A Guide To Summer Entertaining

Are you at all stumped on more ways to entertain this summer? Worry no more, because we’ve basically plugged Katie Lee for all tips summer entertaining in light of her newest book, Endless Summer Cookbook. With advice like this, we really do wish summer would never end, unless come fall Lee gives us a whole new slew of ideas…#staytuned. From brunch, to fresh appetizers, to summer cocktails, to curating your outdoor space, get ready for a revamp for every kind of DIY summer gathering. (And click through the slides above to watch Katie make her famous Kale Pesto.)

PS: We’re giving away three signed copies of Endless Summer Cookbook, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for a chance to win one!

What is your ideal food day in summer?

I would start my day with a spelt muffin and a big cup of coffee from Provisions in Sag Harbor. For lunch, I would make an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad with veggies from Green Thumb, along with a big piece of Carissa’s Bread from Amagansett smeared with salty butter. In the afternoon, I would snack on a super ripe, juicy peach. For dinner, I would go to Dave’s Grill in Montauk for clams casino and cioppino. I’d finish the day off with a big peanut butter frozen yogurt covered in hot fudge from Buddha Berry.

What are the most important elements to a summer dinner party?  

Summer dinner parties are so much more relaxed. It’s not the time to get out your fancy china or silverware; you can really just keep things simple. Create a menu that can be made mostly in advance with dishes that can be served chilled or room temperature. I usually make a couple of salads – one vegetable or just greens, a grain or pasta salad that is a little heartier, and some kind of bean or lentil salad that can double as a main course for any vegetarians – and store them in the fridge until serving time. For a main course, I make something easy, like grilled hangar steaks, which I dress up a little with a compound butter, like jalapeño butter. For dessert, make ice cream sandwiches the day before and then you just have to grab them out of the freezer and stack them up on a fun serving platter.

I have to say, one of the most important and also one of the most forgotten elements of summer entertaining is lighting. I can’t tell you how many parties I have been to where I cannot see a thing. You will always need more lighting than you think. Go to the hardware store or the dollar store and load up on tiki torches (twice as many as you think you need!), put lanterns on the table, or even break out your Christmas lights (colorless are best).

How do you curate your outdoor space? What are you inspired by? 

I pretend my outdoor dining area is somewhere in Italy. I have a pizza oven and I built a pergola over the dining and kitchen area. I strung little café lights from the pergola and I am growing wisteria over it. I love turning on Italian opera music and making pizza on a hot night – with a big glass of wine, of course.

The perfect summer appetizers…

You can’t go wrong with crudités and a yummy dip, some briny olives, and salty potato chips.

How to create the perfect summer dinner table…

I like a pretty tablecloth, multiple small floral arrangements in different vessels, and lanterns. Simple and chic.

Brunch table…

At brunch, it’s fun to have an element of do-it-yourself, like a fruit, granola and yogurt parfait station, a coffee bar with flavored whipped cream and liqueur or a Bloody Mary station.

The perfect summer cocktails for your guests…

Take advantage of all of the ripe fruit; it’s the perfect time to have a sweet cocktail without all the added sugar and guilt. I make blueberry daiquiris, watermelon rum punch, or honeydew margaritas.

Your go-to side dishes for summer entertaining…

I’m all about quinoa taboulleh, lentil salad, and a zucchini and squash bake.

What do you bring to summer fetes for the host as a guest? 

I like to bring something that they can use later, like homemade granola or pesto in a mason jar.

What tips would you give those hosting summer brunches? What should they make to eat and drink? 

For brunch, I like a menu with something healthy, like a fruit salad, something egg, like a frittata, and something indulgent, like doughnuts (I put mine in the Panini press and serve with melted nutella). A classic brunch cocktail, like a mimosa or a Bellini is always a hit, especially if you use a fresh juice or fruit puree.

An easy appetizer in three steps…

Get a log of goat cheese. Smear with apricot jam. Top with salted pepitas. Serve with crackers.

A few easy breezy hosting outfits you don’t have to think too much about…

Comfortable shoes are a must! I usually go with a wedge; I’m too wobbly on stilettos when I’m manning the grill or carrying platters of food. I have a couple of tight James Perse dresses that are go-tos because they’re comfortable and cute. Since they’re pretty plain, they’re versatile and I’ll dress them up with some fun earrings or a big necklace. I usually shy away from wearing white or anything light-colored when I’m cooking to avoid obvious stains and no flowy sleeves that could get caught in a sauce, or worse yet, a flame.

What do you always have ready before your guests arrive? 

I always have the bar set up and hors d’oeuvres ready to go. I always crank up the music a good fifteen or twenty minutes before the party starts in case someone is early.

Do you create different atmospheres for different themes? How do you do that? 

I love a theme party! Having a theme makes party planning so much easier in many ways. Let’s say you’re hosting a Jamaican night. Think about Jamaican flavors and dishes – jerk chicken, rice and peas, patties, tropical fruits. The menu is easy to build from that. Now think about decor – bright colors, tropical flowers. Done. Music – reggae.  Drinks – rum punch and Red Stripe beer. See how easy that was?

How can boyfriends/husbands help the host (their significant other)? 

Put him to work! Most guys love a project and it is great to get your significant other involved in the project. Have him help with set-up and if there is any heavy lifting. He can also be in charge of music and create a playlist and make sure the volume is right throughout the evening.

Hamptons restaurants you can’t live without…

Dave’s Grill, Nick and Toni’s, The Beacon, East Hampton Grill, Dockside, Suki Zuki, Harvest, Crow’s Nest

In the same vein as what is the new black in fashion, what’s ‘the new potato’ when it comes to summer entertaining? 

Kegs! Get a keg or a pony keg of a local craft beer, or many vineyards are selling kegs of wine now. It’s totally fun, plus it’s economical and more environmental-friendly. I love the rosé keg from Lieb Cellars. One keg is the equivalent of twenty-six bottles and it’s only $240. Perfect for a big party!

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*Katie Lee, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Katie wears an Adam Lippes dress