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Outdoor Entertaining

Summer time and the living’s easy… from backyard barbecues to sophisticated outdoor dinners, or even just casual gatherings by the pool, these next few, short months invite all to celebrate the warm weather and all things North Fork outdoors. It is the time for summer entertaining, when friends and family visit for long weekends, soaking up as much of the sun’s rays as they can. Elevating the summer entertaining experience, local establishments stock the goods to decorate and inspire outdoor spaces, while restaurants, caterers, wineries, and breweries make it easy to bring the party to you. No matter the occasion, the North Fork knows how to throw the perfect summer gathering.

The setting is just as important as what you bring to it. Having a comfortable place for your guests to relax and enjoy is essential. With a firm belief in combining form and function to create beautiful living spaces indoors and out, interior designer and owner of Renee’s in Mattituck Debra Gildersleeve adds a level of sophistication to outdoor living. The interior and exterior should share a similar aesthetic, creating a sense of ease when moving in and out. The outdoor spaces are an extension of the home after all, and therefore should find balance with those similar design concepts. When it comes to entertaining in the summer, this makes guests feel truly at home.

“Most of the homes I work on are on the water and the view is so crucial,” Gildersleeve shares. “Even with interiors, I try and keep it less distracting. You want it to be peaceful, cozy, and serene with colors that work with the exterior. It’s the same with furniture. You want it to gel with what’s inside with complementary colors. It’s an extension of the home.”

Furniture companies with outdoor lines have evolved, creating pieces that have a similar look and feel to what you would find indoors, as well as transitional pieces that can be used in and outside. Adding an outdoor rug and lighting can pull these spaces together while also making them cozy and inviting. From dining to lounging, summer parties feel a touch more sophisticated. Even outdoor tabletop goods like dishes, serving utensils, glassware, and barware are of sophisticated design today, trading in paper plates and plasticware for more substantial pieces that add to the overall aesthetic and experience.

“There are amazing options with furniture right now,” says Gildersleeve. “You can do a grouping of sectionals with a rug and firepit. People spend so much time outside on the East End and these spaces should be comfortable and inviting.”

When it comes to outdoor dining at home, the North Fork has a plethora of provisional options to make your own menus, casual to intricate. Numerous farm stands with fresh vegetables and produce in the summer put the focus on locally-inspired menus. Sang Lee Farms in Peconic offers unique certified organic varieties as well as various prepared foods perfect for noshing. Find biodynamic goods as well as fresh cut wildflower bunches at KK’s The Farm in Southold. For other bite-worthy pickups, Lombardi’s Love Lane Market stocks everything you need for the perfect antipasti plate. Just across the street is the Village Cheese Shop with its numerous imported cheeses from around the globe.

Wine and beer of course are a must for summer entertaining. When you’re keeping it casual by the pool or on your beach, a wine keg, box, or cans from Bridge Lane Wines is a fun addition to the party. For all celebrations, Sparkling Pointe’s Brut and Blanc de Blancs are favorites. For any occasion, Pellegrini Vineyards various vintages are great to keep on hand. Beer culture has grown on the North Fork, and one of the first to open, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., is a go-to. Check out North Fork Brewing Company and Jamesport Farm Brewery for other ice-cold growlers to take home. 

Sometimes you don’t want to do the cooking, and that’s just fine. After all, it’s summer so why not enjoy the party yourself? The beauty of the North Fork is that many local catering companies also exemplify the farm-to-table concept in their events, sourcing ingredients from the same purveyors one may look for on their own. When thinking about outdoor entertaining, Grace and Grit co-owner and chef Jennilee Morris says there is nothing more North Fork than cooking outdoors.

“We love using open fire to cook just about everything,” Morris explains. “Whole fish over fire is always a crowd pleaser and a show. We slow roast ours off the flame for even cooking and use the hotter flames down below to cook other local veggies or shellfish. It’s a lot of fun and creates an experience for your guests.” 

Summer can be a bit of a playground for all chefs, both pros and avid home cooks. There is more to choose from and dishes highlight the various seasonal ingredients that often star on local restaurant menus. Grace and Grit takes a creative approach to presentation of their dishes for various events, but lets the simplicity of the ingredients do the talking.

“It’s an exciting time to hit the local farm stand and see what’s available,” shares Morris. “That is how we design our menus. What’s fresh and what just came out of the ground! Pick a good farmer and you won’t have to do much to make the food taste great.”

The beauty of summer entertaining is that when the party is over and the hostess’ work is done, the North Fork is the place you get to relax and call home. From a simple picnic on the beach or poolside lounging to a more planned, sophisticated dinner party, celebrating with family and friends outdoors on the East End is one of the many draws for first and second homeowners. Happy summer!