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Required Reading: ‘Al Fresco’ by Julie Pointer Adams, for Outdoor Gatherings of All Kinds

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Required Reading: ‘Al Fresco’ by Julie Pointer Adams, for Outdoor Gatherings of All Kinds

August 25, 2022

As August wanes, I find myself wanting to stretch each hour of the day and spend as much time outdoors as I can—from early mornings on the porch to mid-day dog walks around the community garden to cold swims at the beach, informal wine gatherings with friends, and all kinds of picnics.

For inspiration, I’ve been flipping through Al Fresco: Inspired Ideas for Outdoor Living by Julie Pointer Adams, newly out from Artisan Books. Far from suggesting that an outdoor gathering must be an all-out affair, Pointer Adams captures possibilities of every scope to be together in nature—from spontaneous snacks to sit-down dinner parties (and recipes, too). “The aim is not to inspire you toward more styled occasions or fancy tablescapes, intended to be broadcast across social media,” Pointer Adams writes in the book’s introduction. “In fact, I’d like to propose just the opposite…Make more meals, pack more picnics, and get outside. It doesn’t matter how your spread looks; the point is to just do it, whether it’s with a can of Pringles or a smorgasbord of specialities.”

Here’s a glimpse.

Photography by Julie Pointer Adams from Al Fresco.

Shown here is a meal at the home of potter (and prolific flower grower) Frances Palmer, set in a verdant spot, with ladder-back chairs carried out.
Above: Shown here is a meal at the home of potter (and prolific flower grower) Frances Palmer, set in a verdant spot, with ladder-back chairs carried out.

The book profiles 36 people and how they gather al fresco, intimately and widely, spontaneously and planned, by the water, in parks, at home, and for special occasions. To start, there’s Pointer Adams’ own family, who gathered, when she was a child, for idyllic summers on the Saint John River in Canada. “Meals were most often an afterthought…” she writes, “but there were always sandwiches, snacks, picnic baskets, and liters of ginger ale. Being outdoors, with some sort of food, has felt like the most relaxed, restorative way to be together for as long as I can remember.”

A basket of peaches is a sumptuous invitation in this spread by LA-based Justin Chung. Other ways the photographer likes to get outside? &#8\2\20;I love to make coffee to go and enjoy it with friends outdoors.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: A basket of peaches is a sumptuous invitation in this spread by LA-based Justin Chung. Other ways the photographer likes to get outside? “I love to make coffee to go and enjoy it with friends outdoors.”
Couple Tessa Tran and Zach Schau host a casual dinner party in their backyard overlooking LA&#8\2\17;s Verdugo Mountains, a former &#8\2\20;dead space&#8\2\2\1; they recently transformed into a simple pea-gravel patio. Food is served family style, and there&#8\2\17;s plenty of seating for all: &#8\2\20;Zach picked up woodworking so we could design and make our own outdoor furniture, and I expanded our garden, terracing the hill where we&#8\2\17;ve created a food forest,&#8\2\2\1; Tessa says.
Above: Couple Tessa Tran and Zach Schau host a casual dinner party in their backyard overlooking LA’s Verdugo Mountains, a former “dead space” they recently transformed into a simple pea-gravel patio. Food is served family style, and there’s plenty of seating for all: “Zach picked up woodworking so we could design and make our own outdoor furniture, and I expanded our garden, terracing the hill where we’ve created a food forest,” Tessa says.
Proof that you needn&#8\2\17;t have a fancy spot to gather: &#8\2\20;I have an open lot next to my home where I have &#8\2\16;golden-hour wine club&#8\2\17; with a friend weekly and it is one of my favorite rituals,&#8\2\2\1; explains photographer Laura Dart. All you need is a picnic blanket and a few snacks.
Above: Proof that you needn’t have a fancy spot to gather: “I have an open lot next to my home where I have ‘golden-hour wine club’ with a friend weekly and it is one of my favorite rituals,” explains photographer Laura Dart. All you need is a picnic blanket and a few snacks.
&#8\2\20;I love floating down a river, canoeing across a lake, or even just taking a dip in the stock-tank pool on the lawn,&#8\2\2\1; says Catherine Welch. She and her husband, Justin, and their four children gather for a rustic picnic on their farm, Windrose Farm.
Above: “I love floating down a river, canoeing across a lake, or even just taking a dip in the stock-tank pool on the lawn,” says Catherine Welch. She and her husband, Justin, and their four children gather for a rustic picnic on their farm, Windrose Farm.
London-based couple Amy Merrick (a writer and florist) and her husband, Philip Shelley (an architect) throw an ad-hoc picnic (and share their recipe for Undone Cheesecake, pictured) in the book. &#8\2\20;A walk after dinner is a wonderful thing,&#8\2\2\1; they add. 
Above: London-based couple Amy Merrick (a writer and florist) and her husband, Philip Shelley (an architect) throw an ad-hoc picnic (and share their recipe for Undone Cheesecake, pictured) in the book. “A walk after dinner is a wonderful thing,” they add. 
Danish uproots Maj and Frederik Henriques now live in Santa Barbara, where they bring dinner—or just a bottle of wine—outdoors. &#8\2\20;One of the first things I do in the morning is open up the windows and doors&#8\230;&#8\2\2\1; Maj says. &#8\2\20;I think that&#8\2\17;s Danish; we&#8\2\17;re used to having all our windows open even when it&#8\2\17;s minus degrees. It helps to be in touch.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Danish uproots Maj and Frederik Henriques now live in Santa Barbara, where they bring dinner—or just a bottle of wine—outdoors. “One of the first things I do in the morning is open up the windows and doors…” Maj says. “I think that’s Danish; we’re used to having all our windows open even when it’s minus degrees. It helps to be in touch.”
 Al Fresco: Inspired Ideas for Outdoor Living is available via Bookshop.
Above: Al Fresco: Inspired Ideas for Outdoor Living is available via Bookshop.

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