Host a Harvest Dinner Party Under the Stars

I think September is one of the most beautiful months of the year. The heat of summer is behind us, and evenings provide a welcome crispness that invites us to set the table one last time on the deck or in the garden.
As with any gathering, start with your tablescape, and continue the planning with a season-inspired meal and carefully selected wine. Move away from traditional vases with flowers to a more whimsical display, using some of the season’s most unique selection of gourds and ornamental pumpkins. While it’s not quite time to set the Halloween table, consider grabbing some  fantastic green and white gourds and a few small white pumpkins, and scatter them down the center of your table amongst a variety of greens, such as variegated, seeded eucalyptus and lemon leaf.

Choose a heavy cotton or linen tablecloth in a warm cream for your table and add another layer of texture with a burlap runner placed beneath the gourds and greens. And, of course, don’t forget the candles. Scatter tea lights in clear glass or mercury votives amongst the greens and gourds on the table, place heavier hurricane vases and lanterns on the ground surrounding your table. If possible, string lights above your table to illuminate your intimate, outdoor dining space.  Perhaps, find a vintage, garden chandelier at an occasional sale to further enhance the space.  

Wine selections naturally shift, like the seasons, to a mild pinot noir or a robust cabernet. The deep, rich reds provide a feeling of warmth and comfort.

The Meal: A crisp spinach salad served with Honeycrisp apples, Jarlsberg cheese, red onion and a warm poppyseed dressing. A perfectly marinated flank steak (recipe at, paired with fall’s harvest of root vegetables and a loaf of crusty French bread, round out the meal. Dessert beckons a warm apple crisp with a dollop of freshly-made whip cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy the evening under the stars!

Unbelievable Flank Steak
*This is a tried and true recipe from a dear friend.

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced (You can use the ginger in a tube.)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 flank steak

Mix ingredients in sealable plastic bag, and marinate over night.  Remove steak.  Reserve marinade and boil until thick for a sauce.  Either grill the steak or broil it for about seven minutes a side, depending on the thickness of the steak.  Cut in long strips, and serve.