Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 27th 2014 Contents Our tropical climate makes our outdoor spaces most
suitable for extending our gardens indoors and our in-
doors into the outdoors. The line between inside and
outside is increasing being blurred as we begin to treat
the outdoors just as we do our indoors. I fondly remem-
ber having meals on the verandah with my siblings and
Then there were weekends when we would 'throw a
big cook', invite friends and play table tennis under lights
under the big trees in the yard. Treat your poolside,
porches, verandas, patios, terraces, backyards, front
yards, backyards, rooftops, etc as areas to relax, con-
verse, dine, cook, and entertain.
When dining outdoors or al fresco, it is characteristi-
cally casual. It is typically more about the food than
about the table linens, cutlery or plates and more about
the food. If you want to entertain friends and family you
can make the experience memorable by paying attention
Select the Food.
I honestly do not know much about food. But think pic-
nic. For a picnic you use foods that are easy to package
and transport well. Here in Trinidad that could mean
curry and roti or pelau and cole slaw. Other than that
think barbeque and macaroni pie. You can also think fin-
ger foods, salads, pasta and sandwiches. All of these
foods work for a good lime.
Don't forget your favourite fruits. Cold foods may
prove easier especially if your dining location is not very
close to the kitchen.
How formal you go with al fresco dining depends on
your dining furniture. Have lots of drinks available. That
being said, no one says you cannot serve a multi-course
Select the Furniture.
Well-selected outdoor dining furniture will provide
sturdy, comfortable seating and a good tabletop. This
could be anything from a mat on the grass, fold out ta-
bles and PVC or folding chairs, ply board on horses or
stylish, designed for purpose outdoor dining set. Furni-
ture should last without excessive care and maintenance.
You can get furniture in practically any style. For tradi-
tional wood furniture teak is popular here in Trinidad.
Look for dense woods. Wood furniture is best used in a
sheltered location. Painted wrought iron and steel op-
tions may need to be repainted occasionally. Aluminum
may oxidise, but can easily be cleaned. True wicker
should only be used in sheltered locations such as your
verandahs and porches. Good wicker will feel firm and
well put together. Faux wicker is made from resin and
can withstand the full outdoors. Critical to the durability
and comfort of your furniture is the fabric. Look for
sturdy outdoor fabrics. For durability, use fabrics specially
designed for the outdoors. Brands like TM Sunbrella , TMOut-
dura and TMCrypton fabrics offer solution dyed, colour
fast, 100% acrylic options that are more expensive, but
last four (4) to five (5) times longer, than other fabrics.
Also consider outdoor, open cell foam for seat cushions
that would be exposed to the elements on a regular
basis. If budget is an issue, remember a tablecloth can ef-
fectively beautify less attractive table options.
Try to locate your al fresco dining close to the kitchen.
This will give you the option to easily serve hot dishes: Of
course, if your menu is based on barbeque, or if you have
and outdoor kitchen, consider yourself lucky. In Trinidad
our UV values are normally very high, so please select
the shade if you plan on dining during the day. If you are
blessed to have large trees with shady canopies, set your
tables below them. Or you can help out by using umbrel-
las, shade sails, awnings, pergolas, gazebos, etc. If you
have a view take advantage of it.
Setting and Décor.
The devil is in the details. Decorate your al fresco space
just as you would indoors. Unbreakable tableware and
décor items will assure that accidents are not expensive.
Because of the causal setting you can be bold and use a
little more colour than you may use indoors. Your table
linen, table ware and seating cushions are some of the
opportunities for injecting and coordinating pattern and
colour. Do some conscious purchasing. Purchase items
especially for your al fresco dining experience. This will
give you the opportunity to harmonize your table setting
and décor simply. For a touch of stylish, integrate fresh
flowers in your place settings or buffet tables. If using
your gazebo, veranda or porch, for a touch of elegance,
look for opportunity to use curtains. This pulls the space
out of the realm of the predictable. Curtains add colour,
soften the typically hard edges, filter the sunlight, cre-
ates ambience and privacy. Grommet curtains, traditional
rod pockets and tab curtains are especially suitable for
this application. Fabrics can range from sheer to canvas.
Your outdoor space should also be usable in the night.
Consider lanterns on tables, walls, posts, the ground, and
in the trees. There are lanterns to support any decorating
style. Visualise chandeliers in the porch, up-lights in the
flower beds or Chinese lanterns in the trees.
All this talk about eating outdoors just has me feeling
nostalgic. But my childhood was filled with picnics and
lots of casual dining. I think I will look into introduce fine
al fresco dining to the Spencer household.
www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Time to Dine
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