5.14.2012

A Rustic, Farm-to-Fork Party

I recently had the pleasurable task of setting the table for my sister-in-law's birthday dinner. It was an alfresco meal for 11, with a rustic, farm-to-fork theme... just up my alley! My sister already had lanterns, hanging lights, and other elements to work with, so I just needed to add a few pieces of my own, pull it all together, and make it look pretty. My goal was to keep it simple and low-budget, to honor the spirit of the theme (and my bank account!).
It turned out really beautiful, so I thought I'd share what I did. My canvas was two long tables set up under an oak tree in the birthday girl's backyard. I covered both tables with white bed sheets and topped them with hand-knotted burlap table runners I made, following the tutorial here. These were so easy to make (took under an hour for two) and only cost me about $4.50 per piece (the cost of 3 yards of burlap).
I knew flowers would really set the scene. My sister-in-law likes hydrangeas, so I set out to find a few plants I could snip from. Turns out hydrangeas have a short season here in southwest Florida; I found some at a local garden center, in a back greenhouse, that were mostly ugly and left for dead. I picked out a few with beautiful blue-green blossoms still intact, and they gave them to me for no charge... score! I also swapped my friend some homemade strawberry jam and herb cuttings from my garden for fresh lavender and Indian Blanket flowers from hers. The flowers were all arranged into half-pint mason jars (from my stash), with sprigs of herbs and jasmine from the yard. Four small arrangements ran the length of the tables with a larger one in the center. Interspersed between these were votives and two pillar candles, all from my supply.
For place settings, I hand-stamped tags I picked up from the craft store ($2.99) using stamps from my craft supply. I tied these with jute around mason jars, which held napkins and utensils and were set atop each plate. Twinkle lights and colorful lanterns strung above the tables added a luminous charm.
The farm-to-fork menu celebrated homemade, homegrown and locally harvested seasonal food, including chilled fresh corn soup shooters, chopped salad, watermelon stars & blueberries, rustic cranberry walnut bread and rosemary focaccia, local sausages, marinated cucumbers, fresh green beans, and oven roasted and herbed veggies. It was a feast!
A few more touches throughout the space added to the overall feel... I hung a chalkboard sign from a tree, under which was a buffet table, decked out in burlap, fresh flowers and lanterns.
And added a little rustic charm to an hors d'ouevres table and the bar with more fresh flowers, candles and chalkboard signs. Almost everything I brought to decorate with was repurposed from my home, or foraged or swapped for. The only purchases were the burlap and tags... for a total of only about $12 spent! 
In the end, it was a heartfelt celebration of family & friends, local food & flowers, alfresco dining, and home-spun country beauty. Here, here!

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