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FRESH and Festive: Dining Al Fresco

Al fresco dining literally means eating outside. It is a style of dining that is casual and often party-like in its atmosphere.  As October approaches, I find myself thinking of ways to take the party outdoors and maximize the very few days we have of perfect weather.

Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Set up a comfortable and casual environment.  Don’t fuss over matching linens, dishes, etc.  Mix and match and try to use as much color as possible.

Make your centerpiece simple, yet elegant.  Choose a variety of stems from our FRESH floral shop and put them together to match any style you come up with.  You can make your own or consult one of our floral Freshies on the perfect combination.

Use natural insect repellent (made from essential oils such as lavender) or citronella candles nearby to ward off any pesky insects.  Running a fan near your dining area will help keep mosquitoes at bay as well.

Create a menu that is easy to execute.  Cold items such as salads, fruits, etc. work well, but keep in mind that you also need some filling items to satisfy the larger appetites in the group.  My suggestion for the perfect menu consists of a FRESH Charcuterie and Cheese Platter (assorted varieties made in our Charcuterie and Cheese Department), FRESH baked ziti and caesar salad (both available in family sizes on our grab and go wall) and rustic Italian bread from the FRESH Bakery.  And don’t forget dessert!  Create a beautiful and colorful platter from our huge selection of individual FRESH pastries.  A few of my favorites?  Champagne shooters, mini fruit tarts and red velvet cake balls!

Make sure you have wine!  It is fun to ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle so that you have a variety.  You can also use the opportunity to introduce others (and yourself) to new varietals or brands.

It is always nice to have a parting gift for guests.  An easy and useful gift I often give is infused oil.  You can purchase interesting and assorted bottles at a local craft store and fill them up with the aromatics and oil.  A simple recipe is below, but you can use whatever herbs you like best.

Italian Herb Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients:
6 leaves fresh basil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Place basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano in a 12 ounce bottle. Using a funnel, pour oil into bottle. Cover tightly, and refrigerate unused portions. Use within 2 to 3 days.

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