Here's how The Barefoot Contessa entertains when temps drop.

Karla Walsh
October 16, 2020
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From picnics and patio dinners to hikes and bikes, so much of the social isolation factor of the first few months of the pandemic has been aided by summer—and the warm temps that come with it.

But as we head into fall and winter, our quarantine queen Ina Garten is back with some great guidance that will keep the safe get-togethers going a month or two longer. The wisdom she shared on Instagram inspired one fan so much, he commented, "A public health icon!!! We need a Fauci/Ina crossover event!!!"

"Entertaining outdoors has been such a surprise pleasure during these difficult times. As the weather turns chilly, I've done several things to make sure we can continue the fun," Garten explained.

Here are her top classy yet coronavirus-friendly al fresco entertaining tips, plus some recipe inspiration to fit the soiree.

Ina Garten's Outdoor Entertaining Tips

  1. Invite one household at a time. That way there's no potential to spread from family to family (as long as the family invited and Ina and Jeffrey have all been safe and are virus-free), and this allows for room to "put chairs at both ends of a 6-foot dining table or both sides of a 5-foot square coffee table to ensure social distancing." (And if we can add to the list, it's never a bad idea to have ample hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes handy, and ask all to wear face masks when not seated as an extra layer of protection.)

  2. Fill in gaps with decor. "Although we're sitting far apart, I want it to feel cozy, so I fill the tables with flowers and candles," Garten says. Trader Joe's often has incredible deals on floral bouquets, which you can intermingle with seasonal finds like these aloe-ween plants and some candles of varying heights.

  3. Crank up the heat. In many parts of the country, fall temperatures and crisp winds are settling in. To prevent any severe cases of the shivers, "I set up outdoor heaters or build a nice fire, plus cushions and blankets for each person so we're nice and warm under the stars," Garten says. (Psst- here are our favorite cozy outdoor finds for fall and winter!)

  4. Make the menu easy. Being further from the kitchen does complicate things, Garten admits, so she recommends tailoring the cuisine to fit the scene. "I make really easy no-cook appetizers for cocktails and very simple lunches and dinners. This is the time when a takeout pizza and a big Caesar salad makes the best evening for everyone, even the host," she says. Garten offers 10 bonus menu ideas on her website, ranging from chicken stew and biscuits with chocolate cake a la mode to corn and cheddar chowder with carrot cake cupcakes.

Just like Garten's just-released cookbook, that sure sounds like Modern Comfort to us.