Sunshine is as good an excuse as any to throw a party, and a casual dinner-whether indoors or out-is an ideal way to enjoy friends.

Casual, however, doesn't mean plastic tablecloths and disposable flatware. Here, we throw a party inspired by rustic French style, with a burlap runner, crisp white dishware, glass tumblers, white napkins, clever place cards, luscious flowers in luxe containers and inviting candlelight.

Dee Conrad and Amanda Smith of Petals & Leaves in Powell decorated the table. (The key? Different heights and textures, they say.)


They used Astier de Villatte dishware from their neighbor shop, Found, to anchor their floral creations. In the tallest vases, they arranged an array of colorful flowers and herbs. In another vase, they used a bouquet of tulips. In medium-sized vases, they showcased herbs as the main event, using rosemary, scented geranium, sage and leaves. In the egg holders, they placed individual roses and artichokes.

They filled different sizes of clear vases with water, and then lit candles inside them. And they placed a handful of homemade moss balls around the table as well.

Finally, they rolled the napkins. They placed a lamb's ear leaf, sage and a fresh flower on top. And they tied them-and really, the whole table-together with hand-labeled shipping tags.


The beautiful dcor, of course, is a precursor to an equally fabulous meal.

Here, we feed our guests with skewers of melon and prosciutto, crusted grilled steak (simple yet always a treat!), tangy potato salad with yogurt and herbs, and lovely-yet-easy strawberry tartlets. It's all meant to be enjoyed with a jug of fruity sparkling sangria that boasts juicy citrus flavors and sweet red wine.

If you're the sort of hostess who wants to enjoy her own party, then this menu is for you. The tartlets, salad and sangria are prepped ahead of time, and the steak and melon-prosciutto skewers need only a few short minutes on the grill. Your guests will be delighted with the delicious flavors, and you'll be able to relax and raise a glass to summer. Bon apptit!

Faith Durand is a food writer and editor living in Clintonville. She is the Managing Editor of thekitchn.com and author of the cookbook "Not Your Mother's Casseroles."