Just because it’s a little chilly outside doesn’t mean you can’t have your party outdoors.
I’m not talking about freezing weather. Let’s be sensible! And – yes – I know: “chilly” weather in California isn’t the same kind of “chilly” in Michigan. What I’m talking about is pleasantly calm weather that lets us enjoy winter! Tell your guests that the party is outside and they’ll know to dress accordingly!
No matter where you are and how well people dress, warmth for your outdoor dining party is an absolute must. Depending on where you live, an open campfire on the ground may not be a good idea. In fact, in some places, it might even be illegal. Either way, covered fire pits and outdoor fireplaces (chimenea) may be the safer alternative.
My search turned up a few helpful ideas.
Lowe’s has several styles of covered fire pits that will meet all budgets – like this round one.
Home Depot has this square one with a cooking grill and tile edge – very nice, and it has a bit of style to it. And, with the cooking grill you can keep your pot of chili warm for the whole party without ever having to leave your guests and go to the kitchen for ‘seconds’.
I like this one from Amazon. It’s a lovely rustic looking cast iron bowl that keeps the fire off the ground, but some places may not like the fact that it is an “open pit” and not covered.
A friend of mine swears by his cast iron chimenea – they come in all different sizes – but his stands about 5 feet tall and looks like something you’d find out in the desert somewhere. If there are local restrictions against outdoor fires (open or covered), don’t give up! Outdoor gas heaters are not as pretty as outdoor fireplaces, but they will give your guests a place to warm up.
The next big item on your list – a big basket of blankets, all different sizes. Make sure that there are at least a few that’ll allow couples or kids to snuggle up under together.
Just an outdoor décor suggestion. If you have bright colored outdoor cushions, maybe replace them with dark-colored cushions (to help set the theme), or cover them up with faux fur or heavy knit throws.
But, my favorite outdoor dining drink is hot buttered rum. This hot buttered rum mix can be made in bulk. It produces an 8oz jar of mix that’s enough for about 12 drinks, if you just use about 1 tablespoon per ‘drink’ mug. I use Bacardi (8-year-old) or Myers Dark Rum.
The best thing to serve for dinner is what folks call “one pot meals.” It’s a big pot of chili or a hearty beef stew that can stay warm near the fire pit (or even on the fire pit if there’s a grill) and guests get to wrap their fingers around the warm bowls. Here’s a great recipe from one of my favorite places – Williams-Sonoma. This recipe will feed about 6 guests. You can easily double or even triple the recipe. Take the “variation” on the recipe and replace 1-1/2 cups of the stock with the same amount of a bold red wine to add richness to the stew (the alcohol cooks off, and you’re left with the wonderful flavor of the wine). I also use multi-color carrots, and I add some of the crisped bacon back in with the potatoes and mushrooms. And, as with any “big” stew like this, serve with crusty bread!
The best thing to finish off an outdoor dinner with your guests? Old fashioned S’mores for dessert. Nobody needs a recipe for that, right? Enjoy!