I love entertaining outside and was absolutely thrilled to be asked by Lloyd Flanders to participate in their spring marketing campaign
"Life Happens Outside."
The Lloyd Flanders invitation inspired me to pull together my ideas for a chic evening on my new terrace. My hydrangeas should be in full bloom in just a few weeks and I look forward to sharing a brisk spring evening entertaining friends using some of these ideas.
I hope you will stop by the Lloyd Flanders idea book on Houzz!
When entertaining on the patio, I like to put a bar at the top of the stairs, so that it is the first thing guests see as they arrive, a non-verbal invitation to relax and help oneself.
My essentials for a well-stocked bar include not only an assortment of beers, red and white wine, water, and nibbles but also flowers and a candle. The flowers are lilacs from my garden.
When styling the bar, I like to bring together organic elements and textures found in nature.
I love the simplicity of the fresh cut flowers, lilacs from my own garden, with the texture of the wicker.
At the bar, I like to feature small decadent treats - something sweet and something salty. Tonight, I am offering Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar with Asiago Breadsticks.
I found the carved granite bowl during my recent shopping trip to the Antiques and Design Center at the High Point Furniture Market. The antique dealer I bought it from explained that it was from China and was formerly used at the base of the bamboo downspouts. I also think it would be beautiful planted with an assortment of succulents. It should have come with a warning - I am heavy!
One of the things I enjoy most about entertaining is creating the tablescape.
It is something I do at least a week in advance of the evening. I like to play with textures and organic materials and love the juxtaposition between something very fine and elegant with something rustic. I am a big fan of white dishes and linen napkins.
There is something so amazingly magical about Al fresco dining.
I love watching the shadows from the surrounding gardens and the way the light changes as the sun goes down. As the sun fades away, dinner by candlelight is so romantic.
The breeze and the sounds and scents in nature set the tone for a relaxing evening.
I always think it is a nice touch to include place cards in your table setting.
Living in the South, there is always a magnolia tree close by. I thought using a magnolia leaf as the place card was the perfect way to tie together the outdoor setting with the fine china and crystal.
The flowers are arranged in my favorite container, a concrete faux bois stump.
When planning my flower arrangements, I look first to see what is blooming in my garden. This arrangement is primarily greenery from my garden ~ Elaeagnus, Camellia, White Quince, Popcorn, Viburnum and a little boxwood. I added white Hydrangea, white tulips and some beautiful yellow Ranunculus I found at Trader Joe's.
I buy interesting containers when I see them so that I always have something on hand when I am planning to entertain. My good friend, Susan, also owns two of these faux bois stumps. We enjoy borrowing from each other when we need more than two.
One of the small things that I like to do when I entertain is serve one course in a individual baking dish. There is just something about it that is unexpected and makes my guests feel special.
Tonight, I have chosen to serve one of my signature dishes, my very own recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese, in individually baked ramekins.
In honor of Lloyd Flanders, I am sharing my secret recipe:
Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Toasted Pecans
Macaroni and cheese is Southern comfort food at its best!
Always a crowd pleaser, my mac and cheese celebrates everything you love about the classic dish with a few twists that make it especially rich and decadent!
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces about 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces/ 1 package about 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (important!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pound Penne Pasta
For the topping:
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Gruyere (reserved) cheese
1/4 cup (reserved) cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted pecans pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan and slowly add the flour to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil while constantly whisking the sauce. Reduce to a simmer and continue to stir as the sauce thickens for approximately three minutes. Add the cheeses, dry mustard, and nutmeg. Salt and Pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.
For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Penne pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta while reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Stir together the pasta, cheese sauce and reserved pasta water. Transfer to a buttered baking dish or individual ramekins.
Toast the pecans and set aside; Melt the butter in a saucepan and remove from the heat; Stir together the Panko bread crumbs, cheese and pecans and spread over the mac and cheese.
Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven until golden brown and bubbling - about 20 minutes.
This decadent Mac and Cheese is equally at home with fresh grilled burgers, roasted chicken or beef tenderloin. Just add your favorite salad for the perfect summer meal!
Special thanks to Lloyd Flanders
for inviting me to participate in their spring campaign!
They will be sending me a gorgeous all weather wicker Nantucket rocker for participating! I love it so much that I have pinned it onto my Terraces, porches and outdoor rooms board on Pinterest here!