Fireside With Friends ~ A Casual Fall Dinner Party Celebrating Comfort Food in the Great Outdoors!


I promise that no friends were harmed in the shooting of this blog!  Real Friends.  No actors.  (Wait!  Check that.  A couple of my friends are actors but let’s not get caught up in semantics.) And from all accounts (and even though I bossed  my friends around a great deal that night)… everyone had a ball!  Create your own outdoor party like this one and you’re guaranteed to have a ball too!!!


Confession…I have dreamed of creating a party in this backyard oasis ever since I was first invited to the Russell’s beautiful home about a year ago.  The surroundings are “fairytale-like” complete with a pool and hot tub, a fireplace lounging area and the dreamiest Hansel and Gretel-Esque treehouse tucked on a perfectly untamed little hill above their spacious backyard.  As fall approached, I couldn’t get the thought of a fireside dinner with friends out of my head!…and my friend’s backyard was the perfect backdrop!

Beer, Nuts and Warm Mulled Cider.jpg
How perfectly was this moment captured???  So perfectly.  I enlisted the help of my photographer and designer friend, Robyn Rodehaver, to shoot all the gorgeous photographs for this party.


Once a party location has been decided upon (a formal dining room, in the kitchen, the back porch, you get the drift…), menu planning follows.  Since the meal would be served outdoors, I decided to create a beautifully rustic table for my fireside dinner by fully utilizing the abundance of existing natural fall color in the scenic back yard.  The menu organically followed that lead; soup and sandwiches shared family style…just slightly more elevated for the occasion.



Trio of Nuts; Boiled Peanuts, Candied Peanuts and Spicy Roasted Pecans

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Yukon and Sweet Potato Cake with Farmhouse Cheddar and Bacon

Muscadine Glazed Ham

Trio of Breads;  Fig and Walnut Crackers, Buttermilk Biscuits and Cornbread Crostini with sliced pears, arugula, brie cheese, swiss cheese, Muscadine jelly and spicy mustard

Chile spiced Brownie Cake with Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting and Hard Candy Flame Topper

Assortment of Craft Beer

Hot Mulled Wine


I created two distinct areas for guests to enjoy throughout the evening, the first being a lounging space for pre-dinner nibbles, craft beer and mulled wine.

Pool loungers are flattened to create a chaise seating area.  A puddle of rugs, sheepskin throws and assorted pillows fashion a snuggly and comfortable landing spot for enjoying nutty snacks and drinks.


Amy trying boiled peanuts for the first time!  (In early October, I brought back a bushel of raw, green peanuts from Florida, boiled them in my backyard and stockpiled them in my freezer for such occasions.)

L-O-V-E this pre-dinner sitting area!

My friends are so stoic…!

Trio of Boiled Peanuts, Candied Peanuts and Spicy Roasted Pecans for snacking.  Items like these vintage linens, assorted antique bowls and Mother of Pearl handled spoons can be found at my  antique emporium of choice, Steely’s Corner, in Columbia, TN.  For more info click HERE.
A favorite thing to do in my design work is utilize unusual pieces in unexpected ways like this antique train case holding an assortment of craft beer!  Fun objects like this can be found at another of my favorite  shops, The Collected Nest.
Not a prettier scene anywhere!  And as the sun started its amber colored descent into the western horizon and the temperatures began to slightly drop, we made our way to the fireside table that was already set with Glazed Muscadine Ham and all the trimmings.
If you were born in the 60’s or 70’s, chances are this green, hobbled glassware was used at your house! It’s what I grew up with!  Millennials are now clamoring over this mid-century style and Karen (the home owner) just happened to have a collection in her cupboard!  Design Score!  Notice the layers and heights on the table.  They are abundant, but do not impede conversation.  
“Hamming it up!”  The Glazed Muscadine Ham takes center stage.


Soup and sandwiches beg for chips!   This is my answer to the “bag of chips”…Yukon and Sweet Potato Cake with Farmhouse Cheddar and Bacon
Mini sandwiches were built with slices of pear, arugula, brie and swiss cheese, homemade Muscadine Jelly and spicy mustard.  Learn how to make muscadine jelly HERE.  No Muscadine Jelly available?  Peach, pear or apricot jelly will do just fine.  


Curried Butternut Squash and Apple soup alongside a buttermilk biscuit stacked with glazed ham, arugula, and pear.  Wooden bowls found at Steely’s Corner.
My beverage pairing of choice for this dinner was Blackberry Farm’s Classic Saison Farmhouse Ale that Steven is opening here.  This medium bodied, spicy ale works very well with a rustic meal like this one.
Cheers everyone!  Here’s to friends making memories on a starry fall night!


Guests help themselves to slices of ham and potato cake


A fireside feast calls for a fiery ending like this Chile Laced Brownie Cake!  The topper is so fun to make!  Simply melt red and gold hard candies on a Silpat in a 350 degree oven for about  7 minutes.  Remove from oven and, using a toothpick, quickly swirl the two colors together to make the flames.  Once hardened, it’s ready to decorate! 


Soups On!…and there could not have been a more perfect evening for this dinner!  


Pillows by The Collected Nest

Let’s talk about comfortable, “stay a while” seating for a moment.  I made sure that everyone had a pillow and/or snuggly blanket on their chair for this occasion because NO ONE wants to be chilly  and uncomfortable while they eat!  And, for that matter, NO ONE carries a better assortment of the finest and most becoming faux down pillows than Amy Montgomery Gibbons at The Collected Nest.  Learn more about her gorgeous pillow line HERE.


Adding extra touches like fresh greenery on the stone fireplace magnolia-and-juniper-garlandmake guests feel special and lend a bonafide party atmosphere to your everyday surroundings.    These swags were a cinch to create using a small branch as the base for tree cuttings attached with wire.

Another little party detail was the use of vintage TV trays as occasional tables.  The tv trays and the autumn leaf bowl pictured here can be found at Steely’s Corner in Columbia for a song!!!  Heck!  Kim, the proprietor, has been known to give goodies away if you sing her the right song!   But you didn’t hear that from me…

Vintage Bowl for empty boiled peanut shells…


Glazed Muscadine Ham

  • 10 – 12 lb hardwood smoked ham; non-slicedmuscadine-glazed-ham
  • 1 cup muscadine jelly (can substitute peach jelly)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Remove from packaging and place ham in a 325 degree oven.  Set timer for three hours (2.5 hours if ham is less than 9 lbs).  Meanwhile, stir together the glaze ingredients; jelly, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce and mustard.  Set aside.  After one hour of cooking, remove ham for scoring and glazing.  Gently place sharp knife 1/8″ into the ham and score in desired design…spiral or criss cross.  Once scored, baste tops and side of ham thoroughly with 1/4 of glaze.  Return to oven and baste three more times until done.  You may have to tent the top edge with aluminum foil to prevent the glaze from burning.  Once cooked, remove from oven and cover with foil until ready to serve.  Serve with Buttermilk Biscuits, Cornbread Crostini or Fig and Walnut Crackers…recipe found here.

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup                                                                                                                                    *Make this soup the day before your party for stress free entertaining.

  • One large butternut squash; halved
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 3/4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whipping cream

Place squash halves, cut side down, on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 Degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.  Scoop out pulp, discarding shells; set pulp aside.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat;  add 4 cups chicken broth, apples and next 5 ingredients.  Cook, stirring often, 25 – 30 minutes or until apples and potatoes are tender.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly (about 5 or 10 minutes).  Process squash pulp, apple mixture, and remaining 3/4 cup chicken broth in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.  Return puree to Dutch oven.  Stir in whipping cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 – 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

*Recipe adapted from Southern Living, October 2003

Cheers everyone!  And happy fall!!!!


THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  A big, ginormous thank you goes out to my friends who helped me pull off this dinner party blog post!  First and foremost (and pictured in the foreground), Karen and Kent Russell! I ransacked your home for this post and you actually let me!  Big love to you!  Your hearts are made of solid gold!  Hey Karen…perhaps this is the face you make when you figure out the elephant joke???  the-russells

Another BIG thank you goes to my dear friend and photographer, Robyn Rodehaver! I am a recovering control freak but you took the “lens by the horns,” put me at ease and captured exactly what I envisioned! You also worked your A$$ off with me…helping me style this party! You rock in so many ways! You too, Michael!  (Reach Robyn at for your photography needs.)  

And then there is my husband, Steven, Amy, Ashley Gearing, Marcus, Ashley H. and Trey!  Could you be any more beautiful people???  It’s like you stepped out of J. Crew!!!!  Thank you for being YOU!!!!




4 thoughts on “Fireside With Friends ~ A Casual Fall Dinner Party Celebrating Comfort Food in the Great Outdoors!

  1. Cari Safford October 31, 2016 / 5:31 pm

    Unbelievable!!! You are so talented Sabrina!!!


  2. Janice Hayes October 31, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your talent and love for autumn!!


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