Outdoor Entertaining = Alfresco Fun

Target, French Bull, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, James Ransom, Amazon, Outward Hound

This time of year, it’s hard to do anything indoors. So give yourself permission to leave the office early or set those household tasks temporarily aside. Kick back, relax, play. Summer’s here. It’s time for alfresco fun outdoor entertaining!

Spending time outdoors is as American as apple pie and here’s the proof. A new survey by the National Association of Landscape Professionals reveals that 47% of us entertain outdoors at least once a month and 77% just hang out and relax in our yards at least that often, too. Whether you’re throwing a party of letting it come to you, do it in style.

French Bull

Brightly color Fringe appetizer plates will punch up any picnic table. Made of BPA-free, shatter resistant melamine, they’re more sturdy than paper plates and are dishwasher safe. Perfect for snacks and desserts, too.  Set of 6/$19.99.

Williams Sonoma

Here’s how to make your hot dog haute. Williams Sonoma’s Hot Dog Bomb Sauce Trio features three takes on classic condiments: New York, a classic combo of sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard, sautéed onions and savory spices; Chicago, sweet pick relish combined with yellow mustard, sport peppers onions and a dash of celery salt and poppy seeds; and All-American, a mix of classic ketchup and savory spices. Made in the USA. $32.95

Pottery Barn

With five nifty trays that hold everything from nuts and chips to popcorn, the Galvanized Snack Wheel puts a fresh spin on serving snacks and appetizers during outdoor entertaining. It also taps into a popular trend—galvanized metal.  $59.50

Music is an essential for outdoor entertaining, and a portable radio like this makes that easy to provide.

Mini Bluetooth™ speakers that resemble vintage radios are everywhere right now. What takes Mifine’s Vintage Radio Retro Bluetooth™ Speaker/FM Radio (yes, that’s a mouthful) up a notch is this. It’s also an FM radio and comes with an audio cable so you can also play music from non-Bluetooth devices, including tablets and tv’s.  Delivers up to 9 hours of music on a single full charge, twice the duration I found with competitors. This nifty little 3”x4” device is pocket portable and getting rave reviews online for its robust sound and functionality. Plus, it’s a cute as can be.  Amazon offers the best price, including an extra 5% off coupon (plus free shipping for Prime members)—$27.99.

If you dog is a guest during beachy outdoor entertaining, keep him safe in a life vest like this.
Outward Hound

44% of American households include a dog. That makes a dog life jacket like this a must-have if your pooch is going poolside or to the beach with you.  As the dog mom of two corgis who love water but sink like rocks no matter how fast they paddle with such short legs, Outward Hound’s Dawson dog life jacket caught my eye. Crafted of sturdy neoprene material with side foam panels for supportive buoyancy, adjustable straps with Velcro® tabs and top grab handles. In 5 sizes and 3 bright colors/$12.64-26.77. 

A large cooler is essential for keeping  beverages cold during outdoor entertaining.

The Centennial rolling cooler from the Hearth & Hand™ with Magnolia Collection by JoAnna Gaines is a terrific for outdoor entertaining. Its vintage design is beyond cool, and so is its construction.  This double-sided steel cooler has rolling casters, removable legs (for easy transport in a vehicle), plus a bottle opener with catch pocket. Holds up to 100 beverage cans. $139.99

The food scene is in a taco frenzy that shows no sign of slowing down. The recipe puts an unexpected spin on tacos that’s icy fun, and perfect for outdoor entertaining.

James Ransom ©2017

Molly Yeh’s Chocolate Tacos


Ice Cream & Friends: 60 Recipes & Riffs


The Editors of FOOD52 

Makes 6 to 8

With these Chocolate Tacos, it’s your taco party so you can do what you want: Soft, chewy shells (that you shape by hanging over books, but not this one!) are spooned full with whatever ice cream flavor you desire and topped with Picasso-like splatters of chocolate and crushed nuts—or sprinkles or brittle or gummy bears. You get the idea.

The shells are a love child of eggy crêpes and soft flour tortillas—and the secret star of this taco. You can make the shells a day in advance and have guests fill their own, or you can make the tacos entirely in advance and keep them in the freezer.

Taco Shells:

2⁄3 cup (85g) all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup (100g) sugar

1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the skillet

1⁄4 cup (60ml) milk

1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Fillings and Toppings:

10 ounces (285g) dark chocolate chips

3 tablespoons coconut oil

4 to 6 cups (950ml to 1.4L) ice cream, softened (store-bought Choco Tacos have fudge-swirled vanilla ice cream)

1⁄2 cup (60g) crushed nuts, plus any other desired toppings


1. To make the taco shells, cover 6 to 8 hardcover books that are 1 inch (2.5cm) thick with parchment paper. Stand them up vertically, spine up. These are your shell molds.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, 1 tablespoon water, almond extract, and vanilla, followed by the egg whites. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

3. Warm a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Butter the skillet and then spoon in 2 1⁄2 tablespoons of batter. Spread the batter gently with the back of a spoon or offset spatula so you have an even circle. Cook until slightly brown on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until slightly brown on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes more. With a spatula, gently fold the shell over the spine of the book and let cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding butter to the pan as needed.

4. Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each. Let cool slightly.

5. Fill the taco shells with ice cream, drizzle with as much chocolate as you wish, top with the nuts, and enjoy! You can freeze uncovered for a few minutes to let the chocolate harden; the tacos will also keep, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer for up to 2 months.


Reprinted with permission from Food52 Ice Cream & Friends: 60 Recipes & Riffs by the Editors of Food52, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.