Take Your Summer Soirées to the Next Level with Ease

August  9, 2017

Squeeze in that last bit of summer by hitting the beach—but if you can't, bring those vibes home. Inspired by Ricky Lauren's The Hamptons: Food, Family, and History, we partnered with Ralph Lauren Home to show you how to do it.

Whether you enjoy the slowed-down summer season by ambling along a beach or dreaming of being near one, we’ve got a menu fit for capturing the easy, breezy vibes reminiscent of a Hamptons getaway. With market-fresh ingredients as the star of the show, relaxed entertaining is the name of the game.

Reach on in and nab a few clams! Photo by Julia Gartland

Take it from us then, and apply a similarly low-key approach to the remaining get-togethers on your calendar this summer. Skip the formal, seated affairs in favor of a casual open house-style party. Throw open your doors for a few hours and let guests come and go as they please. Turn up the tunes, lay out a large format spread with dishes you can prepare well in advance of your guests' arrival, and trust that your friends and family will all help themselves.

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In need of good recipes for a crowd? You’re in luck! We have menu ideas that will help carry you through the day:

Morning Brunch Crowd

Set out a bagel bar and instead of serving store-bought, smoked salmon, cure your own with some beets for a pop of color. Wherever you are (from Amagansett to Brooklyn to Montreal), grabbing lox and bagels for a morning nosh hits the spot. But for a more elegant—and colorful—affair, utilize fresh salmon and make your own cured salmon with beets. You'll end up with a lox on par with your favorite bagel shop's, but a color that can't be beat (beet, hehe).

The prettiest cured salmon you ever did see. Photo by Julia Gartland

Midday Lunch Gang

What's better than a salad? Eating your salad as a sandwich! Assemble pan bagnat sandwiches, and have your guests slice off their own portions. Pan bagnat is sort of like a tuna Nicoise in sandwich form, and it has a lot of perks: It makes use of whatever's looking best at your farmers' market (whether you're beachside in Montauk or land-locked in Indiana), it can be made far in advance, and it's chic enough to serve in little strips at a party—but also extremely portable. Sunset beach picnic, anyone?

A fancy sandwich bar, the impressive secret weapon for midday parties. Photo by Julia Gartland

Evening Party

If it’s later in the day, prepare large pots of steamers and outdoor-friendly sides like crowd-friendly garlic bread and grilled corn. One of the best parts of a seaside vacation on the East Coast is all the greasy spoon seafood shacks, including the irresistible seafood stops in Southampton. Steamers—little clams steamed in a garlicky broth—are a must-order. For a party-appropriate rendition, our Test Kitchen Chef Josh Cohen suggests serving them with a variety of condiments: a little schmear of something buttery (like a lemongrass brown butter), a spoonful of something pickled (he likes to pickle shallots with saffron), and a dunk of something herbaceous (like a salsa verde). Oh, and never forget the bread for dunking into the condiments and steamer broth.

Steamers, corn, beachy vibes? Check. Photo by Julia Gartland

Stay Refreshed

For drinks, fill large pitchers and dispensers with iced tea, lemonade, or a cocktail base that you can top off with bubbly or club soda.

Don’t Forget the Dessert!

Treat guests to a spread of build-it-yourself berry shortcakes. You could use scones as a base instead of shortcake. The filling can be a seasonally appropriate compote made with the abundance of fruit hitting farm stands from East Hampton and beyond, along with some whipped cream. Our co-founder Merrill Stubbs makes rhubarb shortcakes with her signature cream biscuits, which made us wonder: Why can't you use scones? When guests are staying over, making a double batch of your favorite scone recipe is a smart host move. Serve them in the morning with jam, and then again for dessert: sliced in half, toasted if you like, with compote, seasonal fruit, and lightly whipped cream sandwiched in between the two halves.

What are your favorite easy dishes to make ahead for a large group? Share them with us in the comments.

We partnered with Ralph Lauren Home to put together a guide to laid-back, beachy entertaining, featuring their Côte d'Azur Dinnerware, Ariana Dinnerware, and Wyatt Porcelain Serving Bowl, among other pieces. Explore the complete collection here.


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Hana Asbrink

Written by: Hana Asbrink

Hana is the senior lifestyle editor at Food52.