How to throw the ultimate lawn party in your outdoor space.
—Photos courtesy of LBK Photography, lbkphotography.com
If you've ever walked by Ballpark's ViewHouse on a weekend, you know they throw perhaps the biggest lawn party (outside the recently beleaguered Wash Park) in the city. The bar and restaurant's weekly Sunday Funday draws hordes of Denverites who come for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and end up staying the whole day to play volleyball, bags, tug-of-war, and more on a 7,000-square-foot space called "the Green." So it's safe to say owner Francois Safieddine knows a few things about outdoor entertaining. We got tips from the local hot spot (with a second location opening mid-August in Centennial) on helping your guests settle into your outdoor space and stay awhile—plus recipes for easy, party-perfect cocktails and appetizers.
1. Greet guests with a signature drink, such as the ViewHouse's Buck Mule (recipe below), which substitutes bourbon for vodka in the classic ginger-beer cocktail. "We serve eight specialty mules in cold copper mugs, which are fun and refreshing on a warm summer day," says Safieddine. Also be sure to have plenty of options for non-drinkers or designated drivers. For this, you can take your inspiration from ViewHouse's make-your-own mimosa bar. You'll need Champagne flutes; an assortment of fresh juices (think outside the orange juice box with options like pink grapefruit, mango, or pomegranate) in labeled carafes; bowls of bite-size chunks of fruit (go for color variety with strawberries, oranges, kiwi, blackberries, peaches, and blueberries) with tongs or skewers; and a decorative tray to hold it all. Finish it off with an ice bucket for Champagne or Prosecco (divide your number of guests by four and have that many bottles on hand).
2. Have easy-to-eat finger foods already prepared, such as ViewHouse's roasted tomato hummus and more sophisticated take on pigs in a blanket (recipes below).
3. Provide comfortable seating and plenty of surfaces for guests to set down food and drinks. ViewHouse's recently debuted full-service cabanas, which seat eight to 10 in a U-shape, encourage lounging and conversation and provide shade—crucial for Colorado's intense summer sun. "Cabanas are the perfect place for guests to kick back and enjoy time with friends," says Safieddine, who tapped Denver's Structurae LLC to design the Green's nine units. (Want to go check out the originals? Here's a tip: You can call ahead and reserve a cabana for your group at ViewHouse.)
4. Have activities available that encourage mingling and give guests something to do; corn hole, croquet, badminton, bocce, and volleyball are all good for lighthearted competition. Or, you could select a theme (for example, ViewHouse will be hosting soccer matches during this summer's FIFA World Cup events).
5. Add lighting so the party doesn't have to end when the sun goes down. "Lighting sets the mood and shouldn’t be overlooked," says Safieddine. "Candles, lanterns, and strings of lights can keep your outdoor mood going late into the night."
ViewHouse Bourbon Buck Mule
1.25 ounces Breckenridge Bourbon
.25 ounces lemon juice
4 mint sprigs
Gosling's Ginger Beer (or your favorite brand)
Add all of the ingredients to a copper mug filled with ice and top with ginger beer and cherries.
Roasted Tomato Jam
(makes enough to top 32 ounces of classic flavor hummus)
6 ounces onion, diced
32 ounces Roma tomatoes, diced
4 ounces brown sugar
4 ounces Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pot, sauté the onions until they sweat. Then add the tomatoes and cook the mixture at a low temperature for 15 minutes. Add the brown sugar and vinegar and let simmer for another 30 minutes. Finish with sage, salt, and cracked pepper and allow to cool. Transfer your favorite brand of classic (or original) flavor hummus to a wide, low serving bowl and top with the tomato jam and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with fresh veggies (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers) and tortilla chips or pita wedges.
Pigs in a Blanket
4 ounces puff pastry
5 all-beef franks, cut into quarters
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces Mady's mustard (we like the Zesty Honey style from this Colorado Springs company)
Cut puff pastry sheets into 20 squares and wrap around each piece of hot dog, pinching together two sides at the tops. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve with mustard for dipping.
Follow copy chief Jessica Farmwald on Twitter at @JessicaKF.