Al Fresco Made Easy

The catering and event-design experts of Chive share their tips for a stylish — and sustainable — outdoor soiree.

chiveThe ladies of Chive. From Left, Jennifer Frost, Julia Frost, and Lindsey Wishart. (Photo by Scott M. Lacey)


You’d think that sisters Jennifer and Julia Frost and their partner, Lindsey Wishart, have a staff of elves working on every event their Beverly-based catering company, Chive, produces — from an elegant 100-person wedding to a raucous whole-hog benefit dinner for the Essex County Greenbelt Association. That’s because they always look like they’re having just as much fun as their guests. In fact, the trio does just fine without elf assistance. “When you plan and prepare well, you can be part of the party,” says Wishart, Chive’s head chef.

Effortless entertaining is only half the reason organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Harvard School of Design have Chive produce their parties. Also appealing is the company’s strong environmental bent — the three women have strived to create unique spreads with minimal waste. They don’t use disposable goods, and they source in-season ingredients from local farms and compost every scrap. “We like to keep it simple and natural,” says Jennifer, the company’s creative lead.

Now that the weather is backyard-BBQ-friendly, we asked these green party pros for tips to help kick-start your next bash. So strap on those sandals, fire up the grill, and jump into summer with these seven great ideas.

ENCOURAGE LINGERING: Keep nibbles such as olives, bread sticks, and pickles on the table so guests can pick at them between courses and into the night. And provide pitchers of water — people often forget to hydrate, which is especially important in the warmer months. Thoughtful lighting also promotes prolonged partying: “You can hang lanterns on shepherd’s hooks,” Jennifer suggests, “or even just run string lights.” Beeswax candles are a good choice, too, she says. “They last forever!”

REPURPOSE AND REUSE: “Why not bring your living space outside?” Jennifer asks. She adds instant comfort to a patio party without buying extra stuff by shopping her own home for décor. Throw pillows make great bench cushions, and patterned dish towels work as inexpensive napkins that can be reused.

chalk board
(Photo by Scott M. Lacey)

CHALK IT UP: Skip the printed menus and opt for a chalkboard instead. “A handwritten list is homey and welcoming,” Wishart says. “It’s like saying, ‘Mama made this for you today.’”

DON’T FUSS TOO MUCH: Plating food means extra setup and cleanup, and less time to spend with your guests. Instead, present three or four courses family-style on large platters (one platter for every three to four people, says Wishart). Nothing’s more impressive than a whole grilled fish served with charred onions, fingerling potatoes, and lemon slices. One caveat, however: If you’re throwing a summer whites party, avoid passing saucy, splatter-prone dishes.

GO HERBAL: Let themes carry through the meal, from flavor and scent to décor. If you’re marinating pork chops in rosemary or thyme, use the fresh herb to garnish the serving dishes, or place a sprig at every plate, Jennifer advises.

CREATE A SIGNATURE SWILL: Bonus points if it’s one that can also be enjoyed without liquor. Chive likes to brew a big pitcher of homemade ginger beer and place it out with bottles of rum and bourbon. Alternately, make a fruit-infused simple syrup that can be mixed with seltzer and/or vodka, and be sure to put speed pourers on the tops of bottles to keep things neat and tidy.

EMBRACE BYOB/BYOF: Guests always ask what to bring, so give them a little guidance. Have a giant ice-filled tub at the ready for your friends’ favorite craft brews. If they want to make appetizers or desserts, have serving dishes on hand so you can transfer food to coordinated (or creatively mismatched) dishware, rather than paper plates or tin foil.