On a Jamaican beach or in a Los Angeles garden, the best summer parties bring elegance outdoors
One of the most spectacular outdoor parties I have ever been to took place on a beach in Jamaica. It was a rite of passage--the 40th birthday of a close friend's husband. Dressed in "island black tie," we dined by candlelight at tables set with the finest china, linens and silverware--and none of us wore shoes. Our hostess commissioned a designer from New York City to transform the mangrove tree we sat under; he strung hundreds of small crystals among the branches, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The effect was magical. The dinner? Cold melon soup, lobsters and birthday cake. The end of the evening brought a torrential rainstorm, which didn't make the party any less perfect, even though we were all soaked.... Before dinner, the hostess took a photograph of her husband surrounded by the bevy of women in our group. After we returned home, we each received the photo beautifully framed, with the date and occasion written on it in her hand.... Another great outdoor party I attended was a clambake on Long Island. Dress code: jeans and a sweatshirt. Torches in the sand led the way to the beach where a huge bonfire blazed inside a circle of hay bales (our seats). Everyone pitched in to cook the corn, lobsters and potatoes. After dinner we played charades and listened to the older kids play guitar. I'm looking forward to taking my daughter this year!
When I'm in Los Angeles, I always look forward to a call from Wendy Goldberg. Married to film producer Leonard Goldberg, she throws parties with incredible food (I love the split-pea and watercress soup) and star power (from Sean Connery to Drew Barrymore). Wendy's secret weapon? Arli's Catering, run by a former manager at Chasen's. For a luncheon on her terrace, she sets the table with pink and green linens, vintage wineglasses and a centerpiece of Anna roses, peonies and tulips from florist Dan Klemuk of The Greenbriar.
Whenever I entertain outdoors, I keep in mind that guests want to eat--not be eaten. So I buy citronella candles and light them two hours before my friends are due to arrive. And although everyone likes to mingle, I never forget to provide comfortable seating for anyone who wants a break.
Rose Tarlow, the owner of the furniture-design firm Rose Tarlow-Melrose House in Los Angeles, is one of the most influential experts in her field. Though I wouldn't label her a minimalist, she tends to pare things down to their essential elements. When she and her long-time companion, architect Richard Meier, entertain alfresco, Richard takes charge of the outdoor stone oven, cooking Dover sole on the bone and veal sausages. Rose sets the table, two enormous slabs of limestone that date back to 17th-century France. Her 18th-century Gentri plates are lovely, but the real eye-candy is her set of ivory-and-silver flatware. Rose and I share a passion for antique ivory, and she has brought me some wonderful pieces from her travels. My favorite: a set of lobster crackers and picks.
Seeing the Light
It's impossible not to feel beautiful in the glow of a Moroccan lamp. When Manhattan interior designer Muriel Brandolini entertains outdoors, she uses one she bought abroad; it is made of pierced metal and stands several feet tall. Candles inside create a seductive atmosphere.