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Alfresco Summer Dinner

L.A.-based designer Emily Ruddo calls home for summer party inspiration

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Michael Garland

    Click here for menu and recipes.

    As the Earth’s rotation dictates, each new day starts in the east and moves to the west—which, as it happens, is the same path Maryland native Emily Ruddo has followed. The East Coaster relocated to Southern California for a job, and now when the designer hosts gatherings, she dials into her home state and her current digs for a table that reflects both places.  

    “Since my inspiration is coastal, blue made sense to be the primary color of my scheme,” Emily says. “In Maryland, we spend summers by the beach. Living in Los Angeles, I am by the beach all year round. It was important that all of the elements reference life on the water.”

    A graphic pairing of blue and green makes a sea-inspired statement on the bright white outdoor furniture. Emily built on those colors, blending them into her tablescape. She started by placing three cotton table runners with a lively, brush-like pattern atop the table’s glass surface. Every layer of the dinnerware suite references the movement of water. 

    The menu offers guests light summer fare that includes a watermelon cocktailzucchini pancakeswalleye with vegetables, and a rhubarb crumble for dessert. 

    “Greta” wineglass and “Steel Blue Twist Tumbler” from Jung Lee sparkle on the “Quadratl” dining table paired with “Azimuth” side chairs from Janus et Cie. “Dip Dye Fish Tureen” and “Kent Teak” flatware are from Oscar de la Renta. Corn salt and pepper shakers are from Michael Aram

    Photography: Michael Garland and Peter Krumhardt  
    Produced by Laura Hull

  • Michael Garland

    Rule of Three

    Emily’s rule of thumb is to build a scheme using three colors. In this instance, the blue-and-green table accessories are accented by bunches of lilacs displayed in glass bucket-style vases wrapped in rope. 

    “I’m never a fan of white napkins for at-home entertaining,” Emily says. “There is so much interesting product available in coordinating colors, and it’s a shame not to use them. White linens seem formal to me, like what would be presented to you at a fine restaurant. Entertaining at home should be more relaxed and casual.”

  • Michael Garland

    Emily Ruddo's Summer Entertaining Tips

    • Before placing furniture, check for direct sunlight and choose a shady spot to prevent a meltdown on those hot summer days. For larger parties, space out the furniture to encourage guests to roam. 
    • I like to choose three colors and repeat them throughout the table in the menu, glasses, table linens and dinnerware. For this party we chose blue and green. 
    • For no fuss flowers choose one flower and repeat it down the table. We added a rope covered vase which is perfect for hiding stems but also adds a natural element to all the bright and shiny objects on the table. If fresh flowers aren't your thing, place a beautiful porcelain bowl of citrus fruits in the center of the table. 
    • Cozy seating and soft mood lighting is a must for lounging before and after dinner on long summer nights. Add a basket of throws for when it turns chilly. You can never have enough lanterns for walkways, tabletops or even hanging from sturdy tree branches. 
    • Greet guests with an already made refreshing cold drink with fresh ingredients. Mint and watermelon are perfect for a summer soirée. Then stock a help yourself bar with liquor, rosé, and beer with plenty of mint and citrus on hand for garnishing. Display glasses on a decorative tray. Mint infused simple syrup is also a simple way to personalize the bar for summer. For larger parties, multiple beverage stations keep guests happy. Display bottle openers and dish towels at each station 
    • Keep mosquitoes from crashing the party by placing a fan near guests and light Citronella candles at nightfall surrounding the party area. 
    • Select your favorite classic summer songs for a memorable playlist. 
  • Michael Garland

    Easy & Breezy

    Anchoring an ensemble of blue-and-white melamine plates and a bowl with curvy scalloped edges, ceramic green-and-ivory service plates introduce motion with a marbleized swirl pattern. Green caned napkin rings secure a light-blue napkin donning a scalloped border that conjures images of a crisp cotton shirt.

    Oscar de la Renta’s marbleized green-and-white ceramic charger anchors blue-and-white melamine plates from Q Squared. The scalloped linen napkin and caned leather napkin ring are from Juliska.

  • Michael Garland

    Little Fish, Big Style

    L’Objet’s gold-plated “Fish” place card holders with crystal eyes add a hint of luxury and offer variation to the array of casual product featured throughout the tablescape. Place cards embellished with sea turtles in a watercolor style are from Lobird.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Sips of Summer

    For designer Emily Ruddo, a refreshing signature cocktail with fruit—like these drinks that combine watermelon juice, soda, and vodka—garnishes the event with great flavor and color before the meal is served. Clear tumblers are from Jung Lee.

    Click here for the recipe.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    The Fruits of Summer

    Fresh rhubarb and raspberries form a happy partnership in this simple crumble. The topping is made from crushed biscotti, adding a tangy anise note to the sweet and puckery fruits. The sassy green casserole from Le Creuset ties it all together.

    Click here for the recipe.

  • Michael Garland

    Fresh Catch

    A nod to Maryland’s famous crab-loving fare, a ceramic condiment server from Oscar de la Renta ( provides function and whimsy. Table runners are fabricated from “Les Touches” cotton fabric from Brunschwig & Fils.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Cobalt

    We assembled variations on the seaside table scheme to give you equally stylish options.

    “Darius Gold” accent plate, Lenox; “Hunting” dinner plate, Bordallo Pinheiro; “Straw Loop” placemat and “Pistachio Medallion” napkin, Juliska; cobalt ramekin, Prima Design.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Azulina

    “Azulina” bowl, Manor; Aerin “Emerald Mist” dinner plate and “Mountain Peak Wood Charger,” Lenox; “Herringbone” napkin, Juliska.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Get the Look - Twine Flower

    “Twine Flower” napkin ring and “Tuileries” placemat, Juliska; “Truman” dinner plate and napkin, B By Brandie; “Transatlantica” charger by Vista Alegre. 

  • Michael Garland

    Menu and Shopping List

    Bi-coastal influences flavored designer Emily Ruddo’s menu. Fresh and summery, these recipes show off the season’s best produce, fruits, and herbs. Los Angeles chef Mary Payne Moran of Hail Mary Food of Grace created these recipes perfect for a summer party.


    Watermelon Sour

    Zucchini Pancakes with Crème Fraîche and Caviar

    Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Crab Crostini

    Brown Butter Walleye with Summer Vegetable Medley

    Rhubarb-Raspberry Crumble

    Shopping List

    We’ve organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    • Granulated sugar (need about 3/4 cups)
    • Brown sugar (need 1-1/4 cups)
    • Vanilla (need 1 teaspoon)
    • All-purpose flour (need 2 cups + 2 tablespoons)
    • Baking powder (need 1/2 tsp) (check expiration date)
    • Baking soda (need 1/2 tsp) (check expiration date)
    • Eggs (need 1)
    • Milk (need 1/4 cup)
    • Butter (need 2 sticks + 2 tablepsoons)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil (need 3 tablespoons)
    • Salt (need 3/4 teaspoon + to season)
    • Freshly ground black pepper (to season)
    • Paprika (need 2 tablespoons)
    • Garlic (need 2 cloves)
    • Nonstick cooking spray

    Specialty grocery story

    • 1 (2-ounce) jar caviar (see recipe note)
    • 1 (8-ounce) package almond biscotti


    • 1 (2-pound) watermelon (or 32-ounces fresh organic unsweetened watermelon juice)
    • 4 lemons
    • 24 ounces fresh raspberries [or 2 (12-ounce) bags frozen raspberries]
    • 1 bunch rhubarb
    • 1 large zucchini
    • 6 ounces green beans
    • 5 to 6 ears fresh corn
    • 2 Roma tomatoes
    • 5 large red sweet peppers
    • 1 bunch chive
    • 1 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
    • 1 bunch basil
    • 1 bunch marjoram
    • 1 large + 1 medium shallot
    • 2 medium leek


    • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce or 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (need 1 Tbsp)

    Frozen foods aisle

    • 1 large container vanilla bean ice cream

    Fish department

    • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen cooked Alaska King crab legs
    • 2 pounds walleye or other fresh-water white fish (ask the fish monger to debone)


    • 1 baguette-style French bread


    • 1 (8-ounce) container crème fraîche


    • 1 (750-ml) bottle good quality bourbon
    • 1 bottle dry white wine (need 1/4 cup)
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Watermelon Sour

    • 1/4 cup fresh watermelon juice*
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 to 1-ounce good-quality bourbon
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • Ice

    In a rocks glass combine watermelon juice, water, bourbon, lemon juice and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add ice cubes. Makes 1 cocktail.

    *Tip: Watermelon Juice: To make watermelon juice, remove rind from 2-pound piece of watermelon. Cut watermelon into cubes and place in food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Press through fine mesh sieve; discard solids. Cover and chill sieved juice up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups (enough for 8 cocktails).

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Zucchini Pancakes with Crème Fraîche and Caviar

    A tiny teaspoon of caviar turns this fritter into an elegant treat. American caviars harvested from native fish have improved in quality as imports become less available. Find American caviars at Seattle Caviar Co.  and Browne Trading Company.

    • 1 cup finely shredded zucchini
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
    • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
    • 1 (2-ounce) jar caviar

    Place zucchini in colander. Press with rubber spatula to squeeze out as much liquid as possible; set aside.

    In small bowl stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In medium bowl beat together egg, milk, and drained zucchini. Add zucchini mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until moistened.

    In 12-inch nonstick skillet melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Drop batter in 1 tablespoon portions in hot skillet. Spread batter, if necessary. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown; turn over when surfaces are bubbly and edges are slightly dry. Hold cooked pancakes in 200°F oven until ready to serve.

    In small bowl combine crème fraîche and chives. When ready to serve, top pancakes with chive-crème fraîche and caviar. Makes 6 servings.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Crab Crostini


    • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
    • 1/4 cup chopped leek
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • Salt and ground black pepper
    • 3 large red sweet peppers, seeded and chopped (about 3-1/2 cups)
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 3 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce or tomato paste
    • 2 large red sweet peppers, roasted*
    • 6 (1-inch) thick slices baguette-style French bread (about 4-1/2 ounces total)

    Crab Crostini:

    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen cooked Alaska King crab legs, meat removed and flaked (you should have about 1/2 cup)
    • Salt
    • 6 (1/2-inch) thick slices baguette-style French bread
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, halved
    • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

    For soup, in large saucepan cook the shallots, leek, paprika, and garlic in hot butter and oil 2 minutes. Add chopped peppers and cook about 5 minutes or until glossy and aromatic.

    Remove saucepan from heat; add wine. Return saucepan to heat and add water and tomato sauce. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

    Add red pepper mixture to blender or food processor. Cover; blend or process until smooth. Remove half the mixture (about 2 cups) from blender and return to saucepan. Add roasted red peppers and the 1-inch thick toasted bread slices to remaining mixture in blender. Cover; blend until smooth. Return to saucepan.

    Bring soup to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

    Divide soup among six small serving bowls. Float Crab Crostini on top of soup. Sprinkle with snipped flat leaf parsely.

    For Crab Crostini, in small skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add crab to skillet. Sprinkle lightly with salt; heat through. Set mixture aside.

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Drizzle bread slices with olive oil. Rub each piece of bread thoroughly with cut sides of garlic. Season bread with salt. Bake 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Top each bread slice with some crab mixture. Makes 6 servings.

    *Tip: To roast peppers, halve peppers; remove seeds and membranes. Place peppers, cut side down, on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in 425°F oven about 20 minutes or until skins are charred. Wrap peppers in foil; let stand 20 to 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel off skin.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Brown Butter Walleye with Summer Vegetable Medley

    Vegetable Medley:

    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
    • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced leek
    • 1-1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces
    • 3 cups fresh corn*
    • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped (2/3 cup)
    • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh chives
    • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil
    • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
    • 1/4 teaspoon finely snipped fresh marjoram
    • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
    • Salt and ground black pepper

    White Fish:

    • 2 pounds walleye or other fresh water white fish, cut into 6 pieces (ask the fish monger to debone the fish)
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (use any left over herbs from Vegetable Medley recipe)
    • 2 lemons

    For Vegetable Medley, heat large skillet with 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and leek. Cook and stir  3 to 5 minutes or until shallots and leek have browned slightly. Add green beans to pan. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until green beans begin to soften. Add corn. Cook and stir 2 to 4 minutes or until heated through.

    Remove skillet from heat. Add chopped tomato, all of herbs, lemon peel, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Stir until just combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with white fish.

    To prepare white fish, rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels.

    Heat large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter to pan. Heat butter until butter is golden brown color and pan is hot. Immediately add half of fish, skin side up.

    Cook fish, uncovered, 4 minutes or until it has a nice brown color with blackened edges. Turn; cook 3 to 4 minutes more or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Repeat with remaining fish and butter.

    To serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon mixed herbs over fish. Serve with lemon wedges and Vegetable Medley. Makes 6 servings.

    *Tip: Cutting fresh corn off cob: With your hands, pull off husks and silks, section by section, from ears of corn. Once husks are removed, use stiff brush to remove remaining silks.

    Steady ear of corn with one hand and face the stem away. Use a sturdy chef's knife to cut off stem. Rinse the ear.

    Place an ear of corn, cut side down, on cutting board, holding it near top of the ear. Using sharp knife, start at top and cut downward with  gentle sawing motion, cutting corn from cob at about two-thirds depth of kernels. Continue cutting until all of corn is removed.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Rhubarb-Raspberry Crumble

    Bake this crumble in a 3-quart oval or rectangular ceramic baking dish for best results (


    • 2 cups crumbled almond biscotti (about 8 ounces)
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into cubes


    • 4 cups fresh raspberries [or 2 (12-ounce) bags frozen raspberries]
    • 2 cups sliced fresh rhubarb
    • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • Vanilla bean ice cream

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    In medium bowl combine crumbled biscotti, 1 cup flour, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add butter; work into dry mixture with your fingers until completely incorporated; set side.

    In large bowl combine raspberries and rhubarb. In small bowl stir together 3/4 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and vanilla. Add to fruit mixture; gently toss to combine.

    Coat 3-quart rectangular or oval baking dish with cooking spray. Add filling. Sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake 40 minutes or until top is golden and filling is bubbly. Let cool about 30 minutes before serving.

    Serve warm with ice cream. Makes about 12 servings.