Throw a Fashion-Forward Alfresco Dinner Party

Follow the lead of LA designer Lisa Adams with a fashionable (and unforgettable) outdoor dinner party.

A glamorous night out always begins in the closet. Lisa Adams makes sure that dressing for an event is both efficient and stylish. She's the founder and creative power behind LA Closet Design, a firm known for upscale closets fitted with all the bells and whistles of organization and panache. So when it was time to reconnect with a group of friends, she asked them to head to their closets and dress for a night of food and fun.

"When I'm designing a closet for a client, I'm not only thinking about how everything will be organized," Lisa says. "I want picking out what to wear to be part one of a wonderful occasion, be it a day in the office or a glamorous nighttime gathering."

outdoor dining area
Victoria Pearson

Lisa chose the rooftop of her Los Angeles-area home as the setting for her fashionable tablescape. Atop a simple ivory linen cloth, butterflies flutter on porcelain salad and dinner plates that set the table's palette. Arrangements of peach roses, thistle, black anemone, and deep red leaves cut from a Japanese maple tree in Lisa's yard punctuate the table. Smoky gray glassware deepens the scheme. Informed by the jewelry for which Lisa creates storage solutions, flatware goes dramatic. Gold-tone flatware pairs with emerald-color faceted handles.

Designer Lisa Adams

It's refreshing to be able to get together again.

—Designer Lisa Adams

During the party, corn fritters and a refreshing sweet-and-sour gin cocktail are passed to guests before they are seated. A salad stars poached pears and contrasting blue cheese with fennel for extra zest. The entrée—scallops, risotto, and asparagus—offers plenty of savory richness before the presentation of a layered spice cake. "It's refreshing to be able to get together again" Lisa says. "Everyone is ready to play catch-up, and I love to create a pretty setting where we all can do that."

Nestled in the hills of Los Angeles, Lisa's rooftop provides alfresco dining with a view. Lisa aims to set a table that's as fashionable as the closets she creates for her firm.

The autumnal tones of the flower arrangements that line the center of the table enhance the Anna Weatherley chargers, Christian Lacroix "Butterfly Parade" dinnerware, fluted gray glassware, and gold flatware—all through Casa de Perrin. Scallops with Parmesan risotto and roasted asparagus were served as the entrée. A chic twist on a garnish, slices of lemon and orange team in a layered effect on the rim of the sweet-and-sour gin cocktail.

Lisa's guests relax before dinner with conversation and spectacular views.

Create your own fashion-forward alfresco gathering with the following menu and recipes by chef Mary Payne Moran.

close up of appetizer
Victoria Pearson

Kale and Acorn Squash Fritters with Green Goddess Dressing

Kale and squash fritters with green goddess dressing capture fall flavors.

Hands On: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Kale and Acorn Squash Fritters

  • 3 cups acorn squash (about 1 pound), peeled and cut in ½-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups kale, shredded
  • ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil
  • Green Goddess Dressing (see recipe)
  • Fresh oregano leaves

Green Goddess Dressing

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 15×10×1-inch baking pan with foil. Add squash to pan. Add oil and ½ tsp. salt; toss to combine. Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until very tender and browning in spots, stirring halfway through; set aside.

In large bowl, lightly beat egg. Add roasted squash, kale, and onion. Toss together; season with 1/2 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Mix in flour. Form into sixteen 1- to 1½-inch balls and place on floured parchment paper.

In large deep skillet, add enough canola oil to cover bottom. Heat over medium until shimmering. Working in batches, add 3 to 4 fritter balls to skillet, pressing each flat into a pancake. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side. When cooked through and golden brown, drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Makes 16 fritters.

Serve with Green Goddess Dressing and oregano leaves.

Green Goddess Dressing: In small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice. Stir in basil, parsley, green onion, and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make-Ahead Tips:

  • Roasted squash can be made and stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Green Goddess Dressing can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Prepare fritters through forming into balls, cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Let fritters come to room temperature, about 15 minutes before frying.
close up of salad
Victoria Pearson

Poached Pear, Fennel, and Blue Cheese Salad

The salad packs the sweetness of pears poached in wine with the licorice profile of fennel and the bite of blue cheese.

Hands On: 45 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

Poached Pears

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 Anjou pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored

Red Wine Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper


  • 2 heads butterhead or Bibb lettuce, cleaned and torn
  • 1 6.5-ounce package whole peeled and steamed chestnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 8 Poached Pear halves
  • 8 slices Roquefort blue cheese
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme

Poached Pears: In large saucepan combine sugar, and vinegar. Bring to boiling; stirring to dissolve sugar. Add pears and enough water to cover. Return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover; simmer 30 minutes or until fork can easily pierce pears. Remove pears from poaching liquid and set aside or chill until ready to serve.

Red Wine Vinaigrette: In small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper until combined.

For Salad: Arrange lettuce on eight individual plates. Divide chestnuts and fennel among plates. Top each salad with a pear half, cheese slice, and thyme sprig. Drizzle with Red Wine Vinaigrette. Makes eight servings.

Make-Ahead Tips:

  • Lettuce, chestnuts, cheese, and thyme sprigs can be prepared 2 to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.
  • Poached pears can be made and stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Vinaigrette can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
overhead view of meal
Victoria Pearson

Seared Scallops with Herbed Butter Sauce Over Parmesan Risotto with Roasted Asparagus

Hands On: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Parmesan Risotto

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup buttery white wine (such as Chardonnay)
  • ¾ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Roasted Asparagus

  • 3 bunches asparagus, trimmed (about 3 pounds)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

Seared Scallops with Herbed Butter Sauce

  • 24 jumbo sea scallops (U12 size)
  • 6 to 7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pats
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (equal parts basil, Italian parsley, and oregano)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Parmesan Risotto: In large saucepan, heat stock to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low and keep simmering.

Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter and the oil over medium. Add onion; cook 3 to 5 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring often. Add wine; cook and stir until absorbed.

Carefully stir ½ cup stock into rice mixture. Cook over medium until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently until broth is absorbed. Rice should be tender and creamy (20 to 25 minutes total). Stir in cheese and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter; heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Asparagus: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two 15×10×1-inch baking pans with foil. Divide asparagus between prepared pans. Drizzle with oil; season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast 12 to 15 minutes or until tender and edges are browned.

Seared Scallops: Rinse scallops; blot dry with paper towels.

Heat a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. oil. Allow butter to brown slightly. Working in two or three batches, making sure to not overcrowd pan, add 8 to 12 scallops to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until crust forms. Turn; cook 2 minutes more until scallops are crusted on second side and turn opaque. Remove scallops from the skillet; keep warm. Repeat with remaining butter, oil, and scallops, 8 to 12 scallops at a time.

When all scallops have been seared, add them back to skillet. Add herbs, lemon juice, and remaining pats of butter to skillet. (If scallops were cooked in batches, you'll have 1 Tbsp. butter left over.) Swirl to melt butter and coat scallops in sauce. Serve with risotto and asparagus. Makes eight servings.

cocktail with orange slice
Victoria Pearson

Sweet-and-Sour Gin Cocktail

This frothy gin cocktail is clear, sweet, and sour.

Start to Finish: 5 minutes

  • 1½ fluid ounces gin
  • 1 fluid ounce Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • ¾ fluid ounce lemon juice
  • ½ fluid ounce pasteurized liquid egg whites
  • 1 cup ice
  • Lemon and orange slices

In cocktail shaker, combine gin, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, and egg white. Cover and dry-shake (without ice) until mixture no longer sounds sloshy and pressure builds. Add ice. Cover; shake until well-chilled. Strain into cocktail glass or rocks glass. Garnish with a slice each of lemon and orange. Makes one serving.

chocolate cake with orange slices
Victoria Pearson

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting divides two spice cake layers and provides a foundation on the cake's top, where slices of orange form a sculptural stack sprinkled with chocolate curls.

Hands On: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Spice Cake

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
  • Dark chocolate curls
  • 1 orange, sliced and deseeded, for garnish

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • Water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans, with nonstick spray; line with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, butter, orange zest, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix well and divide equally between prepared cake pans.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Add small dollop of Cream Cheese Frosting to center of cake plate; top with a cake layer; frost cake top. Add second cake layer. Frost cake top with remaining frosting.

Garnish with dark chocolate curls and orange slices. Makes 16 servings.

Cream Cheese Frosting: In bowl of stand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. Add water, if needed, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to thin if needed.

Tip: Using a vegetable peeler, slowly peel edge of chocolate bar producing curls of chocolate. Remove curls gently. Set on plastic wrap for later use.

Make-Ahead Tips:

  • Cake can be made, cooled completely, wrapped in plastic, and stored at room temperature for 2 days.
  • Chocolate curls can be made ahead and stored in a cool place until assembly.
  • Cake can be frosted up to 1 day ahead. Add chocolate and orange curls before serving.
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