THIS YEAR, more than most, we have good reason to want to extend the outdoor season. All that outdoor restaurant dining, those lovely porch parties could go poof! as lower temps start popping up on our phones. Indoor dining? Hmmm, maybe not yet, no matter what the forecast.
Europe’s sidewalk cafes have pushed the weather envelope for years, some competing with one another over whose gas-flame-blasting floor heater can ensure the most business, others simply draping a cozy blanket over the cafe chairs. Not to be negative, but, Stateside, I anticipate hearing about at least one wooden porch ceiling being charred by a newbie who doesn’t fully appreciate the power of those heaters. And city restaurants that have erected sidewalk and street-side tents will have to be vigilant lest the evening meal involve some unforeseen fireworks.
That said, there are still ways to keep the outdoors on the agenda, even if it just means wearing your coat while dining, literally, out. Here are a few thoughts.
These Shade Line electric heat lamps from Lava Heat Italia may not be as powerful as the commercial gas-blasting giants (which Lava Heat also makes), but they sure are a lot easier on the eyes. The floor lamp and the hanging lamp both produce up to 1,500 watts of heat, and the pendant in particular could hang directly over the outdoor dining table. Both send heat out about 10 feet in each direction. The seven-foot-tall floor lamp with its black shade is about $745 at Home Depot, the hanging lamp about $600 (the hanging shade is also available in white at Home Depot for $1,175).
I found this photo of a Budapest cafe on the Grownup Travels site. It brought back the memory of nestling in just that kind of comfort outside a Budapest bakery a few years ago. There are many blankets and throws on the market, of course, but I thought these color-block throws from Target were handsome and their price so gentle that you could buy one for every chair on the patio, all one color combo or several. The “faux cashmere” (it means acrylic, but who’s counting?) throws are 50 by 60 inches and still available in aqua and cream, yellow and cream, and taupe and cream. $31.49 at Target.com.
This Over-the-Table Rod has nothing to do with keeping the cold away, but it’s a clever–okay, kinda weird–idea for keeping the outdoor dinner table festive. The black iron rod gets clamped onto either end of the table, though it might be a better alternative to use it on a console or buffet table and not lose those two end seats. The rod extends from 55 to 98 inches in length and sits 38 inches above the table. After that, it’s up to you: string lights, a tiny chandelier, autumn flowers and grasses; later in the year (and indoors) garlands of greenery, ornaments, whatever. It’s $48 at Terrain.
If you have a fire pit or other open fire to warm things up outside, you’ll be happy to hear an old-fashioned popcorn popper can make the evening’s festivities even brighter. The Open-Fire Pop kit comes with three bags of corn already mixed with oil and salt–but, really, bags of white and yellow Jolly Time popping corn are readily available in supermarkets (and on Amazon) and cost around 8 cents per ounce (and you can control the amount of oil and salt). The Open-Fire Pop kit is $26.99 at Home Depot and HomeDepot.com.
And when you’re ready for dessert, what could beat marshmallow and chocolate s’mores? These stainless-steel forks for roasting the marshmallows telescope to 32 inches long and rotate. There are many such forks to be found online, but this set of eight forks is $15.97 at Amazon. Note to self: The next time s’mores call to me, I may try upgrading with chocolate that is fancy-schmancier than the traditional Hersheys bar. Terrain offers the Artisan S’Mores Kit by Ticket Chocolate, four portions for $20. More chocolate? Ticket Chocolate also has the Chocolate Lover’s S’Mores Kit, with chocolate graham crackers, also $20.
Summer or fall, we want some of our drinks kept cold. For the grownups in the room, there’s the elegant double-sided Optima cooler from the Frontgate catalogue’s Professional Series. Depending on the size (the 21-inch tub can hold 11 standard wine bottles, the 17-incher 7 bottles), they range from $152.10 to $179.10 and come in six finishes (black stainless steel shown here; one 21-incher, in antique gold, is $99.99). Too serious? Try Funboy’s Tropical Palm Drink Caddy, $25 at Nordstrom. Winning proposition: This “kiddie pool for your drinks” deflates and won’t take up precious storage space.
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