Contributed by Rich SchieferdeckerSee more photos on our Flickr Read recipes in part 1

As I described in part 1 of this Dinner Series article, I once belonged to a book club. But, when we found how much reading a book club actually required, we decided to turn it into something with a little more eating and a little less reading. And so we became a gourmet club. Each month one of us hosts a dinner party and prepares an entrée, another brings the cocktails & wine (that's an important job!), and the rest of us bring other dishes and desserts. We rotate duties, so that we all have a chance to flex different culinary muscles. If you're part of a similar club make a note in the comments section below. I'd love to hear how it's going for you and your friends.

This month my friends Rich (who's something of a grill-master) and Carolyn hosted a garden party. These days it's so easy to find great recipes on the Internet, so that's where ours usually come from. As the dinner approaches, we communicate via email and the menu comes together through mutual agreement. Sometimes, this informal arrangement yields meals that are a little too fatty, or a little incongruous, but lately it's been balancing out perfectly. We tend to improvise a little. For this month's salad, we used delicious in-season strawberries and pecans baked with maple syrup with an Emeril recipe for a delicious balsamic vinaigrette, combining two recipes and a seasonal ingredient.

dinner series garden party place setting

Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano for the grilled chicken and Asparagus-New Potato Hash came from Rich and Carolyn's garden and we used fresh blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries in the salad, sangria, and dessert, so that the food felt summery and appropriate for the dinner's garden setting and aptly in season. We also set the dinner table with freshly cut flowers the garden.

Our table was set with colorful informal Chilewich placemats on top of a formal white table cloth that went well with Fig-colored Polylin napkins by Libeco Home. The Summer Fruit Jelly dessert looked fantastic on clear glass iittala Kastehelmi Dew Drop plates.

flowers at dinner series garden party

The color of Libeco napkins well matched some of the garden's flowers and echoed in the colors of iittala Origo dinnerware. Dill green placemats brought color and a summery informality to the table.

Throughout the dinner we enjoyed both red and white sangria, although most of us preferred the white. With lots of fresh fruit, everyone agreed that sangria is wonderful on a warm summer evening. We discussed how to keep chipmunks out of the garden. The best strategy is to get a dog! Also, one couple had a son graduating high school, so we talked about out how fortunate their kids were and how it "takes a village" to them. Many great adults had an impact on their kids, for which they were grateful. And of course we discussed World Cup soccer.

Since many of the club's members have kids, we take the months of July and August off, but I'm looking forward to September's dinner which will be hosted by my friends Rita and Britt at their home in Groton, MA.

dinner series garden pary strawberry salad in iitala teema bowl