The summer season invites us to enjoy cosy dinner parties and intimate meals outdoors. Whether on a balcony, in a park or a lush garden, eating outside is one of the distinct privileges of warmer weather. Few things feel better than spending balmy evenings relishing in a refreshing breeze while enjoying good food in cherished company.
To celebrate the dawn of the outdoor dining season, we have enlisted the help of chefs Mimi Thorisson and Eleonore Toulin to share their best tips on hosting an effortless and enjoyable outdoor dinner – and to test the theory that everything tastes better when it’s eaten outside.
Eleonore Toulin, Private Chef @eleonoretoulin
Eleanor on dining outdoors:
“Summer dining is a chance to be unconventional. It is an opportunity to slow down and enjoy quality time with your loved ones, and it allows for strangers to become friends around the dinner table. And everybody knows that rosé tastes better outside!”
What was the inspiration behind your table setting?
“Whether it’s al fresco or indoors, I always go with my intuition. I don’t believe there is a rulebook for great design or great hospitality – it’s about having fun and being creative, letting your instincts guide you.
I look for beautiful objects that speak to each other. I love using earth tones, like the Linen Napkins in Cinammon from ferm LIVING, and mixing them with contrasting textures like the Flow plates in Off-white.”
What makes a good atmosphere when dining outdoors?
“I like to engage all the senses. Natural lighting is very important, and everyone looks beautiful in candlelight. Adding fresh flowers adds a delicate note to the aroma, and playing music is essential for a cosy atmosphere. I like to use an app called Radiooooo that curates music from a specific time and place – I can highly recommend Brazil in the 1960’s.
I like to start the evening with an aperitivo for my guests as I finish the last-minute details of the cooking. A Bianco Vermouth and soda or a Whisky Highball accompanied by a cheese and charcuterie board are always a big hit. Follow this up with homemade gnocchi dripping in butter and sage, a whole baked fish and a fresh salad.”
“A generous table overflowing with good wine and delicious food is a symbol of love.”
Mimi Thorisson, Author & Cook @mimithor
Mimi on dining al fresco:
“Dining outdoors is synonymous with carefree times and a lightness of being – pure joy and satisfaction. Now that spring is finally here, it’s such a delight to be able to eat outside.
For me, the season starts with a lot of gardening: cleaning up the residue of winter leaves, refreshing the potted plants and planting new ones. We live in Turin, Italy, in a big piazza that has a terrace overlooking the square. It’s such a magical place during spring: filled with olive and citrus trees and overflowing with jasmine flowers. The aromatic herb plants perfume the air, adding colour and life to the space. It’s my happy place.”
What was the inspiration behind your table setting?
“I love a table full of promise and abundance. I enjoy using flowers, potted plants and aromatic herb bouquets as table decorations – I want my table to look and feel like a garden. Inspired by the seasons, I mix my personal taste of country chic intertwined with an urban feel. For this table setting, I loved using the Oli glassware collection in Amber from ferm LIVING. The colour is one of my favourites, especially when the sunlight hits them just right.
When you see a gathering of plates, bowls, glasses, pots and vases on a table, you know you’re in for a beautiful time. A generous table overflowing with good wine and delicious food is a symbol of love.”
How do you create a good atmosphere for your guests?
“Music is great for getting the evening off to a good start – jazz music, like Miles Davis, is a personal favourite. And I must say, our dogs make great hosts! They greet our guests and suddenly everybody is in a good mood.
I think the key to entertaining is to be relaxed. You don’t need anything complicated to set a beautiful table, it’s all about having key pieces like flowers or centrepieces. And of course, good food is the most important thing! This spring, I’ve been making homemade pasta ravioli with lemon and ricotta. You can prepare it ahead of time and then serve it fresh when your guests arrive.”
A crowd-pleasing Fava bean soup,
perfect for a dinner party
Fava bean soup
450 g/ 1 pound peeled fava beans
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
80 ml/ 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
120 g/ 1/2 cup mascarpone
A large handful of fresh mint leaves
5 pancetta slices
A handful of croûtons
Salt and pepper
A dash of piment d’espelette
– Cut the tip off each fava pod and squeeze out the bean.
– In a large pot, fry the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic,
the fava beans, sliced potato, and stir for around 2 minutes.
– Add chicken or vegetable stock, adding enough water to cover the vegetables.
– Bring it to a boil and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes.
– Purée in a food processor and return to a low heat.
– Fry the pancetta until golden and crispy. Pat for excess oil and set aside.
– To make the croutons: slice white bread (preferably a baguette)
and rub with a garlic clove. Drizzle with olive oil and grill in the
oven until golden brown. Season with salt and set aside.
– Finely chop shallots, mint, pancetta and the croutons and set aside.
– Finely chop mint and whisk together with 120g of mascarpone.
– To serve: place the chopped shallots, mint, pancetta
and croutons to the bottom of 4 bowls. Pour the soup over, adding
a scoop of the mint mascarpone on top.
Sprinkle the piment d’espelette and serve immediately.