Easy Entertaining: A Dinner in the Garden for Summer’s Last Hurrah

By Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.
September 17, 2021 Updated: September 17, 2021

Holding onto the last days of summer, even as I look forward to fall, I am planning a dinner in the garden under the stars. I love the idea of throwing one last outdoor bash as we step into cooler fall nights.

Using only candlelight to light our dinner is my ode to the end of summer. The garden takes on a magical feeling when the sun goes down, with shadows dancing and branches swaying in the breeze.

The menu is simple in preparation, but sophisticated in presentation. I love recipes that can be year-round but also nod to specific moments in time.

I am starting with a creamy parmesan soup, perfect for kicking off soup season, elevated with a drizzle of truffle oil just before serving. Then, a bowl of steamed clams—which always remind me of summer days—in a saffron-spiked white wine sauce, served with homemade garlic bread and a simple green salad.

For dessert, I am not complicating things; a store-bought fruit tart will do.

Setting the Table

Bringing the comfort of home into the garden, I am setting the table next to a garden bench, adding pillows and candlelight, and letting the greenery and foliage create a natural border. Hurricane lanterns arranged on the periphery and tapered candles on the table give enough light to see what we are eating and keep a few pesky gnats away.

Layered tablecloths add substance and stature, and all-white plates a simple elegance. Glass and crystal allow the candlelight to work its glimmering, glowing magic.

RECIPE: Parmesan Soup

RECIPE: Clams in Saffron-White Wine Sauce With Garlic Bread

Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.