Last week, my husband Dave and I hosted an outdoor dining party in our backyard, all in the spirit of charity. It was amazing!
The event was a result of an auction where we donated a gourmet and wine dinner experience. The highest bidder brought seven of his closest friends and it turned out to be an unforgettable evening filled with delightful connections, scrumptious dishes, and the joy of giving back.
In the Spirit of Giving
Hosting a Fall Outdoor Dining Party
The idea of hosting a dinner party for charity originated from a local event auction.
As we brainstormed unique ways to contribute, the concept of sharing a beautiful meal with others resonated deeply with my husband and me.
. Little did we know that this simple idea would soon transform into an inspiring event that would bring people together.
A Menu Crafted with Care
The heart of any dinner party lies in the menu, and ours was carefully curated to evoke the flavors of fall while providing a diverse culinary experience. We wanted to create a symphony of tastes that would resonate with the season’s charm.
When our guests arrived this was how our island looked. Since we were serving a five-course meal, I had five stacks of plates stacked ready for each course and I was prepared to serve a wonderful meal.
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Culinary Magic and Outdoor Dining Under the Stars
As the sun began to set, our outdoor dinner party commenced. The appetizers were met with appreciative murmurs, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. Sharing anecdotes about their lives, our guests created an atmosphere of intimacy and connection.
With the main courses served, we watched as our guests savored every bite. The flavors of the lemon dill salmon and the maple soy flank steak seemed to embody the essence of fall, eliciting smiles and satisfied sighs. The lemon rice provided a delightful contrast, balancing the richness of the meats with its vibrant, tangy notes.
And then, the moment of truth arrived—the chocolate lava cakes. These delectable desserts were met with awe and anticipation. As the guests dug their spoons into the velvety chocolate centers, the symphony of contented sighs echoed through the night.
Dinner Party Menu
We welcomed our guests with indulgent crab cakes, a blend of succulent crab meat, herbs, and spices that set the tone for the culinary journey ahead.
- Crab Cakes
- 3 TBL butter
- 1 scallion, chopped fine
- 1 glove garlic, minced
- 2 TBL red bell pepper, chopped fine
- Ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste
- 3 TBL heavy cream
- 1 TBL dijon mustard
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp minced fresh basil
- 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
- 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
- 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 2 TBL vegetable oil
- Lemon Dill Sauce
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 TBL fresh dill chopped
- 1 TBL minced fresh parsley
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 TBL grated lemon peel
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Lightly chop the crab meat in the food processor and set aside.
- Melt one TBL of the butter in a large skillet and saute the scallion, garlic and red bell pepper until wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the ground red pepper, cream and mustard.
- Cool slightly. Add the egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, and the crabmeat.
- Mix lightly. Mold into 25 one-inch wide patties.
- Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and the parmesan cheese in a shallow dish.
- Roll the patties in the crumb and cheese mixture.
- Chill for at least one hour. (The crab cakes can be made one day prior and refrigerated, covered, up to this point.)
- Combine the oil and the remaining 2 TBL of butter over moderate heat in a large skillet.
- Saute the crab cakes 3 minutes on each side.
Lemon Dill Sauce
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Chill until the mixture thickens.
The Lemon Dill Sauce in this recipe is also really great with salmon (baked or smoked).
The green salad with pears, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, and candied walnuts added a refreshing touch to the meal. The crispness of the greens, the sweetness of the pears, and the crunch of the walnuts harmonized beautifully.
- 1 Bag Baby Lettuce Mix
- 1/2 package Ready to Eat Edamame
- Two Grilled, Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary Chicken Breast, sliced
- 8 fresh asparagus, tops only
- 2 Honeycrisp apples, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
- 1 8 oz. package of chopped pecans
- 3 Tbl sugar
- 1/2 cup Pomegranate Seeds
- Add baby lettuce to the bottom of a large serving bowl.
- Sprinkle edamame on top of lettuce.
- If you purchased pre-cooked chicken just slice it. Otherwise, grill and slice the marinated chicken breasts. Add to bowl.
- Place the bag of chopped pecans in a skillet and add the sugar. Heat on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the pecans are coated with the melted sugar, about three minutes. Place pecans on aluminum foil and cool. Add to salad.
- Add asparagus to bowl.
- Add Honeycrisp apples to the bowl.
- Add pumpkin seeds and sugared pecans.
- Finish by sprinkling pomegranate seeds over the salad.
- Toss with the amount of salad dressing to your taste.
For the main course, we chose a delightful duo: salmon and flank steak. The dishes were prepared with a delicate balance of flavors, featuring a zesty lemon dill marinade for the salmon and a rich maple soy glaze for the flank steak. The combination was a testament to fall’s ability to blend freshness with heartiness.
- 4 salmon fillets, skin-on
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- For the Sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup of buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cedar or Alder pellets
- Preheat your Coyote Pellet Grill to 350°F using Cedar or Alder pellets. These pellets are ideal for cooking fish and will infuse your salmon with a delicious smoky flavor.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, smoked paprika, thyme, salt, and black pepper.
- Place the salmon fillets, skin-side down, on a piece of aluminum foil. Brush the olive oil mixture generously over the top of the salmon fillets.
- Place the aluminum foil with the salmon directly on the grill grates, and close the lid. Cook the salmon for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145°F.
- While the salmon is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, dill, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, and pepper until well combined.
- When the salmon is done, remove it from the grill and serve it immediately, topped with the sauce.
- one large flank steak
- 2 TBL garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the marinade ingredients. Place the flank steak in a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Chill and marinate for at least 4 hours, or best it marinate overnight.
Here is the Lemon Rice recipe.
The grand finale arrived in the form of individual Chocolate Lava Cakes. The decadent, molten chocolate centers captured the essence of indulgence, providing a sweet conclusion to our gastronomic adventure.
You can find the Chocolate Lava Cake recipe here.
Setting the Fall Outdoor Dining Scene: A Backyard Oasis
Our backyard served as the ideal canvas for this memorable evening. The trees, adorned with leaves, formed a picturesque backdrop.
The table was elegantly arranged with fall-themed décor, creating an inviting atmosphere that transported our guests into the heart of autumn.
Personalizing the Table
As you can see, I made place cards and printed menus for this outdoor dining experience.
The Fresh Flower Centerpieces
The flowers were from Trader Joe’s and I used orange roses and carnations, pink tulips, and eucalyptus.
Eight Strangers, One Heartwarming Gathering
The evening arrived, and with it, eight wonderful individuals who had participated in the auction. Although Dave and I had never met our guests before, there was an immediate sense of camaraderie. It was heartwarming to witness friends coming together under the banner of charity, sharing stories and laughter as old friends.
A Night to Remember
As the evening wound down, our backyard was lit by the soft glow of string lights.
Amid the laughter, the stories, and the clinking of glasses, it was clear that this night was not just about the food; it was about the connections forged and the hearts touched.
Reflecting on the event, Dave and I felt a profound sense of fulfillment. We had brought together strangers who, for a few hours, became a part of our lives.
The beauty of fall, the joy of sharing a meal, and the spirit of giving had converged to create an unforgettable experience.
Hosting a fall outdoor dinner party for charity was a journey that revealed the power of coming together. It showcased the ability of food to transcend its role as nourishment and become a conduit for shared moments and genuine connections.
As we bid our guests farewell, the stars above seemed to shine a little brighter as if acknowledging the warmth that had been exchanged beneath them.
As we turned in for the night, our hearts were full, knowing that the magic of that evening would forever remain in our memories—a testament to the beauty of fall, the spirit of giving, and the bonds we can create with those around us.
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