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Dressing Up Al Fresco Dining

Many Americans treasure dining al fresco as much as Italians ... especially since for so much of this country, the window of good weather time for eating outside can be painfully narrow. Whether in a big backyard or on a city-sized deck, enjoying food outside can require more thought than stepping outside with a fork and plate. This month, we’re talking about making your outdoor dining easy, with tips that will allow you to entertain while still enjoying your own meal.

Light the Scene

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  • Set the stage for dusk or nighttime dining with strands of white indoor/outdoor lights made in a variety of shapes and sizes they can be tacked up along trellises or draped across railings. The more casually they’re strewn, the better.

The Quintessential Summer Fruit

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  • Summer equals fresh fruit to a lot of people…especially watermelon. A portable dessert that is refreshing on its own, slices become an elegant part of a meal when sprinkled with coarse sea salt, giving it a classic Italian agro dolce sweet and tart taste. Watermelon also pairs well in a salad with cubes of Feta cheese and fresh mint or basil and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice (mix quantities to taste).

Fresh Ideas for Melon

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  • Watermelon isn’t the only variety that benefits from a summertime makeover. In Italy, melon is served as simple dessert with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil like Bertolli’s® Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, and a grating of fresh nutmeg or even black pepper. Honeydew and canary melons are sweet, juicy choices.

At Arm’s Reach

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  • Reduce your running indoors every time someone needs a drink by creating a self-serve beverage station. For a more polished look, visiting your local home improvement store for metal buckets or planters. To the side of your metal holder of choice, attach a magnet with a hook and hang a bottle opener that will stay within everyone’s reach. A tiny cafe table nearby can act as a makeshift bar that is perfect for wine bottles or spirits.

Build-Your-Own Meal

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  • Shift your meal mentality to one that embraces no-cook recipes that are easily served outside. In addition to your family’s favorite barbeque night, a simple Italian sub-making party lets people build their own sandwiches on bakery bread with cold cuts, spreads, and vegetable condiments.

Easy Dish Duty

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  • Keep it easy when eating outside and replace everyday cups and utensils with ones you can toss at the end of your meal; however, be mindful of the environment by choosing eco-friendly disposable items made of corn or other compostable products.

To Protect and Serve

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  • Protect your food table from bugs. Invest in mesh dome food covers that are easily placed over piles of fruit or anything else that is left out for eating.

A New Take on Soup

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  • With a high-speed blender and your choice of summer’s fruits and vegetables, chilled soups take the worry out of keeping food warm during outdoor dining. There is a gazpacho for practically every palate, but don’t limit yourself to only vegetables: berries, melons and citrus fruits make soups that can be served as both part of your entrée, or as dessert.

End on a High Note

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  • Whether feeding kids or adults, always have the makings for S’mores in your pantry. When the coals are just right (or the gas flame is turned down low), a roasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers is the consummate al fresco food.