John and I love to entertain at home, especially in the summertime. Since our home isn’t all that large, quite a lot of that entertaining happens in our gardens at FrenchGardenHouse.

Early summer time is the best time in our garden, with the roses in bloom, and every plant still fresh and green, the perfect party backdrop!

Our back garden has flower beds, a huge gingko tree for shade, and a large patio for tables and seating. It’s our preferred spot for birthdays, dinner with friends, 4th of July bbq’s and more. Do you love to entertain outdoors? I’ve gathered some tips for you to make outdoors your summer “go to” entertaining place, and the easiest way to entertain ever.

Get ready to have your best summer parties ever with just a few handy hints and tips!


With a little planning ahead, outdoor entertaining is a snap. Sharing a meal outside with friends and family has a certain magic quality.

Here’s how to host effortless outdoor meals and dinner parties.

In summer, the garden is our first choice for hosting our family and friends. We live in California, so we have many long summer days that are just perfect for entertaining al fresco.

But if you don’t have a garden, you can take a picnic to the beach, or a park near your home!  Even a small balcony or terrace in the city can work, if you have the right menu and serve the food inside, then move outdoors with plates filled.


The Setting:

The beauty of going outdoors is that mother nature has done all the decorating for you. You don’t really need to add anything else.

I often don’t use a tablecloth or placemats on our old outdoor table. Sometimes I just use an antique French linen runner.

If your outdoor table is small, you can always bring out a larger table from inside, or maybe you have one of those folding tables? Covered with a tablecloth, these sturdy “temporary” tables work just as well.

Set your table with your favorite dishes, glassware and flatware.  I like to add some French Country serving dishes and antique linens for texture.


If you plan ahead, the logistics of serving your meal outside easily is not difficult at all.

Figure out how many guests are coming, if you should plan special dishes for children, and what will work best to get the food to the table. If you think ahead, making your guests feel special, welcome and comfortable outdoors is easy and fun. This is the perfect opportunity to be a little creative with a fun prop, an old gardening hat, a chalkboard menu board- these all add to the outdoor look.

Choose one of these serving styles:

Family Style: This works so well for informal large parties. Passing around platters and bowls of food at the table seems to bring people together.  {it’s called family style for a reason!}  If you have enough space on your table, then placing the food directly on the table so everyone can serve themselves is the perfect option.

Buffet Style: If you have enough room in your outside are for a buffet table, this is another wonderful option.

Especially for a large BBQ or party, setting up several serving tables, for instance one for the drinks, one for appetizers, and one for the main course, is a great way to spread the party guests out a little so no one has to wait overly long to reach the food and drinks.

Restaurant Style: This is where you plate your food in the kitchen, just like at an elegant restaurant. It’s a little more formal, so wonderful for an intimate dinner with just a few friends.

A combination of styles is often the best solution. It’s what usually happens here at home. I set up an appetizer and drinks station buffet style. The main course will be served family stye. And then dessert has already been prepared and plated before dinner starts, so that after the clearing away of dinner plates, dessert is ready to be served!


Summer is the time to serve cold or room temperature foods. Outdoor meals are your chance to serve casual food that showcases fresh, seasonal produce.

Large salads, antipasto platters of gourmet cheeses, meats, olives and fruits and other chilled foods are refreshing, and keep well outside.

Originally posted as part of an easy early autumn meal, SALADE D’AVOCAT is one of my summer “go to” salads.

One of the easiest salads ever, it’s still one of our favorites. It uses beautiful fresh lettuce leaves and avocados, and the easiest home made dressing. Simple. Delicious.

The FRENCHGARDENHOUSE LOBSTER SALAD is another great favorite. Served on a bed of lettuce, with fresh baked bread on the side, if you have a few appetizers beforehand, and a great dessert after, you really don’t need much more!


CHICKEN MARBELLA Be sure to try this! I’ve been making this since I got married a hundred years ago. It can be served hot as your one ‘hot’ dish for your outdoor meal, but is just as delicious served cold. It’s the most requested dish at FrenchGardenHouse by birthday celebrants! {photos do NOT do it justice, this post was from the time my camera broke and I had to use an old iPhone}

If you choose recipes that are easy and that you can make ahead of time, it’s a win!  Fruit or ice cream are a wonderful finale to any summer meal, and nothing could be easier than that.


Summer time is the perfect time to get a little creative with your drinks! Refreshing coolers, sparkling wine or champagne, and colorful cocktails are superb at any outdoor party or meal.


For a daytime party, it’s easy to set up a drinks station. Find a shady spot, and arrange glasses, lemons, mint sprigs, ice in a bucket, and pitchers of a cooling drink. This ICE COLD SUMMERTIME BLUEBERRY LEMONADE from our friend DeliciousTable is perfect! Don’t forget to add straws, and some napkins too, and your self-serve drinks station is all set.


How gorgeous is this SUMMER SANGRIA? Fun…in a glass.

You can fill a large tub with ice and add your favorite wine and champagne too, everyone can serve themselves.

I guarantee, though, that if you have such a beautiful visual option as the sangria with berries and fruit stars, that’s most likely what your guests will be drinking!

Summer is all about casual, and fun. It doesn’t take much to set the scene. Set you tables in a casual way this summer, beautifully.

Adding one of our French antiques to your array of outdoor table setting accents will bring the smells, sounds, and textures of France to your outdoor parties.



I’ve shopped the best antiques from France for you, in case you are not traveling this summer. All of these French antiques for your table have Personality. Quality. Stories of the past, and a little quirk. They are f.u.n.



  1. Ginger Valdes

    Your gardens and lawn are beautiful,Lidy! I would LOVE to be a guest enjoying those delicious dishes and surrounding French accents. Won’t even be sipping a cold drink outside today. It’s 103 right now in San Antonio!

  2. Fantastic post, Lidy! I love your table settings, your serving styles, the salad with avocados, and those delicious drinks! You outdid yourself here!

    Jane x

  3. Your backyard is certainly a beautiful oasis always filled with such beautiful flowers and furnishings. What lucky guests to be able to dine in those beautiful surroundings enjoying great food, drink and company! Have a most wonderful weekend…we will be working both inside and out dodging the rain!

  4. Your chicken dish sounds spectacular and I love olives… Beautidul garden setting…

  5. Thank you LorB! I hope you will enjoy this easy chicken dish as much as we do. It can be casual, but is also spectacular enough for a company dinner.

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