It is no longer justabout fresh flowers — although they DO matter — so use eye-catching paper napkins and unbreakable, colorful plates, glasses, and utensils to add a cool yet sizzling touch to your buffet or seated set-up. For just the right light as dusk turns to dark, choose uniquely shaped votive candleholders that complement your tabletop style.


A Mouthwatering Menu

“Easy does it” is key! Summer’s best ingredients taste best when cooked quickly or not at all. It is about vibrant vegetables, fresh fruits, tasty barbecue, sublime sandwiches, and chilled desserts. Mix and match purchased items with homemade specialties, and since July is officially National Grilling Month and National Ice Cream Month, feel free to highlight that fun fact in your menu choices.


The Drink

“Cheers!” Get your party started with a thirst-quenching drink or a signature cocktail. For extra zing, make ice cubes in advance from your chosen concoction and add them to the glass as you serve. Sip sentimental favorites like icy lemonade or sweet iced tea. Linger over a chilled glass of champagne, white wine, sangria, or rosé — the true-sipping “it” wine of summer.

The Courses

A pretty platter of crudité accompanied by a bowl of hummus, guacamole or tzaziki is a great appetizer, as is an assortment of olives and tapenades.

If grilling is the way you want to go, let chicken, steak, fish, or kebab skewers marinate in a flavorful sauce for a few hours before cooking. Fresh herbs, crumbled blue cheese, ground black pepper, and sea salt add a guaranteed boom to make your burgers “gourmet” and leave a tasty impression. The grill also brings out the tantalizing tastes of corn-on-the-cob, yellow squashes, and zucchinis strips brushed with olive oil and lemon juice (garlic optional!).


As the heat rises, salad sensations can take center stage as a main course or a supporting act to a grilled entrée. Salads brim with garden delights from cucumbers and carrots, to radishes and radicchio, to kale and watercress. Ravishing red and sunny yellow heirloom tomatoes abound and blend well with fresh basil, sweet onion, and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sweet and savory flavors connect when fresh watermelon is combined with peppery arugula and generously sprinkled with feta and a spicy splash of balsamic vinegar.

When the sun’s gone down, the delectable delight of vanilla ice cream or sorbet as a dessert finale is always an easy-to-do winner, especially when topped with luscious seasonal berries, a sublimely perfect peach, or even a dash of limoncello or Grand Marnier.

Add your own favorite tastes and special traditions for your own personal touch, and remember that parties are about making memories during happy times together. And isn’t that what life is really all about?

Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

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  • Way to go, Mary! Love the summer entertaining highlights! And way to go, wife Mara!! You’ve really got your finger on the pulse! The tomato tart you made for us this evening was devine!!! So amazed you can surprise me after all these 15 years with a new and fabulous dish! Mary, don’t let Mara off so easily. There are a lot more tricks in her quiver!! Thanks for posting. Jim Berkeley