Summer party idea: a campfire dinner with Jenni Kayne

Parties are supposed to be fun, right? In the spirit of an easy, breezy summer, it’s about time care-free hosting made a comeback. We’re seeking out ways to make entertaining easy, and no one knows this subject better than tastemaker Jenni Kayne. She’s just as well known for the laid-back luxury of her apparel and home collections as she is for her considered take on entertaining. 

The embodiment of California cool, Jenni’s effortless aesthetic—which has gained her a cult following—trades fussiness for thoughtfulness. Rather than obsess over the details, she keeps her focus on creating special moments with family and friends instead. In her debut book, “Pacific Natural,” Jenni continues this approach, offering practical yet inspiring ideas for every season from cocktail parties and alfresco dinners to picnics on the beach. 

To help you skip the stress this season, ahead Jenni shares her top tips from “Pacific Natural” for simple summer parties.

 

a campfire dinner with Jenni Kayne and her familyImages by Angi Welsch for Jenni Kayne

Never aim for perfection

When Jenni hosts her end goal is always to have as much fun as her guests are having. “That’s why I try to prepare as much as possible so that, when the party is in full swing, I can relax and spend time with my friends and family instead of running around trying to make everything perfect,” says Jenni. “Perfection is always a moving goalpost, and it can set us up for unrealistic expectations, so why not focus on having a good time?”

Take inspiration from the season

Jenni’s lifestyle has always been influenced by nature, so it’s only fitting that her book is broken into four parts (winter, spring, summer, and fall). “Aligning my body with what’s in season—from what I eat to how I decorate and what activities my family and I enjoy—makes me feel more in tune with the world around me,” says Jenni. “I take inspiration from the natural world to create details that resonate. Nature is wild, organic, and never too prim and proper, and the same goes for the way I entertain.”

 

Build your entertaining uniform

Keeping sophisticated, neutral essentials on hand takes a lot of the guesswork out of planning your table. “Much like my wardrobe, I outfit my ‘entertaining uniform’ with pieces that can be easily mixed and matched and lie well next to seasonal or special touches,” says Jenni. “I always have muslin and linen on hand for tablescapes and gift wrapping, twine and leather cord, and I make sure to stick to a neutral, sophisticated palette when it comes to tableware. I find ceramics to have an earthy vibe and are very durable, so a good set will last you a long time and throughout many occasions.”

 

Jenni Kayne home entertaining wardrobe

Sierra Bowl by Jenni Kayne. Woven Jute Trivet by Jenni Kayne. Medium Maple Wood Bowl by Jenni Kayne. Sierra Dinner Plate by Jenni Kayne.

Keep it fresh

When you know you have the basics covered with your entertaining uniform, it’s much easier to decorate with seasonal elements. In the summertime, Jenni loves to keep her aesthetic bright, bountiful, and fresh. “I love florals and find arranging them to be very meditative. I get clippings from my garden and always forage leaves and trimmings, and even incorporate whole fruits in lieu of a floral centerpiece,” says Jenni. 

 campfire dinner table setting with Jenni KayneImages by Angi Welsch for Jenni Kayne

Allow others to contribute

When she hosts, Jenni’s number one rule is to not stress herself out. “It’s all about getting people to come together, so if it’s easier to host a potluck or give guests small tasks to pull everything off, so be it,” says Jenni. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all but I think that being community-minded, even when you’re hosting, is a really wonderful way to bond and make something special.”

campfire dinner favors with Jenni KayneImages by Angi Welsch for Jenni Kayne

Plan ahead

If you’re dining al fresco, Jenni’s best advice is to focus on the prep work before you head outdoors. “Whether you’re camping or glamping or just having a picnic, it’s not always realistic to do all the prep work required to make a meal come together on-site. When we hosted this dinner, I brought along all the ingredients portioned out in containers in a cooler so I wouldn’t have to do any slicing and dicing on a picnic table.”

Though beer and wine are no-brainers for outdoor parties, cocktails can also work for your menu with a little pre-preparation. Try Jenni’s recipe below for Smoky Blackberry Margaritas, which can be batched ahead of time!

 

Smoky Blackberry MargaritaImages by Angi Welsch for Jenni Kayne

Smoky Blackberry Margarita:

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

Blackberry Syrup:

4 cups blackberries

1½   cup sugar

1½   cups water

 

Margarita:

1¾ cups blanco tequila

¼ cup mezcal

2 cups blackberry syrup

1¾ cups freshly squeezed lime juice

1 bottle sparkling water

8 wedges lime, for garnish

½ cup blackberries, for garnish

 

To make the blackberry syrup: 

Combine the black berries, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring  to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool. Set a fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Strain the black berry mixture through the strainer, using the back of a wooden spoon to extract any remaining juice from the black berries. Reserve the  syrup and set aside.

 

To make the margarita: 

Combine the tequila, mezcal, blackberry syrup, and lime juice in a large pitcher and stir. Divide the margarita between 6 glasses filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a lime wedge and a couple of black berries.

 

 

Ready to host your own summer soirée? Browse our wide selection of seasonal invitations. For more summer party ideas, try Happy Menocal’s guide to last minute summer dinners or stress-free casual parties