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Easter Sunday Alfresco

Easter Sunday Alfresco
September 2007
Al-fres-co out of doors; in the open air

Entertaining maven Nigella Lawson has been known to decry the abominations of a complicated or overly diverse menu; we can only surmise that the same philosophy applies to the composition of her tables. But just as any good host or hostess doesn’t dispense with a brilliant menu altogether—they simplify it—neither is it appropriate to shun all pomp and circumstance when it comes to settings. With the recent succession of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and NewYear’s, Easter Sunday can come off as a quasi-repeat of the preceding fêtes. Sure, festive splashes of pastels make a sweet appearance, but the rest of the springtime holiday often suffers under a cloud of tried and,well,tried again. This year, we’ve pulled back the curtain on three fresh entertaining concepts designed around quick-prep seasonal dishes.We’ve included time-saving table ideas, tips for choosing the right wine, and creative how-tos that are as easily said as they are done.And many design elements, along with some of the recipes, can be made ahead of time to avoid stress and let you savor your own soirée.

Beachy Keen
At the beach, fuss is as forbidden a concept as donning shoes for a stroll in the
sand. With this in mind, our easy Easter brunch has a one-dish menu and creative
time-savers like floral arrangements that can be made ahead of time.

Pretty Sweet
Even if there aren’t any little ones at the table, we found a way to keep the requisite Easter baskets close at hand. Ours are spray-painted and filled with white- and milk-chocolate “seashells” made from candy molds we found at Michael’s for less than $1.

Content to let our dynamite views do the entertaining for us, we settled into the back deck of a friend’s beach house on Sullivan’s Island to whip up this laid-back soirée.Of course, any accommodating deck or patio will do.

A washed turquoise fabrics sewn wide enough to serve as both table runner and placemate.Raised beds of button mums form colorful centerpieces; spritz daily with water, and they’ll brighten things up long after the holiday is over.

Tropical Punch
Slightly more elaborate, yet still a clever approach to the holiday, this tropical garden supper casts a vibrant nod to Mother Nature.Tropical foliage,wood,bamboo, stone, and even live goldfish conspire to effect a fresh,organic approach to Easter. Given the setting, we emphasized the organic elements that naturally lent themselves to this fête. Here, a commodious table is set with bright tropical leaves cut from a nearby bush and spritzed with water for a brighter sheen. Using these as placemats, we added stone plates topped with simple menu cards (see page 135 for the how-to). Down the center of the table, birds of paradise and other tropical flora pair with vases of live goldfish for brilliant, and entirely unexpected, centerpieces.

Go Fish
For an added and easy-to-accomplish dose of drama, treat your guests to a peek at goldfish darting about the center of the table. To make these centerpieces, root birds of paradise, anthurium, and aspidistra in river rocks and place the container inside a separate square vase; add water to both vessels, along with a few brightly hued fish in the outer container.

Though we set up in a secluded garden behind Rainbow Row, all that’s required for this slightly formal affair is a grassy expanse and a little shade from afternoon sun.

We borrowed our color palette from the vibrant centerpieces and played off nature as much as we could. Polaroids taken during the course of the evening are attached to printed menu cards for creative, inexpensive, party favors.

Red, Red Wine
Unsure what wines to pair with a main course like our garlic-studded lamb?We asked Michael Franke of O’Hara & Flynn for his expert advice.“You need robust wines that can stand up to and enhance the flavor of the lamb,” reports Franke, who recommended three varieties at different price points.“Each one is a full-bodied, rustic red with lots of character.”

Franke’s Picks:
Barocco Rosso del Salento ($10.50) from Puglia, a southeastern region of Italy MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah ($16.50) from Chile Bel Colle Barolo ($69) from Piemonte, a northwestern region of Italy

Picture This
Make a lasting impression at your affair by creating menu cards that double as place cards. Select two decorative papers of slightly different dimensions to layer; then print your menu on a vellum cover, also cut to layer, leaving a 4 ¼'' x 3 ½'' space at the top to overlay a photograph.With the click of a Polaroid camera and a binder clip, the cards become personalized favors for guests to take home. Easy Does It This year, try painting your eggs rather than dying them for more reliable, and often deeper, hues. We placed a trio of these goodlooking eggs at each place setting, painted various shades of blue to match the china.

Tea Time
Replace traditional Easter menus with an afternoon tea party,where a selection of fresh breads, fruit, and teas make for a sweet (yet remarkably simple) holiday gathering.

A sun-washed courtyard offers a perfect place to lay a tea table; architectural remnants of centuries past are considered a charmed Easter bonus.

The décor of mismatched porcelain and other antique pieces found around the home lend a laid-back sophistication to the table. Eggs are painted to match our wares, and each guest is given a decorative basket packed with a takehome selection of muffins and scones.

A-Tisket, A-Tasket
Send guests home with a sweet treat of scones and a trio of teas in personalized wooden baskets.We found ours at a crafts store and lined them with decorative paper. Think of these as the grownup version of Easter baskets full of plastic grass and chocolate eggs.