Dress up the traditional summer cookout with these tips for hosting a feminine, flame-kissed alfresco dinner.
Girls' Night In: Party at the Grill
Credit: Beau Gustafson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

When the men are away, the girls will play–at the grill, that is. The backyard is practically calling for a grilling party complete with a summertime sunset. With several recipes ready for the fire, the night can be one of friends, fruity cocktails and flames.

The Set Up

Dressing up the patio table with a tablecloth or flowers is a quick way to set the scene for dining outside. No furniture on the porch? Don't worry. Stack up some trays and bring out a few chairs from inside. For this night, there's no sophisticated outdoor living space required. With nature's backdrop, great ambiance is guaranteed.

The Bar
The best place for the bar is right outside where the action is. A small table can hold the pitchers of limeade and margaritas. Set up an ice bucket or small cooler near the table for ice cubes within easy reach. Whip up a big batch of simple syrup and have ingredients out for making mojitos the best way–one at a time.

The Food
With the party underway outside, let the buffet draw guests into the kitchen to make a plate. Bringing the food off the grill and straight to the buffet leaves more room on the porch for sitting down and enjoying the feast. Divide the crudités among a few smaller platters and place around the porch for easy nibbling before dinner is served.

When the sun is setting and the time has come for dessert, bring ice cream bowls outside and top with a peach right off the grill. Grilling for girls has never tasted so sweet!

The Extras
Get into the spirit of an evening around the flames by donning a cute made-for-the-grill apron. Pick a festive one by Jessie Steele, whose line features everything from modern designs to flame-laden frocks to frilly styles reminiscent of the 1950's. Feeling generous? Pick up pretty potholders for your guests.

The Party Plan

The Day Before

  • Make dip and slice veggies for crudites.
  • Make lemon sauce.
  • Make margaritas and limeade, cover and chill.

2–4 Hours Before

  • Make scalloped potatoes.

1 Hour Before

  • Allow dip to come to room temperature.
  • Make salad dressing.

30 Minutes After Guests Arrive

  • Grill romaine lettuce and salmon.

Before Dessert

  • Brush down the grate before grilling peaches.
  • Scoop ice cream into bowls.
  • Grill peaches.

Rebecca Lang is a well-known cooking instructor, author, and food writer. She teaches Girls' Night In classes around the country and lives in Athens, Georgia.