The weather has finally turned warmer and homeowners are flocking to nurseries and patio stores to spruce-up their exterior spaces in anticipation of spending more time enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors. The seasons of spring and summer also mean more entertaining with cookouts and barbecues with friends and family.
Our experts from Best Table In The House, Susan Allan and Judy Williams, demonstrate how to creatively assemble a festive, delicious and informal Spring Barbecue Tablescape.
The color scheme for this barbecue is red and black with a splash of yellow, according to hostess, Susan Allan, who used pretty yellow daisies that contrast nicely against the darker color palette.
“I usually always start with a white tablecloth, then overlay with something interesting,” says Allan. “For the barbecue, I layered red and white checked tablecloths with a black zigzag hem over the white for the food table. It’s a very typical look for a backyard barbeque but with a little more panache than your average plastic tablecloth.”
The menu for this spring barbecue included pulled, smoked chicken and pulled pork, corn on the cob, potato salad, baked beans, skewered fresh fruit and a fresh spring salad. Note the watermelon that’s cleverly made to look like a barbecue grill. “It’s made from hollowing out a watermelon and interring bamboo sticks for the grate, and carrots for the legs,” explains Allan. Beverages included sweet tea, lemonade and Coca-Cola in glass bottles – a cute throwback to ‘The Real Thing’s’ original packaging. “I wanted a casual, down-home feel to feed a crowd comfort foods we all remember,” says Allan.
Allan also served the food buffet-style and placed the festive table in her living room, not far from the doors leading to the patio. “I like to set the food up inside so its temperature controlled — sometimes a separate table outside for the beverages and the dessert table on a separate table – usually inside,” she explains. “It keeps the crowd moving throughout the space without everyone crowded around one table.
“Buffet style is so great for a barbecue because it’s less formal and everyone can pick and choose what they want and how much they want to pile on their plates,” she says. “It’s important to set the table in the order that people would naturally fill their plates with plenty of space for reaching and elbows.”
This table is playfully adorned with a piglet figure on a pedestal, which serves as the focal point, and is in keeping with the overall theme. A beautiful, tall flower arrangement is set next to the pig, courtesy of Freeman’s Flowers & Gifts in Franklin, provides an abundance of spring colors like yellows, greens, oranges and a pop of red. In front, a whimsical serving tray adds a bit of fun to the spread. Note the varying heights of the objects on the table, which help the flow and make the overall look interesting.
Allan stacked the serving plates on the table, and placed the utensils in a small silver bucket nearby, along with pretty glass beverage containers of sweet tea and lemonade, which are marked with adorable dangling chalkboards. “The mason jars that I have collected over time are reminiscent of the old days and are perfect for old fashioned lemonade and sweet tea over ice. I added a red and white paper straw for a festive touch,” she says.
“As for serving pieces, vintage trays, baskets and white bowls big enough to hold enough potato salad, baked beans and a green salad for a crowd. You can always mingle in bowls of citrus to add a splash of color,” notes Allan. Allan says she likes to use classic white plates for events ranging from casual to formal, believing that food always looks better on a white plate. She also says that it’s appropriate to use sturdy paper plates, paper napkins and disposable utensils for a casual affair. “I always have bins available for recycling as well.”
Allan says to make a note to remember to have extra utensils, along with salt and pepper available for your guests on the outdoor tables. “I set-up long banquet style tables outside on the veranda under cover with cool fans overhead. And a separate beverage table is good so people are not juggling too many things at once.”
The dessert table was placed indoors, adjacent to the main table. It was dressed in a red cloth with black polka dots. A larger floral arrangement, also by Freeman’s Flowers & Gifts in Franklin, offset the triple tiered aluminum hammered dessert stand. It included a wonderful mix of yellow snapdragons, yellow Asiatic lilies, red gerbera daisies, red freedom roses sunflowers and green hydrangeas. Colorful sweets included red and yellow sugar cookies shaped like daisies, vanilla cupcakes with sprinkles, and individual banana pudding cups. A vintage “Sweets” sign stood tall over a vibrant sunflower platter of delicious chocolate chip cookies.
“I enjoy mixing patterns and texture on my tables. It just makes things more interesting, ” says Allan. She also mentions that for an afternoon meal, you can use natural sunlight, however, candles are always a great touch for movement. “Be sure to use unscented candles – you don’t want to overpower the fabulous aroma of the delicious food.”
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