The Fab Fête and Swift + Company founder Elizabeth Swift Copeland and friends including Katie Mayell Ellis (standing) enjoying an intimate summer gathering. (Paige Beitler Photography)
A colorful, icy drink is just the ticket for summer entertaining. (Swift + Company photo)
(Photo by Paige Beitler Photography)
Insulated stainless steal beverage tubs keep bottles chilled and no sweating on the surface. (Frontgate photo)
A menu of chilled or room temperature courses sets the summer tone for entertaining at home. (Swift + Company photo)
Zafferano LED table lamps are better than candles and have an eight- to 10-hour light life. (Zafferano photo)
Summer officially arrives on June 21 (never mind our already sweltering temps) so what better time than now to tap into the expertise of one of Texas’ top tier event planner/caterers. Before heading off to Capri for a girlfriends trip, Elizabeth Swift Copeland, founder of, The Fab Fête soufflé, shared with PaperCity, her recommendations for flawless summer entertaining.
Of course, for outdoor fêtes at the moment you’ll need to set your table in places like Aspen or Montecito. If Texas summer temperatures ever drop back into tolerable, you’ll also have all the info needed for a memorable dining experience at home. Beyond loading up on electric fans (as well as hand held fans) and having plenty of ice water available, Copeland, who has orchestrated beautiful parties for a few decades, has the following recommendations.
Prepare an Icy Bar
“When hosting an outdoor summer soirée have lots of ice, chilled beverages and cold food,” she says. “Visualizing chilled items keeps the hot temperatures off our minds. I like to use sweat-free stainless steel insulated beverage tubs from Frontgate to hold clean ice, bottles of beer, lemonade, wine and champagne, and even boiled shrimp.”
Cold Menus Rule
Copeland is not talking backyard barbecues but more sophisticated entertaining. Save the party-side grilling for autumn.
“During the summer a cold menu is a great way to effortlessly entertain, as there is no last-minute cooking and scurrying around,” she says. “Some of our favorite chilled foods are tenderloin of beef with a variety of sauces; roasted shrimp; niçoise salad with a selection of proteins including tuna, salmon and chicken; demitasse cups of chilled soup; grilled vegetables; crab salads; lemon potato salad dotted with caviar; and sorbet spritzers.”
Pretty Cool Drinks
“Don’t forget the impact of colorful bottle labels,” Copeland says. “We love the Summer in a Bottle Rosé by Wölffer Estate, and sometimes use the empty bottles as flower vases in a pinch. Aperol Spritzes are also colorful and popular now, and the main ingredient is prosecco, which won’t set your budget back.
“Test your beverages a day or two before the party so you have the recipes established and all your ingredients and garnishes ready to go.”
Skip the Frozen Drink Machines
“Frozen beverages are a welcome addition to a balmy summer night menu,” Copeland urges.”My suggestion is to use a few “smoothie” blenders — my favorite brand is BlendTec — and not worry about those troublesome large machines as they pull a lot of power (need a dedicated 20-amp circuit), and usually can’t keep up with the heat and demand for frozen beverages at an event.”
Easy Does It
“Cut down on the time spent in the kitchen and serve an appetizer that is easy to assemble and provides an impressive display,” Copeland says. “The Fab Fête savory soufflés are simple to thaw and bake. Every soufflé flavor is a crowd pleaser. Serve with an assortment of crackers and seasonal fruit like green apples and red grapes.
“Instead of hauling out your precious china, consider using renewable bamboo plates. I like to use the 11-inch round Veneerware bamboo plates for dinner service — they are an elegant and disposable option and don’t have to be loaded into the dishwasher. I pair the bamboo plates with silver flatware.”
A Big Fan Of Fans
“Electric fans are a must when hosting outdoors in places with drastic, hot temperatures like Texas,” Copeland says. “There are several types of fans to choose from depending on the climate. When it is particularly humid, I prefer the 18-inch high velocity fans set out on the ground around the perimeter of the event to move the air. Check the weather starting 10 days prior to your party and adjust your plans accordingly.
“My favorite and most reliable weather app is Wunderground. There are also ‘mister fans’ which are effective at dropping the temperature in large outdoor spaces and use little energy, but they are most useful when there is low or no humidity.”
“If you have nice looking tables, opt-out of using tablecloths as fabric cloths can be warm and stuffy on your guests’ legs,” Copeland says. “If you must do linens, choose a lightweight cloth to the floor. The linen is where you can tie your party theme together, so go bold and thematic. Online linen rental is easy with to-and-from shipping from companies such as Party Tables, A1 Tablecloth and BBJ La Tavola to name a few.
“The Fab Fête is keen on Zafferano LED table lamps for outdoor events. While they look great and put off beautiful and dimmable light, they won’t be extinguished by wind or fans, and will not add candle heat to the tabletop. They come in many colors and last 8 to 10 hours.
“Flowers are the essential party tool, and there are tons of local summertime flower options. Local food markets have decent flowers and consider a flowering pot plant for table centerpieces (can be gifted to your guests at end of event).”
Making a Statement
“Remember the small and thoughtful details to keep the party memorable and special,” Copeland says. “Some of my favorite details include colorful glassware, oversized stemware, extra-large serving pieces, staff uniforms with colored bistro aprons to match party decor, inventive food and beverage menus, warm hospitality by the host, and of course, a Fab Fête soufflé.”
“Live party music is always in vogue, but you can find excellent song lists on my favorite music downloading service, Spotify,” Copeland says. “Spotify makes playlists based on your listening habits (what you like, share, save, skip) and the listening habits of others with similar taste.
“Plan for easy listening background music for start of party and then segue into upbeat and danceable music for late night soirees.”
Made in the Shade
“Make sure your guests are situated out of the sun, and consider starting your party at 7 or 7:30 pm or after the sun sets behind your party area,” Copeland says. “If that’s not an option, you can have a local rental company install an open air tent. If you need just a bit of added shade, you may buy market umbrellas and bases at Academy or World Market.
“Market umbrellas come in many colors and patterns and will add to the party atmosphere.”