“Spring is such a cheerful time of year, and I really like to celebrate by putting a party together,” says Heather Taylor. In honor of the season, the textile designer hosted a family-style brunch in her Laurel Canyon backyard with friends and frequent collaborators, caterer Annie Campbell and floral designer Kristen Caissie of Moon Canyon.
Naturally, the three make outdoor entertaining look effortless—even with six kids among them. “Entertaining outdoors is as lovely for adults as it is for the kiddos,” says Taylor. “They can run around, make a mess, and nobody bats an eye. Meanwhile, adults can hopefully take a minute to relax and enjoy the fresh air.”
Here, Taylor, Campbell, and Caissie share their tried-and-true tips for easy outdoor entertaining… whenever the weather permits.
Spark Your Imagination
“I tend to find one piece of inspiration, and build from there,” says Taylor. “It can be a color, a pattern, or even a type of flower. For this spring, it’s baby blue—a color that runs through so many of our spring linens. From there, I can start to envision how it’s all going to look together, and start to think about menu, linens, plates, glasses, and all the other little details.”
Plan ahead, and actually be able to enjoy your own get-together. “For this brunch, my main goal is to have everything done before guests even walk in the door,” says Annie Campbell, who made sure the entire menu could be served room temperature, and that the desserts could be made a day or two in advance.
Make a Blanket Statement
“Find any dry outdoor area, and make it as cozy as possible,” says Taylor, who used the Beach Tablecloth from her line of home goods as a makeshift picnic blanket. She then added Milos and Capri pillows to make the space extra comfy. “It’s cute to decorate the picnic blanket with bowls of strawberries or little oranges in lieu of flowers, which would most likely get knocked around.”
Respect the Kids Table
“I love setting up a ‘picnic’ area for the kids,” says Taylor, who recently launched Heather Taylor Home Kids, a collection of linen napkins for little ones. “It makes them feel like they have their own designated place to eat—and it can look just as charming as the grown-up table.”
Get Into the Mix
“Spring is the best time for flowers, so the grocery store should have a great selection. Keep your eye out for tulips, sweet peas, muscari (hyacinth), and ranunculus,” says Caissie, who also recommends mixing colors and varieties.
Pretty Up Everything—Even Ice Cubes
To make ice cubes as pretty as Campbell’s, fill King Cube trays one third of the way with water. Then, add flowers, herbs, or berries, and freeze. Add another layer of water (along with additional edible accents if you wish), and freeze again. Fill completely.
Sweeten Up the Send-Off
In the spirit of spring, pint-sized bouquets make the perfect takeaway. “Lay out a few different types of flowers, and have everyone—even the kids—gather up bundles themselves,” says Caissie. ”It can be a great way to personalize Easter baskets, too.”
(From the kitchen of Annie Campbell)
BEET PICKLED DEVILED EGGS
Makes 24 halves
Recipe is in multiple parts, and takes at least two days to prepare.
½ cup sugar
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Small bunch of fresh dill
1 garlic clove
2 cups beet juice
¾ cup deviled egg mayonnaise, or doctored up store bought mayonnaise (both recipes below)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Chives, chervil, or tarragon, finely diced, to garnish
To prepare the eggs:
Fill an 8 quart pot ¾ of the way full, and set it on the stove over high heat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, prepare an ice bath with ice and cold water. When the water reaches a boil, carefully add the eggs. After 11 minutes, use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the ice bath. When the eggs are cooled completely, carefully peel off the shells, taking care not to tear the whites of the eggs. Rinse off any bits of shell, and pat dry.
To pickle the eggs:
Combine the beet juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, fennel seed, black peppercorns, dill, and garlic in a vessel with a lid, and give it a good shake until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Place the hard boiled and peeled eggs in the mixture so that they are fully submerged; add water to cover if needed. Leave in the liquid for 24 to 48 hours. Remove from the pickling solution.
To make the filling:
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, and remove the yolks from the whites while reserving the whites. Put the egg yolks into a food processor and pulse them a few times. Add ½ cup of the prepared mayonnaise and pulse until the mixture is completely smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the food processor as you go.
To fill the eggs:
Spoon the yolk filling into a pastry bag fitted with a small star attachment. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using to allow the mixture to firm up. A ½ hour before assembling the deviled eggs, prepare a sheet tray with paper towels. Remove the whites from the water and place them cut side down on the paper towel to dry. Place egg whites on a platter and pipe in the yolk mixture to fill each white. Garnish with a sprinkling of chives.
Homemade Deviled Egg Mayonnaise
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
½ teaspoon Malden
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup grape seed oil
In a bowl, a food processor, or a blender, combine all of the ingredients, except for the grape seed oil. Mix well. Then, while stirring or with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the grape seed oil. The slower you work, the firmer and thicker your mayonnaise will turn out. If your mayonnaise is at all runny, opt for the doctored up store bought substitute below.
Doctored Up Store Bought Mayonnaise
1 cup good mayonnaise, such as Best Foods or Hellman’s
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons chili flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
To make the mayonnaise, combine all of the ingredients.
Tip: Mayonnaise, egg whites, and filling can all be made several days in advance.
ROAST ASPARAGUS AND RADISHES WITH TARRAGON AND MINT
2 bunches of asparagus, trimmed
2 bunches of radishes, washed and cut into individual radishes, halved
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked pepper
Juice and zest of one lemon
5 sprigs of tarragon, leaves only, torn
5 sprigs of mint, leaves only, chopped
4-6 oz. parmigiano reggiano or pecorino, shaved or grated
To prep the vegetables:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare an ice bath, i.e, several handfuls of ice in a large bowl with cold water. Once the water boils, blanche the asparagus for 45 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Bring the water back to a boil and add the radishes, blanching for 1 minute. Transfer the radishes to the ice bath. Let the vegetables chill for 5 to 10 minutes, and then drain well. (This can be done the day before.) Keep wrapped in towels, covered in the refrigerator. The vegetables should be totally dry before the next step.
To roast and serve the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place dry asparagus and radishes on a cookie sheet. Toss well with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and give a good squeeze of lemon. Add a touch of salt. Place the asparagus in a serving dish and top with the grated cheese, tarragon, and mint.
Tips: Asparagus and radishes can be blanched a day in advance. Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.
BLACKBERRY AND RASPBERRY ETON MESS
12 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
3 cups sugar
6 teaspoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the sweetened whipped cream
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
2 pints fresh blackberries
2 pints fresh raspberries
For the meringue:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue onto the sheet pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Once cooled, break the meringue into pieces (about 1-inch chunks).
For the sweetened whipped cream:
Yield: 3 cups
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla, and continue to beat until firm. Don’t overbeat!
To assemble eton mess:
Place the whipped cream in a large bowl and fold in the broken up meringue. Add 2/3 of the berries, and fold into the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and top with the remaining berries.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB GIMLET
Makes 2 cocktails
For the strawberry rhubarb syrup
2 cups roughly chopped rhubarb, about 5 stalks
2 cups fresh or thawed strawberries, chopped
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
For the cocktail
4 oz. gin
2 oz. strawberry rhubarb syrup
1 ½ oz. lemon juice
To make strawberry rhubarb simple syrup:
Combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, and water in a saucepan on the stove. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir, dissolving the sugar into the water. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the rhubarb has infused the simple syrup, strain syrup into a bowl, through a fine sieve mesh strainer. Reserve rhubarb for another use, such as a jam or savory compote. Transfer simple syrup into a bottle. Can be refrigerated for up to a month.
To prepare the cocktail:
Preparation is key to cocktail making. Always have all the elements of the cocktail prepped and labeled in advance of the party. All elements can be put into pretty glass bottles, alongside a recipe card for guests to make their own cocktails.
To make the cocktail:
Combine gin, strawberry rhubarb syrup, and lemon in a metal cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Shake vigorously for 30 to 45 seconds. Pour over fresh ice, and top with a splash of club soda.
Tips: The strawberry rhubarb simple syrup can be made well in advance and kept refrigerated for up to a month. The lemon juice can be squeezed a couple of days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
¾ pound English peas, shucked and blanched
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half and sliced
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup heavy cream, milk, or water
Salt and pepper
4 handfuls of pea tendrils
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled or shaved
Edible flowers, for garnish
To blanch the peas:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare an ice bath, i.e., several handfuls of ice in a bowl with cold water. Blanch the peas for 1 minute and drain. Transfer the peas to the ice bath. Let cool for 15 minutes. Drain well. This can be done the day before. Keep wrapped in towels, covered in the refrigerator.
To prepare the leeks and pea tendrils:
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 4 tablespoons butter. Once melted, add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, add thyme, and sauté for 10 minutes, until softened. Add 2 handfuls of pea tendrils and gently wilt for a couple of minutes. Add more butter or olive oil, salt, and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.
To assemble frittata:
Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk well; use an immersion blender for a fluffier result. Season with salt and pepper, and add a touch of cream, milk, or water. Scatter leeks, wilted pea tendrils, and peas into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour the whisked eggs over the mushrooms. Scatter cheese on top.
To bake frittata:
Bake dish in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes until set and slightly golden. The edges should be firm, and the center should not at all appear runny. Let cool slightly and serve either warm or at room temperature.
While the frittata is baking, lightly toss the last two handfuls of pea tendrils with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Once your frittata has rested, scatter the top with your tossed pea tendrils, and garnish with edible flowers.
Tips: All vegetables and herbs can be chopped 2 days in advance. Vegetables can be blanched 1 day in advance. Eggs can be beaten a day in advance and kept refrigerated.
See more Easter entertaining ideas:
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