“Do you entertain much?” an acquaintance asked me not long ago. To my surprise, I didn’t have a cogent reply. “Yes,” I told her. Then, “No, not really.” She waited patiently for me to clear up what it was I meant. “We love having people in our house,” I told her. “Whether or not they’re entertained, I don’t know.”
I was hedging because there’s a chasm the size of Pikes Peak between what I think of as “entertaining” and what actually happens when we have people in our home—which does happen often. The former connotes a performance, orchestrated to a specific, perfect end; the latter is far less refined and probably involves me throwing a bottle of white wine in the freezer because I’d forgotten to chill it before the doorbell rang. My friends, my family—we don’t entertain so much as we gather, and I find a lot of happiness in the haphazard magic of just being together.
It’s a philosophy I saw on display when we photographed an outdoor dinner party at the home of local foodies Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane (“Backyard Bounty”). Pete and Barbara own the gourmet markets Marczyk Fine Foods, so I consider them experts in the art of sharing good food with people they love. I watched as they prepped their menu—based on seasonal ingredients from their vast garden—and welcomed their guests with warmth and ease. It was a beautiful, unfussy affair fueled by friendship, food, and a beautiful Colorado summer night.
The lesson I learned? Whip up whatever you have to offer your guests and invite them over. Some days, you’ll have time to set a pretty table (you’ll find gorgeous ideas in our guide), but if you don’t, extend the invitation anyway. Familiar faces, a few cold drinks, and the soft glow of summer twilight are reasons enough to gather ’round.