When warm weather came to Brooklyn this year, Rich threw an intimate "Hello to Summer" gathering for some friends in his lushly planted rooftop garden. Called for the afternoon, when the flowers would be at their fullest and the plants at their greenest, the party featured drinks and appetizers that were heavy on the garden-fresh ingredients.
Here's a full look at the party, from the setup to the cocktail recipes, including a few gardening tips along the way. Planning an outdoor party this summer? Here's some inspiration for making it a relaxed and delicious gathering.
The rooftop garden is Rich's favorite room in his house, so he loves tending it on the weekends throughout the year. In the spring, he clears the leaves and twigs and other detritus of winter, then makes a bunch of trips to his garden supply store, replenishing soil, getting bulbs and seeds, setting up small solar-powered lanterns for evening hangouts, and replacing tired flowerpots and planters.
Planning a garden is like decorating a room. Rich chose 'wallpaper' of boxwood and pines, creating a lush green backdrop that survives from year to year. He has colorful annuals as his accents, so the cycles of their growth and blooming change the look of the garden throughout the season. And if the annuals burn out in the heat of the Brooklyn sun by late summer, he still has his great green backdrop.
Rich has also been experimenting with growing vegetables, including herbs, lettuces and tomatoes. He has to fend off some squirrels, but he loves being able to use his harvest in summer meals. Mediterranean herbs grow best in the strong light and dry environment on a roof - and are great in everything from cocktails to salads.
The days before the party were rainy in Brooklyn. The lilacs which had been in full bloom were looking a bit straggly. To fill in areas most affected by the rain, Rich got a couple new potted plants to keep the rooftop feeling lush and verdant. Finally, he'd been contemplating an outdoor rug as a way of making the rooftop feel more like a cohesive room, and in advance of the party, he finally got one. We loved how it did what rugs are meant to do, as the Dude says, pulling the whole (outdoor) room together.
This was a casual afternoon gathering of a handful of friends, so Rich didn't need to do too much prep or cooking. In the week leading up to the party, he planned his menu and drinks and did his grocery shopping. He measured out burlap from a roll and widened the fibers to make a hole for the umbrella.
With the party decor basically left to nature, all Rich had to do to prep was make the food and drinks. First was making the herbed yogurt dip, then cutting up vegetables for crudités. Next, he made the herbed almonds, the one element of the party that required the oven! Last, Rich assembled the tartines, slathering Boursin on ciabatta and thinly slicing radishes for toppings.
For the drinks, he washed out his beverage dispenser and poured in the cranberry and pineapple juices in, followed by the Pearl Pomegranate vodka. Then he sliced the fresh pineapple for garnish. Next, Rich juiced limes and washed herbs for his Cucumber Pearl Cooler. Just before his guests showed up, he assembled the cocktails and set them out on a bright yellow tray.
Rich had the first guests help carry the food and drinks up to the rooftop. That way, people could pick at the food throughout the event, and no one would have to go back downstairs.
At the start of the party, Rich manned the plant stand/bar station, offering guests a choice of the Cucumber Pearl Cooler or the Pearl Pomegranate punch. Once everyone had drinks in hand, people moved around the garden, checking out the views and enjoying the greenery. Rich was then able to walk around offering radish tartines or drink refills.
The hors d'oeuvres were the perfect snacks for an afternoon party. Light and refreshing, they were good complements for the cocktails. Everyone asked for the herb yogurt dip recipe. That was the first to disappear.
By the time the sun started setting, the veggies were all gone, and a serious dent had been made in the tartine and almond supply. Most people had tried both cocktails, too, for the sake of 'experimentation.'
The party was a success, a festive way to welcome summer to this Brooklyn rooftop and to let the garden make its debut for the season. Because it was just a couple hours in the afternoon, setup and prep time were minimal, keeping focus on the garden and the refreshing Pearl Vodka cocktails.