Dining with fireflies

I'm that person you love to hate. The one that can dine outdoors in summer and never break a sweat. The one that is oblivious to mosquitoes with ne'er a bite. The one that is totally giddy for dining alfresco! I must confess, although I pine for the true European definition of dining alfresco {dining in the fresh air} most of my outdoor dining takes place at the poolside {not in my backyard} with 100 bazillion water-winged-children running by. No romantic lanterns dangling from the trees or arching vines or mountain breezes. So, this post is to celebrate all that is possible: An outdoor setting full of character and life; a one-of-kind dining experience with all the embellishments; tabletops that exude summer and welcome friends and family to the fresh air.

{photo via Country Living}

I have a friend that could totally knock this look off {you know who you are}! A path leads from her lovely covered deck through a central garden to a tree canopied, backyard oasis.

{photo via Southern Accents}

The backyard I've always dreamed off ~ meandering!

{photo via Circa Interiors}

I just love this photo from Circa Interiors. They hosted a special alfresco dinner for Bunny Williams when she was in town to speak at the Mint Museum Symposium. If you would like to replicate this lovely party in your own backyard, they sell all the beautiful glassware, lavender linens and faux bois accessories.

{photo via Southern Accents}

Lakeside dining has improved {a lot} since I used to spend the lazy days of summer at the lake as a teenager! I love those tall candelabras and lime green candles.

{Martha Stewart Living Magazine}

Martha Stewart, the early pioneer of elegant outdoor dining, has provided a virtual road-map of outdoor dining how-to's! This photo takes my breath away!

I can feel the ocean breezes and taste the delicious seafood!

{image via Blackberry Farm}

Since the first time the Blackberry Farm was featured in Southern Accents, I have been dying to go there. The Beale Family has created the quintessential mountain retreat, complete with a working farm and diary. You must visit The Blackberry Farm website. Eye-candy! Enjoy!

{photo of Blackberry Farm via Traditional Home}

{photo of blackberry Farm via Traditional Home}

I love the simplicity of this tabletop design ~ stones and moss!

My family and I take day-trips to the North Carolina mountains on a regular basis in Summer. I love to hike and fly fish and many, many times wish I had packed a picnic. Eating by the stream would be sheer bliss!

{My inspiration collage for dining in the fresh air}

 Aspargus plate from Earthborn Pottery; The Blackberry Farm Cookbook; faux bois candelabra; driftwood hurricane from Anthropologie; hydrangeas from the backyard; Earthborn Pottery; antique french garden chairs; melamine monogrammed plates; mercury glass votives to hang in the trees; pebble candles from Circa Interiors; napkin from Roberta Freymann; fresh from the garden centerpiece.

{Hazelnut Pecan Pesto Chicken Salad}

If you want to get asked by a bazillion people for your recipe, take this delicious hazelnut pecan pesto chicken salad to your next fresh air gathering. I've served it above on my favorite hors d'oeuvres plate from Earthborn Pottery. Earthborn Pottery is available locally at All Through The House at Reynolda Village.

1 cup tightly packed Italian parsley leaves
1 1/2 cup toasted whole pecan halves, toasted until fragrant
1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 - 1/2 cup toasted hazelnut oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 ounces bow tie pasta, cooked al dente and drained
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, marinated, grilled, and chopped

To make the pesto, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch parsley for just a few seconds, just until it turns bright green, then remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Drain on paper towels. Place pecans in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse a few times until the pecans are broken up a bit, then add the drained parsley, cheese, lemon zest and juice and process until everything is chopped up and blended together. With the motor running, drizzle the oil through the feeder tube, and process until the pesto is of the desired consistency, whether a bit chunky or very smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.Combine the chicken and pasta and add enough pesto to coat everything generously. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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