For Your Clients: Take Your Party to the Porch
By Joe Gray
RISMEDIA, July 12, 2010--(MCT)--When we walk through Chicago neighborhoods of an evening, surveying the houses - with envy - we're struck most by those with porches. But they're all empty.
The end to the porch-socializing era has been long lamented. But we say, stop whining and head out to the porch. The cute, homey "Porch Parties" (Chronicle, $16.95), by Denise Gee, will help. We've collected some of Gee's best ideas (and a few of our own) here:
Ambience: Leave off that too-bright overhead light. String lights around the porch edges; light votives. Use luminaria, but in white bags instead of traditional brown. Add music; get your tech-savvy teen to set up an MP3 playlist. Dress up the floor with outdoor rugs; or keep the surface freshly painted (a green-and-cream checkerboard pattern is great, Gee says). For seating, porch swings and rockers conjure the right note, but go bigger with a swinging daybed. Add traditional chairs in modern resin wicker. Make sure to have plenty of side tables to set a drink or nibble.
Serving: Keep it simple, which means buffet. Set your table out of traffic flow, and near the kitchen, if you can. Separate food from drinks, or you'll have a jam. Avoid flatlining, Gee says. That is, elevate some elements for interest. Clean, upside-down terra cotta pots make outdoorsy pedestals. Keep dips up front and down low - "to keep the spinach dip out of the brownies" - and easier-to-manage items in back with tongs. It's just a porch, we know, but dress it up. Forget the plastic and paper; use real plates and cups (be green!), but in bright colors or patterns.
Eats: Do your plate-and-glass-juggling porch-sitters a favor: finger foods only (or at most, forkable bites). Whatever-you-want-on-it crostini; mini ham-and-cheese or smoked salmon and cucumber sammies; deviled eggs? - of course, but topped with crumbled crispy bacon.
Drinks: Punch is make-ahead-simple, and delicious, if you avoid the too-sweet pitfall. Think ades - as in lemon, lime or ginger-lemon (the classic spiked with ginger syrup) - sloshed with vodka. Or a sparkling wine-topped melon agua fresca (puree honeydew or watermelon; flavor with lime juice and sugar; bubble in inexpensive sparkler, such as cava). Garnish with fruit skewers (neat trick: make ahead and keep fresh in lemon-lime soda).
(c) 2010, Chicago Tribune.
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