Summer Nights: How to Create the Ultimate Outdoor Dinner Party

By Abby Dudley / Photography By Michael Fornataro | May 19, 2016
Share to printerest Share to fb Share to twitter Share to mail Share to print
Styling by Abby Dudley, Alyssa Otto, and Jason Solak

Dining under the open sky welcomes a fresher take on a classic dinner party — from embracing the rustle of napkins from a warm breeze, to contending with stray leaves that drift into the center of the table. Opening up your get-together to the elements makes it just that: purely summer. So, setting the table and planning the menu accordingly is crucial. 

Our table is filled with summer neutrals: stark whites, bright greens, and bursts of sunny buds. Natural details — preserved boxwood placemats, vivid roses, and pearlescent steak knives — connect the table to the surrounding yard, enhanced by the brilliant colors that only the hot season can bring. Even our signature cocktail, a refreshing Cucumber Cooler recipe from Fine Wine & Good Spirits, contributes to the table with pops of clean cucumber and mint.

Filling our plates is a classic summer meal with a few spicy twists, conceived by Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar head chef Don Winkie. Marinated flank steak with piccalilli, jerk-spiced red potatoes, and a mustard green and radish salad make up the apropos menu. Read on to find the delicious — and simple! — recipes, then begin prepping for your ultimate summer soirée.  

  • - Try votive candles to provide extra light as the sun goes down without interfering with conversation.
  • - Summer is the rosy season! Arrange a variety of these buds for depth and diversity.
  • - A neutral summer color palette  — bold, crisp, and bright — allows fresh, seasonal ingredients to really pop.
  • - Spray painting silverware (here, with matte white and red) creates a customizable table setting, pulling colors from plates, flowers, or placemats.

Cucumber Cooler


1 ½ cups Hendrick’s Gin
6 oz St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
6 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled)
40 mint leaves
3 cups seltzer water, chilled
Cucumber slices for garnish


1. Place first five ingredients into a glass pitcher, and muddle gently.
2. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least four hours.
3. Just before serving, add seltzer and stir gently.
4. Serve in tall glasses with ice.
5. Garnish with a cucumber slice.

Mustard Green and Radish Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Salad Ingredients

1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed and cut into ½-inch strips
6 red radishes, sliced paper thin on mandolin
½ cup candied pecans
2 tangerines, broken into segments

Dressing Ingredients

Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 ¼ cup olive oil


1. Combine first five ingredients of dressing, then slowly whisk in oil.
2. Toss in with salad.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak with Summer Piccalilli

Marinade Ingredients

3 oz balsamic vinegar
1 oz red wine vinegar
1 oz honey
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced (Editor’s note: find these canned with the Latin American ingredients in store.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup blended oil (½ olive, ½ canola)


1. Combine ingredients.
2. Pour over a 3 lb flank steak.
3. Marinate for two to six hours.
4. Grill to desired temperature.

Piccalilli Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 cup corn
4 roma tomatoes, diced
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh chives for garnish


1. Sauté peppers, onion, and corn in olive oil until soft.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

Jerk-Spiced Red Potatoes


2 pounds red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 ½ tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon thyme
Olive oil


1. Combine all dry ingredients.
2. In a roasting pan, coat potatoes in oil.
3. Toss in seasoning mix.
4. Roast potatoes in the oven or on the  grill at 3500F until browned or easily pierced with a fork.

Fine Wine & Good Spirits, multiple locations. Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar, 1910 New Texas Road, Murrysville. 724.519.7304.

Article from Edible Allegheny at
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60