For the longest time I’ve wanted to host a garden party. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I’ve always daydreamed about cooking a lovely dinner for close friends using ingredients from my garden and from the local farmers’ market. I imagined we’d dine at sunset and drink wine as we laughed into the night. And that’s pretty much exactly what we did. It was picture perfect. I didn’t mess anything up and I can’t wait to do it again next summer!
With a little planning, you can host an incredible garden party, too. Here’s how my co-host and I pulled it off.
Garden Party Menu
The menu was entirely gluten free and vegan or vegetarian, save for the pulled pork my husband made. Mix and match your favorite recipes to make an unforgettable menu.
We toasted to our meal with Prosecco, rosé and beer.
Tomato Tart with Vegan Lemon Ricotta
This is a recipe I developed and tested a week before the party. It was a huge hit and disappeared immediately!
Beet Deviled Eggs
A recipe from my friend Amanda Paa over at Heartbeet Kitchen. Delicious and ever so pretty! The filling did not end up perfect as it was my first time ever making deviled eggs, but they still tasted so, so good.
Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
This was a mashup of Heartbeet Kitchen‘s Cuban Pulled Pork and Slow Cooker Carolina Pulled Pork from Cooking with Mamma C because we wanted to develop a recipe that fit with the rest of the menu. We used a 4 lb. bone-in pork butt and rubbed it with a spice rub of 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. paprika, 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper and 4 minced garlic cloves. Then we place it in the slow cooker on top of 3 red potatoes just to keep it off the bottom. We threw in 1 roughly chopped onion and the juice of 2 oranges and 3 limes. It cooked on low for 6 hours and was ready to shred. Note: My slow-cooker is extremely high temperature and cooks faster than it should. Typically you’d cook meat on low 8-10 hours until it reaches a safe temperature. We left it on warm in the slow cooker until guests arrived and served it on a platter with tongs alongside a creamy cilantro-lime sauce.
Grilled Zucchini with Chimichurri
I wanted a simple yet tasty side dish and found some great looking zucchini at the Nokomis Farmers’ Market. We simply sliced zucchini on the mandoline, tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper, grilled it and served alongside this chimichurri sauce, which everyone loved (even Gordon, who we found with both paws up on the table eating it out of the bowl—were pretty bummed that there would be no leftovers thanks to a naughty puppy!).
Corn and Tomato Salad
I took my 3-ingredient corn salad recipe and added some fresh-from-the-garden cherry tomatoes. This simple freshness of this salad was a perfect addition to the garden party menu.
Another side dish of maple-dijon roasted carrots was on the menu, but when I was planning my timeline I forgot to include them, so they were cut at the last minute. It worked out, though, because we had plenty of food and no one went hungry!
My lovely co-host, Sydney, was in charge of dessert and she certainly outdid herself! She made vegan cheesecake bites served with berries based on Hot for Food’s vegan cheesecake recipe and chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream. It was an incredible way to end the meal.
Garden Party Decorating Ideas
Keep decor simple and fresh. We picked up a bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s for $5.99 and split it up into three milk glass vases I had previously purchased at Good Will. We borrowed that lovely wooden centerpiece and topped it with two teacup candles from our wedding. A navy blue table cloth made everything pop. We used our everyday classic white plates and silverware from Crate and Barrel and borrowed a table and chairs from Sydney’s church. Altogether that whole table setup was just the cost of the flowers!
Another fun idea is to put together a little menu. Sure, we only had a dinner for 8, but it added a little more excitement and anticipation to the dinner itself.
Finally, don’t forget about ambiance. I discovered a great station at a photo shoot I’d been at the day before. Clean Bandit radio on Pandora played the quietly in the background all night and it was a hit.
Tips for Pulling off a Garden Party
- Pick a date early. The summer is busy! We ran into a problem with dates toward the end of the summer where invitees were all busy on different days. We ended up picking the date most people were available. Next time, I’ll plan much farther in advance to avoid that problem.
- Test your recipes! Do as I say and not as I do on this one. While I developed the recipe for the tomato tart a week or two ahead of time, I did not try out most of the other recipes beforehand. If I had, I may have had an easier time making the deviled eggs and I probably wouldn’t have forgotten to start the carrots on time.
- Create a timeline. This helped me immensely so that I didn’t have a panic attack on the day of the party. In fact, I relaxed for a good couple of hours in the middle of the day because I built in enough time and made reminders in my phone for when to start each recipe.
- Prep. I cannot stress this enough. Whatever you can make ahead of time, do. In my case I was able to make the roasted tomatoes, pesto, and vegan lemon ricotta for my tomato tart. I also could have made my corn salad ahead of time, but I worked it into the schedule so it was no problem.
- Enlist help. Most people have a guest or close friend who likes to be involved. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help when it’s offered. I had Eric grill the corn and the zucchini and he also did a good deal of cleaning in the house the day of the party, which took a lot of the stress off of me. Sydney, my co-host, helped with cooking and decorating. We make a great team!
- Pick out your outfit the day before. Or earlier. You know how long it takes! Don’t be stressed about this right before people arrive. Get that taken care of and make sure it’s ready to go.
All of these lovely photos were taken by my friend Caitlin Abrams, because I was too busy running around like a crazy person. Thanks, Cait!