summer entertaining – slow and easy

by Sharon Santoni

table laid with knife rest and individual salt

Summer is most certainly the season when we entertain the most.   Dining al fresco is only possible for part of the year in Normandy, so we like to make the most of it.   Invitations are often last minute and spontaneous,  decided on a whim because the temperatures are warmer; because we bought something special at the market in the morning or just because good  friends are in town.

The truth is that you don’t need any sort of excuse to organise an impromptu dinner between friends ….. in summertime, the living is most certainly easy.

The same goes for the table, while in the winter I often lay a table with layers of tableware and fancy linen napkins, my summer tables are much more simple.   Just a knife and fork, and if we change plates between savoury courses then my favourite knife rest besides each plate are most useful.  Flatware for dessert is either laid  at the start or later, a silver spoon  brought out with each person’s verrine or little fruit tart.

I generally provide a couple of glasses per guest, to be sure they can enjoy the wine, but also drink as much water as they wish.

table laid with knife rest and individual salt

Of course I can never lay a table without flowers, and at this time of year they are definitely all from the garden.   I prefer smaller bouquets dotted along the table, that can be moved to make space for platters and  never so tall as to hinder conversation.

My other latest favorite on the dinner table  are the tiny individual salt cellars.   The best ones are crystal and silver.   I often come across these at antique and brocante fairs, and now have enough to provide one in front of each place setting.   It’s only a tiny detail, but guests often appreciate the comfort of having their own salt supply.

Candles are a must all along the table, and in the summer as a precaution, I burn a couple of citronella candles on the walls around the table to keep any ‘moustiques’ at bay.

But the most important element to any dinner, and in any season, is the right combination of guests around the table.   With the perfect dose of good humour, lively conversation and ready smile, the most simple meal  becomes a banquet for a king.

I hope you are enjoying your summer entertaining, or if you are in the southern hemisphere, that you are beginning to glimpse the first signs of spring.

Please forgive my silence over the past couple of weeks, I have had back-to-back clients here and a minor family emergency, but now all is back to normal and I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off and enjoying the rest of the summer together.

table laid with knife rest and individual salt

You can follow my pinterest for more inspiration here.



Lorraine Wafer July 25, 2016 - 1:16 am

Beautiful Sharon, not long now until spring for us here in Australia. We have had a very mild winter and signs of Spring are appearing with the native golden wattles coming into bloom. We love outdoor entertaining and you are right the little touches make a difference. I noticed your lovely blue and white crockery, a favourite of mine along with the lovely linen cloth. I really enjoy setting the table to entertain and wandering our garden picking what I can to make little jugs of flowers. These touches are not seen so often now and they do make a difference.

nancy July 25, 2016 - 2:01 am

It all looks wonderful! And an invitation from you would certainly make anyone happy. 😀

Leslie in Little Rock July 25, 2016 - 2:14 am

So beautiful! I will share with my soon to be married daughter!

Victoria Savu July 25, 2016 - 2:38 am

Dear Sharon,
Glad you are back and glad your family emergency was minor. Love Victoria

Melissa July 25, 2016 - 2:45 am

So very beautiful. I love it. Enjoy your time now. Thank you for the inspiration.

Susan Nash July 25, 2016 - 3:07 am

As always, your photos are merveilleuses! — Susan (near Boston)

Pamela July 25, 2016 - 3:30 am

Glad to hear the family emergency was minor. Hope your getting some well deserved rest from your trip. Your dinner with friends sounds like a lot of fun.

Emm July 25, 2016 - 4:04 am

What a beautiful table.
I like your idea of individual salts. I have half a dozen small silver salt dishes, bought years ago at an auction when I got carried away — I’ll follow your example and try to use them soon.

Lillian Plummer July 25, 2016 - 5:37 am

Lovely setting Sharon and al fresco dining is the best for summer months. Individual salt containers are great. I try and use small crystal salt bowls for sea salt as they are too coarse to use in the shakers. I suppose I could always grind them to a shaking consistency, but don’t always have the time. Love crystal and silver. Love your blog.

Danielle July 25, 2016 - 7:29 am

Beautiful photos! I am leaving the beautiful city of Rouen for Honfleur and Deauville. I was inspired to come here by your blog. Thank you.

bonnie groves poppe July 25, 2016 - 8:57 am

I have a few little crystal salt cellars, as you say from brocantes, depot ventes, etc. Here in Provence the outdoor dining season lasts a bit longer, but still we eat on the terrace whether it is a party or not. Great tip about many small flower arrangements, so much easier to work with than one big one.

Jay July 25, 2016 - 8:58 am

So pretty. Your posts are always so evocative . Believe it or not we have had a few days of summer in London too ! Could I ask about your rattan ‘placemats’ please, Sharon ~they look quite shallow but ‘dish-shape’? Do you leave the plates/dishes in there or remove them for people to eat? Also would they fit a dinner plate .Thank you . Could you tell me the French name for them, please, Sharon, and are they to find and buy in France? Thank you so much.

Our French Oasis July 25, 2016 - 9:04 am

Beautiful as always. Like you we are enjoying every second we can of summer outdoors, we eat every meal, whether it’s with friends or just the family, outside and more often than not our entertaining is totally impromptu. Hope all is well with the family, Susan x

Dorka July 25, 2016 - 2:56 pm

I love the summer time as much as you, as there are plenty of ideas to lay a table and especially the picking the wild flowers in the surrounding fields at our cottage.In the guest cottage I can host almost every day a breakfast and sometimes also dinners in the evening .I cannot light enough citronella candles we have huge hordes of mosquitos this year. Antique salt cellars are my favorites too as I got a dozen of them long years ago from a very good friend.Any time I use them I think about her and the jolly time we had together.
Hope we’ll have long warm period to enjoy al fresco occasions.Love from the Plain in Hungary Dorka

Katherine July 25, 2016 - 3:47 pm

It is so enjoyable having the table set completely. I fuss over all the details and get reminded by family all the time ‘don’t fuss’. But they love it all and it is a treat to myself dressing the table well.
I am now on a mission to add to my collection more established (Vintage or Antique) linen and additional hotel silver.
I have always loved the floral arrangements you prepare and need to take a lesson from your pages.

Kate Dickerson July 25, 2016 - 3:53 pm

Love your pretty glasses…and the wicker mats and vases!! Bon appétit! <3

Taste of France July 25, 2016 - 4:03 pm

I hope your family emergency has been resolved happily.
We have been entertaining a lot–running into friends at the market, and saying, come on over for aperitifs–nah, dinner too! Simple as that. Though we had a BIG cookout yesterday with 30+ people (I lost count).
We are lucky to be able to eat outdoors even in January and February–not at night but at lunch. In the summer, though, we really live outdoors–breakfast, lunch and dinner are outside under the shade of a big tree.

JaneEllen July 25, 2016 - 10:53 pm

Certainly hope family emergency was resolved satisfactorially and you have time to breath now. Seems events crop up all at once.
I enjoy reading all comments to your posts and certainly have to agree with all, your table is magnifique. I happen to love the small floral arrangements, have never cared for huge towering arrangements. Where can you put big arrangement which won’t be in the way unless on the buffet? I know some people love bigger arrangements and they are very pretty.
Your dishes are so beautiful, what is pattern called? Love idea of using individual salt cellars, besides being pretty serve purpose. Don’t see them very often here at thrift stores or yard sales, wish I did as would love to have some, figure out a more current use for them.
We don’t have a dining table or place to put one. We have small single wide manufactured home. When we bought our place(have 1/2 acre) out in country was all we could barely afford as we were still paying for our house in Kentucky and paying for our place where we live in Colorado. After little time living in this house I sold dining table and buffet hutch.
We have 5 chickens, dog and cat and now hubs is talking about pygmy goats.
He grew up on farm in Oklahoma so thinks our 1/2 acre can take care of more than it can. We’re not getting any younger, I just turned 76 last Thursday and hubs will be 75 in Oct. Time to down size more not take on more. Have wonderful week Sharon

Marilyn July 26, 2016 - 10:40 pm

Your table is gorgeous! I love the small bouquets from the garden. Yes, summer entertaining is the best.

Carol Brownlee July 31, 2016 - 7:35 pm

I love you site. Please add me to your list! I adore all things French and speak it’s beautiful language.


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