It's a Tuesday morning in Los Angeles and I'm at a barbeque with Reese Witherspoon. Well, we're actually at the Beverly Hills Crate and Barrel, and instead of attending a full-fledged cookout, Witherspoon and I are sitting on lounge chairs next to an intricate display of the new Draper James and Crate and Barrel summer collection (although we might as well be in her backyard).
"This quilt is amazing," Witherspoon says as she shows me around the setup of her new products, inspired by classic southern outdoor entertaining. "I take it to every soccer game," she adds. In addition to the large navy blue quilt featuring a playful bandana-inspired print, a few of the multihyphenate's favorite pieces from her brand's latest collaboration with Crate and Barrel include an enamel serving tray adorned with the phrase "come and get it," an acrylic wine glass that reads "cheers y'all," and seersucker napkins that remind her of growing up in the south.
Witherspoon describes the new line as "simple and graphic." According to her, the lightweight melamine material of the picnic and cookout essentials makes them easy to use and bring with you wherever a summer day takes you. "It actually reminds me of summer camp," she says with a laugh.
Ahead, glean a few tips for hosting the ultimate summer bash from Witherspoon and shop the new collection of pieces that can easily fit into a picnic basket for a day at the park, an evening concert, or even just for a small gathering with family and friends at home.
"I'm an outdoor girl," Witherspoon admits. "I grew up running around outside, so I love anything that reminds me of my childhood and spending all that time outdoors," she continues. That's likely part of the reason why her favorite types of the event take place outside, specifically by a pool, if possible.
"I like a pool party," she shares. "It's always great for any type of event or celebration." In fact, she throws her husband a summer pool party for his birthday every year.
Prepare for Bugs
If you're hosting an outdoor event, you need to be ready to deal with bugs, according to Witherspoon, who's no stranger to encountering a variety of insects outside during southern summers. She recommends stocking up on citronella candles and investing in one of Crate and Barrel's clever products, a small tent designed to protect food from bugs and other outdoor critters.
Plan the Menu
Witherspoon typically turns to an assortment of salads and sandwiches when hosting an outdoor cookout. According to her, pulled pork sandwiches are a staple of Nashville summer entertaining. "You can cook that in the slow cooker and then just assemble them right as you're ready to go," she explains.
Her recipes (which you can read up on in her book, Whiskey in a Teacup) tend to be inspired by her grandmother. "[She] used to make the greatest corn salad," Witherspoon shares. She also turns to her favorite southern haunts for new ideas. "There are great little restaurants in Nashville that I cherrypick recipes from," she explains.
As for dessert, she loves a simple lemon treat like a tart. Oh, and don't forget the iced tea and lemonade to help keep guests cool and comfortable.
Set the Mood
To get the atmosphere just right, music is key. "I've always got Spotify going or a Pandora list," Witherspoon says. She's a fan of playing classic summer hits like the Beach Boys, but when the kids are around, Ariana Grande always ends up on the speaker. "[She's] a crowd pleaser."
Keep the Tablescape Simple
Witherspoon suggests keeping the flowers small (hydrangeas are her favorites) and the décor low so all your guests can see each other. When it comes to setting the table, it's important to keep simplicity in mind. "That's the great thing about collections," she adds. "You just know what goes together. You know it works, and you can just throw it on your picnic table and it looks so put together and presented so beautifully."