Warm summer evenings are the perfect setting for an outdoor dinner party. If you’re looking for a new spin on your culinary feasts, European cuisine consists of a diverse landscape of flavors and traditions to choose from. Bringing these culinary delights to your backyard dinner party will broaden your guest’s taste palettes as well as their cultural horizons.
Setting the scene for a culinary Tour de Europe begins with the invitations. Opt for RSVPs with an elegant flare that detail the evening’s menu from appetizer to desserts. This is especially important if you have guests with allergies or dietary considerations. This will give them the chance to inform you ahead of time. Include a suggested dress code encouraging guests to don their most stylish garb.
Image is Everything
Transforming your backyard into a European paradise is simple when you’ve got a DIY mindset. Candles are perhaps the most useful asset in your atmospheric arsenal thanks to their versatility as well as their affordability. Utilize them in lanterns, glass votives, and candelabras for early evening lighting. As the sun sets, opt for vintage Edison style string lights for stronger light.
For the evening’s color scheme, opt for rich jewel tones that evoke the elegance of Europe. Coordinate your color scheme with chair covers, barbecue covers, and tableware in shades of royal blue, cardinal red, and golden yellow. Flower arrangements are another simple way to decorate your outdoor space in customized color, and can even match the colors of your custom tarps.
Last but not least, add the perfect finishing touch with a playlist filled with both traditional and contemporary European songs. Music is one of the simplest ways to set the scene, especially with the help of well-placed outdoor speakers. From French jazz to German drinking songs to Portuguese fados, there’s no telling which exciting tune will play next.
European countries are known for their unique libations spanning a wide variety of flavors and styles. Serve up a sampling of these beverages to your guests so they can experience the drinkable traditions of Europe without having to buy a plane ticket.
Pimms cup: Light, refreshing, and perfect for summer evenings, this gin-based drink will surely be a favorite. Combine 2 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1 with ½ cup lemon juice over ice in a highball glass, then stir in ginger ale. Add a mint sprig, cucumber slices, and a strawberry for garnish.
Prosecco: It would be impossible to narrow down a single wine to represent Italy, never mind the rest of Europe. Don’t wear yourself out trying to offer every type of vino and stick with a summer staple: prosecco. The most popular of Italian sparkling wines is always a crowd pleaser. Keep your bottles in a cold ice bucket to ensure that every glass you pour is chilled to perfection.
- Czech Republic
Pilsner: No summer dinner party is complete without a cold brew or two. Bring some Central European flavors to the table with a selection of Pilsner beers straight from the Czech republic. Pilsners are beloved for their hoppy, crisp flavor profiles, and they’ll pair well with the rich flavors of the main course you’ll be serving.
Dinner is Served
The candles are lit, the chair covers are pulled off, drinks have been poured, and the main event of your European dinner party has finally arrived.
Start things off on the lighter side with a zesty platter of caprese. This Italian classic is perhaps the easiest appetizer to whip up, leaving you free to focus on the main course. On a platter, lay out alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with chopped basil and salt, and drizzle with olive oil.
Hearty, comforting, and just a bit spicy, traditional Spanish paella is a filling main course that won’t leave your guests too full for dessert. To bring this colorful Spanish to life, you’ll need:
- 4 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp saffron threads (in a pinch, 2T of turmeric can be substituted)
- 4 T olive oil
- 1 lb fresh or frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
- 1 link thinly sliced Spanish chorizo
- 2 cups boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup finely diced red pepper
- 6 minced garlic cloves
- 3 cups paella rice, pre-cooked
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 6 strips roasted red pepper (optional)
- Fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Add chicken broth and saffron to a pot, keep at a low simmer. Rinse and dry shrimp before sprinkling with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add chorizo and sauté for 3 minutes, remove from heat and put to the side.
Place chicken in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Once browned, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add onion and red pepper, and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add rice; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Combine with the heated chicken broth, cooked chorizo, lemon juice, paprika, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to simmer; cook until the rice has absorbed most of the broth and almost tender, around ten minutes.
Scatter snap peas over rice mixture. Turn down heat to low, cover with foil, and cook for 5 minutes. Next, place shrimp and red pepper strips over the rice and cover again. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand under foil for 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley for garnish and serve with lemon.
After the rich, savory flavors of paella, you and your guests will be hankering something sweet to close out the evening. Take some responsibility off your shoulders by making a trip to a French bakery the day before your big party (any European bakery will do if no French bakery is nearby). Fruit tarts, madeline cookies, and éclairs are essential French desserts that bring all the sophistication of Paris right to your backyard.
Consider pulling off your garden furniture covers and setting up an intimate area in the yard for your guests to enjoy their after dinner desserts. Lay out custom tarps and place cushions and pillows on top for some Bohemian style relaxation your guests will think back on fondly.