I have always fantasized about throwing a gorgeous beach dinner party – fantasized being the keyword. As a resident of a fly-over state, I don’t get many opportunities to see the ocean, let alone dine or frolic near one. So, when Liz and I decided to take a much-needed family road trip to Topsail Beach in North Carolina, we came prepared. So prepared in fact, that we had to buy a roof top cargo carrier to supplement a fully tetrised Ford Explorer.
Now, you may wonder if I would ever do something this absurd if I didn’t want to get a really good photoshoot out of it. And the answer, quite frankly, is no. I’m not sadomasochistic. In addition to not being able to stretch my legs or recline my seat for 15 hours, the logistics once we arrived weren’t ideal either. Wet sand combined with leftover hurricane wind and an attack from a coastal Karen ensuring we didn’t break any beach rules, didn’t really make for a relaxing evening of tapas next to the ocean. However, I have to admit everything turned out beautifully, so simply enjoy the fantasy or recreate it in a Karen-free environment.
IT’S IN THE BAG
If you are thinking about dining picnic-style, the best place to start is a good portable table. Liz discovered this wonderful Table In A Bag from Crate and Barrel, and it completely changed our picnic game. Throw down a few outdoor blankets and pillows, and you are ready to picnic in style. We found these fun Beach Blankets on Amazon, and they complement our stylish tables perfectly.
GO AHEAD, PUT OUT THE GOOD STUFF
I often struggle with style vs. practicality. My instincts always tell me to use melamine when dining outdoors, and with so many great options now, you would think styling with outdoor-friendly products would be a no-brainer. However, when I’m throwing a dinner party, even outdoors, I love to use fancy plates and napkins.
Maybe I’ve watched too many British period pieces or I just like to make things unnecessarily complicated, but I take even my best vintage china outside. (Seriously though, only do this if you are totally comfortable, in a public space that allows glass, and no where near a pool where an overlooked shard could result in a trip to the ER.)
A COLOR SCHEME MEANT FOR THE BEACH
I love mixing blue and orange and thought this would be the perfect color scheme to transition from summer to fall, especially at sunset on a beach. Now that I type that, it seems pretty obvious why that might work. Don’t judge me, I don’t often experience sunsets on beaches and sunsets over the muddy Mississippi just aren’t quite the same.
I started with what Crate and Barrel calls their Addison Grey Gold Rimmed Plates, which look more periwinkle to me, and topped them with their fun wooden Tondo 9” Plates. I couldn’t resist adding the Shibori napkins that Liz and I made over the summer. It’s kind of like adding a little bit of ocean ripple or tidepool to the table, don’t you agree? Here’s a link on how to make them, if you’d like to get crafty.
Next, I added a pop of earthy orange with the Bonita Clay Runner and jazzed things up with some vintage gold flatware and a random brass crane. (Yes, I packed the damn crane. I just love that silly thing and it’s not even mine.) Everything else though stayed beachy neutral including the dried floral arrangements.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DRIED FLORALS
When planning this shoot, I knew I had zero desire to go flower hunting at the local grocery chain or scavenge for pretty things on the beach. And it’s a good thing, because I’m pretty sure coastal Karen would have burned me at the stake, if she caught me trimming pampas grass. That being said, I had always planned on using dried florals because they are easy to pack and in great supply now that they are trending again.
For these particular arrangements, I chose a few fairly common dried varieties including yellow yarrow, blue globe thistle, pampas grass and curly willow. You can even find dried star pods and sponge mushrooms on the web now. That’s the cool standalone pod I threw on the table and the orange-dyed mushrooms I tucked in my napkins. I love the fact that these arrangements essentially last forever, or I can pull out the stems and rearrange them into something new anytime I want.
IT’S TIME FOR TAPAS
This table setup was made for tapas and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with some beautiful plates to share among friends. Although we didn’t technically get to eat on the beach, we did enjoy these delicious recipes in the comfort of our beach house.
Some of my favorite things we made and ate were Homemade Naan, Spiced Meat Hummus, Tahini Glazed Carrots, Onion Chickpea Spread, and Tahini Blondies. We also had a serious cheese and charcuterie board going on.
Just in case you were wondering, we packed up all of our fancy kitchen equipment and special ingredients too. Yes, we are completely ridiculous, but it made for some truly memorable meals and experiences. Plus, it was a great way to thank our fellow guests for generously helping us haul endless boxes out to the beach and pose gracefully as satisfied dinner guests. After seeing some of our spreads, I bet Karen regretted her behavior. No Naan for you Karen. No Naan for you.
Cheers from the beach!