Stylish notes on Entertaining :: An Invitation to the Garden

As I sit down with the warm crackling fire in the background and savor every delightful page in Michael Divine's An Invitation to the Garden : Seasonal Dining Outdoors I must remind myself, as the temperatures plummet once again, that Spring really will arrive. I need to tell myself that the snow will melt, the sun will warm us, and the trees and flowers will start to bloom. Soon we will be able to move outdoors to entertain our friends and family or simply to sit back and relax and marvel in the beauty around us!

From the moment you open An Invitation to the Garden, you will feel as though you are Devine's personal guest as you stroll through the lush green landscape and join him at his garden table so elegantly and festively set with creative yet simple menus and ideas to last the year from a springtime luncheon in the bagatelle, to a lively lantern lit casual summer evening, to a warm and festive Christmas Eve feast. With 12 sensational seasonal menus, over 50 recipes, and peppered with helpful tips and gardening advice An Invitation to the Garden will inspire you to host your own festive outdoor celebration no matter how large or lush your own garden and budget are.

Join us below for a special glimpse into his wonderful garden, table settings and menus.

Step into the bagatelle for a delightful spring Lilac Brunch inspired by the lilacs in full bloom. The handsomely painted dinnerware perfectly accompanies the floral centerpiece that gives the room life. The Asian heritage of these flowers parlay so beautifully to the overall Chinoiserie theme. Musical porcelain monkeys add the perfect touch of whimsey. The lilac has a short season, so you must use them and enjoy them quickly!

A summer affair becomes much more dramatic and festive when guests are asked to arrive after the sun has set to enter an illuminated paradise where brightly colored lanterns lit by LED lights and votives set the tone of the fun night ahead. A Lantern Dinner Party is a perfect casual get together for close friends. Here Divine creates a menu that is simple and casual. Tempura fried herbs, savory muffins, zucchini rounds with feta and chive mousse, a charcuterie platter, cornichons and olives allow the guests to mingle unencumbered. Chocolate covered marshmallow pops and orange-chocolate heart shaped brownies give the night a sweet ending. 

 A Butterfly Luncheon celebrates the grace and beauty of the butterfly. A luncheon for 10 is served on warm summer's day. Tall vases brimming with Queen Anne's Lace are adorned with a few "imposter" butterflies. While Devine and his guests eagerly await the arrival of the real ones, he serves his guests mini pizzas of arugula and scallions, and chicken breasts topped with kale pesto on a bed of zucchini, tomatoes, green beans and spinach which he paired with a chilled Sancerre. Devine credits his love for French yogurt as the inspiration for the place card holders. On a recent trip to France he had enjoyed so much yogurt that he had enough of the old fashioned looking jars to fit the bill. These jars were filled with homemade jams that were enjoyed with a selection of artisanal breads.

An Alfresco Evening Dinner was inspired by Devine's passion for the whimsical hand painted figurine which accompany each place setting creating a casual yet elaborate table setting. The mid-summer hydrangea in full bloom creates a perfect centerpiece as they perfectly balance his own "Charlotte" fabric tablecloth in complementing hues of green. The gold ballroom chairs add another more formal touch and completes the setting. Devine suggests renting tables and chairs in lieu of buying them and storing them as it's much more cost effective. He also advises to pre-plan a table setting, down to the very last detail, ahead of time, either the night before or during the morning of your party.


Kale Pesto (From Butterfly Luncheon)

3 cups stemmed kale leaves, well washed and dried
1/2 cup of walnuts
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra light virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put the kale, walnuts, lemon, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and pulse until well blended and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove the pesto from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you are ready o assemble the salad so it can come to room temperature.

An Invitation to the Garden is published by Rizzoli New York and will be released by Amazon on March 11, 2014. Click here to reserve your copy!

Photographs by Michael Divine with John Gruen. Property of Rizzoli New York