Grab your squad, forage natural decor, and enjoy fall bounty at its finest. Find tips and tricks for throwing the ultimate moody harvest feast
– October 19, 2018
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Seek a Beautiful Outdoor Setting
Cool, crisp fall nights in Wyoming are unparalleled, especially when it comes to throwing the ultimate outdoor dinner party. The changing of the leaves is also a stunning way to add instant fall ambiance to the mix. Huidekoper Ranch, a bio-intensive farm in Wilson, Wyoming—with its picture-perfect backdrop of horses roaming, unobstructed mountain views, vibrant greens, root vegetables sprouting from the earth, and aspen trees in clear sight—makes a solid spot for an al fresco feast.
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Add Atmospheric Vignettes
Add personality to an intimate dinner by setting up separate spaces. Create a welcome table with wine and seasonal fruit and prop up a moody bison skull (Meghan Lacroix custom bison skull, from $1,800) for some Instagrammable moments. Meghan Lacroix, an artist who uses skulls as her canvas, focuses on nature and foraged florals.
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Mix Bespoke Cocktails for the Occasion
Jessa Talermo, owner ofAmrita: Handcrafted Beverages, drew inspiration from the land and surroundings for signature cocktails to serve at the outdoor dinner party. Ginny’s Garden (named after Virginia “Ginny” Huidekoper)—an earthy, beet-centric cocktail featuring Wyoming Whiskey Outryder, yellow chartreuse, microgreens, and a charcoal rim—is a nod to Ginny walking through Tyc’s greenhouse, “munching on anything she found while sipping fine whiskey,” she adds.Peter’s Demise (named after PeterRabbit), a beautiful carrot juice-based drink, is all things spicy, smoky, and savory thanks to a perfect marriage of Jackson Hole Still Works Great Grey Gin, Farigoule thyme liqueur, Chichicapa del Maguey mezcal, turmeric-honey simple syrup, and cardamom bitters.
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Make Ingredients Do Double-Duty
No need to scout décor when fall’s finest harvest is part of the equation. Trick out the drink station with stylish barware filled with vegetables and leafy greens, freshly-squeezed juices, and autumn fruits. “Beyond the flavor, I wanted the cocktails to look as though they had just sprouted out of the incredible soil at Huidekoper Ranch,” says Talermo. By using plucked-from-the-earth ingredients, gorgeous accents such as carrot tops, microgreens, and crystal goblets filled with apples add a unique touch to the overall aesthetic.
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Set up a Cozy Lounging Space
Provide warmth by way of grill coals and an aesthetically pleasing lounge area by bringing the indoors outside. “Cozy textures like sheepskin and hides make any outdoor space welcoming and warm,” notes Kendra Hobson, owner of Simply Grand Events. “Don’t be afraid to bring rugs, furniture, poufs, and blankets from inside your home,” she adds. “It creates an atmosphere that makes guests want to linger longer.”
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Lauren Thompson, floral designer at Someday Soon, notes that foraged plants and leaves often go unnoticed, but add texture, shape, and color variation to a tablescape—not to mention they’re as cost-efficient as it gets and often last longer than cut flowers. Scope out the venue and utilize what’s available and thriving. “Because of their wildness, you can run with that theme and use a more natural vase (ceramic, marble, or wood) or you can contrast it with something over-the-top and ornate such as etched crystal,” says Thompson. “It will add a surprising and seasonally appropriate feel to your table.”
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Play up an Autumnal Palette
“The fall foliage changes daily and the ombré effect that exists in nature was the catalyst for my design,” Thompson adds. “I also wanted to draw from the water and thus the hanging instillation, a mirrored image of the table, was created to symbolize the reflection you get in water.” Matte black plates (Hearth & Hand Stoneware Dinner Plate, from $5.99) are a solid way to make foraged florals and vibrant food pop.
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Provide Outdoor Activities
While the meal is being perfected in the kitchen, entertain guests with outdoorsy activities like axe throwing (New West Knifeworks axe, from $109), cornhole, or a game of horseshoes. Not only are they fitting for an outdoor party out West, but also they’re easy to set up and provide a next-level cocktail hour scenario. Pick a designated area to play and leave the rest up to the guests.
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Set a Multi-Functional Table
Often at weddings and dinner parties there are issues with family-style meals—for instance, plating might not fit with the centerpieces that inspired the bride or host. As a result, Thompson’s husband, a skilled carpenter, constructed a table using reclaimed wood with a convertible, removable middle piece. “The table has been fitted for containers to slip in, unnoticed, so that the arrangements are flush with the table giving it the appearance of planted flowers,” she says. When it’s time to devour dinner, the arrangements easily pop out, the wooden piece slides back in, and a solid surface for platters and dishes then exists.
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Celebrate Seasonal Bounty
Before the first real snow sets in, embrace what’s left from the land to create a truly remarkable yet simple menu. “We focus on vegetables that are cold-hardy and quick to mature as we have a fairly short growing season (May to October) and we grow food that is nutrient-dense, healthy for people, and healthy for the soil,” says Brent Tyc, resident farmer at Huidekoper Ranch. Tyc, alongside his wife, Claire (granddaughter of original ranch owners Jim and Virginia Huidekoper), whipped up a beautiful spread of mixed green salad with radishes and microgreens, roasted root vegetables, grilled green tomatoes, and fresh garden herbs for garnish.
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Create an Unfussy Feast
Dive back into simplicity when cooking this season. “Get back to the primal instinct of ripping apart things and sticking them in your mouth,” notes Nick Phillips, owner ofSweet Cheeks Meats, who showed up with a Star Valley, Wyoming pasture-raised lamb in tow. “Slow-cooked lamb, fire-grilled naan, a chimichurri made from whatever’s growing in the garden, and your fingers to pile it all in—simplicity leaves guests time to enjoy everything about an outdoor dinner party.” This, plus the company of close friends sitting together outside, makes for a truly magical affair.
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End on a High Note
For a nightcap to end all nightcaps, Lindsey Johnson, baker behindLady in the Wild West, created a full-bodied, Cabernet Sauvignon cake layered with dark chocolate and blackberry ganache—a sinful end to a perfect dinner. “The decadent blending of red wine, chocolate, and a vibrant twist of fresh copper-dusted blackberries makes for the perfect amount of warmth on a crisp autumn night.”