SOURCE: Sequoia Productions

June 21, 2005 14:21 ET

Easy Outdoor Entertaining With Cheryl Cecchetto

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 21, 2005 -- Cheryl Cecchetto is best known for planning the Oscar and Emmy Governors Balls each year, but her true passion is entertaining under the big blue sky. Here are some tips from Cecchetto to make your next outdoor party an award-winning event.

A simple rule of thumb, says Cecchetto: invite the guests, serve the senses. With that in mind, a simple cocktail, like a Mojito, Margarita or a Cosmopolitan served with a unique garnish such as a fresh skewered lemon, lime or a luscious strawberry, becomes a signature drink. Colored cocktails such as a lime green Margarita served with a hot pink napkin offer tantalizing texture for the eye as well as the palette. The smallest detail can be the most dramatic, says Cecchetto. Planning a party is a personal thing; it's unique, like a fingerprint. So use your imagination and have fun.

When throwing an outdoor party, Cecchetto suggests cooking outside. Have the grill on display says Cecchetto: get a friend or a chef to barbeque. "I have a neighbor who comes over and barbeques for us and loves it!" said Cecchetto. The smell of great food cooking is a wonderful comforting feeling, it relaxes and entices at the same time. Cecchetto also likes to keep several luscious marinades on display to enhance the entree. These can be made in the kitchen or bought from specialty stores such as Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Olive oils are high on Cecchetto's must have list, and the more exotic the better. "Olive oil for me is like air, I have to have it," said Cecchetto. "Manni is my favorite." To enhance the grilled fare, bowls of fresh rosemary, garlic, basil and olive oil can be displayed and brushed directly on the meat enhancing the aroma and flavor as well.

Cecchetto will often add a quesadilla griddle to the festivities. A cutting board is set up alongside the grill where the quesadillas are then cut into triangular shapes and displayed on hot plates along with bowls of guacamole, sour cream and other garnishes, allowing the guests to help themselves. It's fun, easy, and healthy and even the kids love it!

Another suggestion is a paella pan set on bricks heated beneath by Sterno which makes for an interesting presentation.

Cecchetto also favors a steady flow of tray-passed hors d'oeuvres to ensure guests are always tasting something. These tasty offerings should be flavorful and varied. Among Cecchetto's favorites are baby hamburgers served with French fries in paper cones, coconut beer battered shrimp, crab cakes or simply fresh raw vegetables served with your favorite homemade dip.

During the planning of your party, Cecchetto advises not to give everything away all at once. Introduce various elements throughout the evening. Serve hors d'oeuvres the first hour, while introducing exotic drinks. Then, dinner the second hour with toasts and remarks, and dessert is served during the highlighted entertainment portion of the evening.

Cecchetto prefers live entertainment but will often use DJs as well. Music is the great universal bond. To sing and dance not only helps digestion but brings people together.

Cecchetto likes to use the outdoors to her advantage by incorporating the venue to the largest extent possible. She suggests toasting the sunset or taking a moment with your guests to point out the beautiful summer weather. Outside entertainment is more than just music; it is also the manner in which the waiters are dressed. The more informal the better, instead of black jackets and ties, have the waiters wear khakis and t-shirts or tropical shirts to help create a casual fun atmosphere.

"I love Tiki torches," Cecchetto said. "I always have lanterns on hand that hold votive candles that are then placed along the driveway or hung from trees. The lighting of the Tiki torches and lanterns is a great sunset ceremony. Have drummers drum at this time, serve drinks and light Tiki torches, can you imagine!"

Another idea Cecchetto suggests is to bring the inside outside. She likes to put lounge furniture right on the grass and suggests using daybeds, cubes and coffee tables to create an outdoor lounge where guests can relax and experience the best of both worlds in comfort. Remember to add some stand-up tables for easy social interaction.

Try to incorporate a parting gift when your guests leave. Cecchetto suggests a drink menu rolled up in a scroll or a cookbook featuring the recipes from the party. Or use potted plants or herbs for decor, and then offer them to guests as they depart. For Cecchetto, it's always about making your guests feel special, from the first greeting to the final farewell.

"You want them to leave full of an experience, not just a good meal. A good party lives on in fond memory. That's the art of it. That is what makes it all worthwhile," said Cecchetto.


"Watermelon Margarita"

1 1/2 oz. "Patron" Silver Tequila
3/4 oz. Citronage
Juice of one small lime hand extracted (1 oz.)
1 oz. fresh lemon sour
2 oz. Fresh pressed watermelon juice
Method: In an ice-filled glass add above ingredients; shake until well blended. Strain into an ice-filled 14-oz. goblet. Garnish with a spear of watermelon.

For more information on Sequoia Productions, visit or call 310-397-1477.

Contact Information

    Lisa Elia
    Phone: 310-393-9547
    Fax: 310-393-7918
    e-mail: Email Contact