Food & Wine

9 Easy Summer Entertaining Ideas

Valerie Rice of Eat Drink Garden is like your friend who makes throwing a party look easy, partly because she makes it so. She shared some great ideas for summer entertaining with us, ahead of Memorial Day (or as we think of it, “The First Official Cookout Weekend of the Summer”). We can’t wait to get out there and grill.

Photography by Jess Wilcox.

Stress-free and fresh is the goal of a summer barbeque (or “grilling out” for those South of the Mason-Dixon line). Summer allows you to get out of the kitchen and into the sunshine. My husband and I like to work shoulder to shoulder at the grill—he owns the meat and I’m in charge of the sides. I dust off my potting table, stock it up and use as my “camp kitchen” so I don’t have to leave the party!

The summertime bounty is beyond beautiful and delicious—you don’t need to do a lot of cooking to make a fresh feast or to make it look pretty. Seek out dishes that can be served room temperature to give you flexibility and ease with your timetable. Also, let the beauty of the food be your centerpiece. Bright fruits and veggies piled on white platters are much more elegant than silly decorations. Most of all, remember to have fun; it’s a surefire way for your guests to do the same.

Photography by Jess Wilcox.

Here are my top fail-proof summer entertaining tips:

1. Once you’ve got the grill on, use it for multiple dishes.
2. Utilize the farmers market or your garden harvest to make easy, fresh sides. Simply prepared, in-season local veggies and fruit are the best recipe for success.
3. When entertaining families or a group of friends, choose one protein and three sides. If you offer one raw (simple fruit salad or greens), one vegan and one made with dairy (feta, I’m looking at you), you’ll cover most bases.
4. A simple made-in-advance salsa verde can be put to work. Drizzle it over grilled veggies or use as a sauce for your protein.
5. Find a good dry rose wine and serve it all summer; it goes with just about anything in the warmer months.

Photography by Jess Wilcox.

6. A self-serve bar is low-maintenance and lets guests help themselves throughout the day. As the host, be sure to check-in with guests and see if they’d like to switch it up.
7. Keep the décor casual, but pretty—simple potted herbs and cloth napkins alongside real plates and silverware is all you need to make it feel special.
8. Summer playlists done right can make the party. Look for slick, fun hits mixed in with those tried and true classics that recall your teenage summers—whatever decade that may be!
9. For dessert, serve gorgeous summer fruit. It’s wonderful on its own or with some fresh whipped cream.

Photography by Jess Wilcox.


Fig Fool With Lavender Honey

Serves six


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 scant pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup fromage blanc
  • A variety of fresh figs sliced into wedges—try Black Mission, Kadota or Panache
  • Spanish torta or waffle-style cookie
  • Lavender honey (if you have it) or any type of local honey is great
  • Fresh mint


  1. Whip the cream and salt with a whisk attachment on medium setting and combine until cream comes together. Once it forms soft peaks, add the sugar and vanilla.
  2. Fold in the fromage blanc until incorporated and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  3. To serve, add two dollops of the cream mixture followed by a small handful of figs. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of honey. Garnish with small mint leaves and cookie. Enjoy!

Find Valerie’s fresh from the garden recipes and more tips for growing the good life on her popular blog Eat-Drink-Garden. Follow her on Instagram, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.  

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