Field Notes #7: Al Fresco Dining through the Four Seasons - A Checklist

For the adventurous romantics, for the food lovers, and picnicers, here is your complete checklist for dining out-of-doors... Anywhere you ever dreamt of. Don't save the experience for your wedding day. Just do it now, and do it in any season of the year. Heres how---

Read Field Notes #6, our previous post on Al Fresco Eating in all the four seasons, with an example of our event last week: Summerlandia 2015. Or, just jump in to creating your own outdoor dining experience. It'll bring out the inner party planner in all of you. 

1. Location, location, location.  Choose your location wisely. Pick your venue based on these factors:

a. Stunningness - have you got a good view, or are you close to water or within another naturally beautiful scene? Maybe you are at a special monument or art piece.

b. Comfort - Is there a flat area where the entire party can collect together for the feast? Possible alternate area with shelter from rain? Is there a safe place to build a fire? 

c. Amenities - Don't just choose a place because there is already a national parks board picnic table ready for you. You can get creative.  But yahoo, if "a" is already settled and there is a handy table and seating, go ahead and select the venue. Even better if there is a bathroom close by.

d. Permission - Don't choose a place that you could get kicked out/off of. Its way too much work to take the risk.


2. Check the weather forecast for your selected day. Choose the optimal day around your findings but be flexible! A little cloud, rain or snow might just add to the magic of eating outside in the elements. 

3. Choose a theme, find what's in season. It may be a particular food in season or it might be a holiday or birthday. Could it be an era or a special guest who inspires the theme?

4. Build your guestlist.  Invite your more adventurous friends or at the least, those who are comfortable sitting on the ground or in variable weather and conditions. We don't suggest you invite your grandparents unless its really that perfect day in July, and you have got ideal seating and equal parts shade and comfort. 

5. Create your menu. If it's a potluck and there is a theme, decide on your dish. I would tend to think you are making the main course if you are the instigator.  Delegate sides and salads or other accompaniments like bread or appetizers to your friends to make a well appointed feast.

6. Get your beverage list selected. Remember your theme and try to make your drinks fit. Whether its Tiki cocktails or BC craft beers and ciders or Okanagan wine, make it fun and well paired with the food.

7. Table(s). Once you know your location you will know what space you have for either a long table, our favourite, or small tables. Or maybe you will be eating off your lap. Find good folding tables from Canadian Tire. They are stable and they will come in handy because you will be hooked after your first Al Fresco adventure. Or if you are lucky, friends in your group will have a couple to bring. Try a longtable formation with a couple, or make your own creative formation that brings everyone close together for great conversations and connections.


Table Supplies (apart from the food):



Plates or bowls

Serving Utensils


Salt and Pepper, or our favourite everyday accompaniment, hot sauces and any other condiments that are appropriate.


Carrying Containers:



Thermos (for mulled wine or other hot beverages)

Dollie (for carting)


Tools and Miscellaneous:

Blankets for warmth, extra tuques for your friends (if its cold)


Axe - some studly friend would probably love to swing an axe :D but be careful! 

Camera - You WILL want to document this. Have your camera battery charged and ready, or of course, have your iphones charged up, with ample storage available for lots of priceless pictures.

Lanterns - bring a couple lanterns of your selection. Old camp lanterns or get fancier, and bring the candle lanterns.  If you have lanterns to hang in trees that could be a gorgeous addition. Or find battery powered LED xmas lights for some creativity with lighting. 

Music - battery powered boombox or a good old-fashioned guitar

Remember, many hands make light work and part of the experience is the collaboration and set up. Delegate the tasks of bringing some of the equipment, props and supplies to your friends. The set-up and take down will be fun and easy with all hands on deck. Plus, it may help keep you warm!

FOOD TIPS: If there was ever a time for one-pot cooking it is now. Make an excellent stew, like we did for Summerlandia. Tomorrow we will share the recipe for our All Local Venison Beef Bourgignon. 

SHOPPING TIPS: I dont like to eat off of plastic or paper, so I have spent the time to collect a complete set of dishes, glasses and flatware just for the outdoors. You can find all that you need at your local thrift store. Its inexpensive and you can get creative with themes without breaking the bank. Its a lot of fun too. I wander through the local thrift store often just with Al Fresco in mind.  Tie in a colour scheme, or an era. Bring out some vintage silverplate flatware for sparkle. Keep an eye out for vintage table cloths too. They bring some polish.

It's not about making it easy, its about making it fun and interesting, so it's rewarding on all levels. 

Finally, most importantly, leave your beautiful event locale as beautiful and pristine as the way you found it :)

We hope you share some pictures with us. Hashtag them with #TFGALFresco so we can repost your event creations!

I am posting a couple pictures from Al Fresco events that we have enjoyed with friends.

Happy dining and entertaining!


Last year we had an Oyster Beach Cookout, here we brought out lots of vintage tableware and dressed the table up.


 Cooking by fire <3

And last weeks Summerlandia, a beautiful casual fall get-together. The picnic tables on the dock were a last minute choice, that really made for an amazing experience. Like true dining on the water.

Have fun!

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