How to Keep Food Cold at an Outdoor Party

Whether you are planning a party for two or 200, food safety is a top priority in warm weather. While your goal is to keep appetizers, side dishes and beverages chilled, keeping food cold in an aesthetically pleasing manner that won’t ruin its texture and presentation is challenging. Fortunately, from multipurpose baskets and trays to coolers that fit beneath the table, there are many options to make cold food storage blend seamlessly with the décor of your party.


At west elm, our collection of outdoor dining furniture helps you select furnishings you need for the event. Once you’ve decided on tables and chairs, choose items to keep food cold. A large cooler looks out of place on a small European-size table but fits nicely under a standard picnic table without detracting from the decor. Alternatively, cover the picnic table with a cloth cover and decorate it with a floral centerpiece to draw attention away from the cooler. Filling decorative bowls with ice and placing serving plates on ice to stay chilled is another option.


For intimate parties, our outdoor occasional table collection features smaller tables, including coffee tables. You won’t be able to put a cooler beneath a smaller table but other strategies exist to keep food properly chilled and looking presentable. For tables with limited surface areas, chill cold foods indoors until they are ready for serving. Then, put the cold items together in a wire caddy so that they stay cold. When filled with beautiful, appetizing hors d’oeuvres, the caddy becomes a stylish centerpiece as well. Glass pitchers, filled with ice and garnished with slices of fruit or lemon, keep beverages chilled and look stunning.


Our outdoor umbrellas collection, which includes outdoor umbrellas designed for shading a patio, is another good resource for outdoor parties. Umbrellas keep food out of the sun and guests will appreciate the opportunity to escape the sun’s strong rays. Because outdoor umbrellas can withstand the elements, their colors will not fade. They come in a variety of colors too, including white, red and gray. Striped or solid, simply pick the right umbrella to match the color scheme of the other furnishings.


With outdoor lounge furniture as a setting for the party, it's easy to store cold foods in a sleek and stylish manner. For dips and mayonnaise-based salads, place small buckets of ice beside the lounge seating areas. Put the cold foods in small bowls and rest the bowls on the ice in the bucket. When it is time to serve the food, put the bowls, along with small plates of chips, pretzels and other dipping foods, onto a nice serving tray. Use a decorative tray to serve guests mixed drinks in drink-appropriate serving ware, such as Moscow mule mugs.


The outdoor furniture collections help create an entire theme for your outdoor party if you are not sure where to start. One idea for a party, inspired by a furniture collection, involves creating a themed food party, such as a Mexican fiesta. For a festive Mexican food party, serve guests guacamole, fresh salsa and chips on a beautiful chip and dip tray or decorative platter. Top it off with sangria, which stays cool when put in a glass pitcher filled with ice. Pour each guest his or her own drink in a matching glass filled with ice.


Find some outdoor decor accessories to dress up the area around the party. Decorative items like potted plants and small trees are ideal for adding a splash of color and fragrance to the landscaping. Citrus trees and herbs are particularly good choices for food-themed get-togethers.

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