Entertain Outdoors: Unique Summer Dining Styles

Take a peek at three different entertaining styles.

We chatted with three prominent Edinans, all members of our editorial advisory board, and asked about how they entertain during this fleeting, beautiful time of year. Their responses show that finding your own style is just as attainable. So check out some of their favorite local resources, tips and recipes here.

Michael Frey
Day job: General manager of the Edina Arts Center Years employed in Edina: 17

Michael Frey describes himself as a professional artist who works in an arts environment supporting other artists, a role he’s played since 1998. The past six months, he’s shared his work and home life with his pug, a rescue dog named Vivian, “who goes with me everywhere,” he says. “She’s at home with me when I’m entertaining—the best dog I ever owned.”

The Planning
Frey enjoys his great group of friends. “We all like to plan things together,” he says, so different people bring different things, which brings everyone in on the process. “I am usually the chef, but I try to avoid operating the grill.” Appetizers are spread out around the room, while the cocktails flow, with the specified salad and meal to follow. Afterward a dessert wine or some type of light dessert wraps things up, often late into the evening.

The Space
“[My home] is a beautiful open room that has plenty of sunlight or night lights and is great for entertaining,” Frey says. “It has a gas fireplace—it’s cozy, yet open as well. It’s always nice to have a view when you’re at a dinner party, so people can socialize and mingle.” Frey’s apartment also has a wonderful balcony that looks over the western sky. “It gives people who might not know each other just the beauty of the scene to connect over,” he says.

The Décor
As one might well imagine, Frey calls upon his own art as décor. “My taste tends toward the pretty colorful,” he says. “As an artist myself, I have a lot of my paintings around the apartment. It’s painted a fiery red right now, with splashes of bright yellow, orange and green all around. I like bold, strong colors.”

The Food
When cooking, Frey prefers a summer salmon salad; sometimes he opts for catering (usually through private chef Scott McKenzie, former restaurateur at Minnetonka Center for the Arts). “To me, one of the most elegant things is when the food just tastes incredible, when the food is out of this world, yet very simple,” he says. “I like things really nice, quality things that taste really good, but I don’t need a lot of glitter and gilt.”

The Drinks
All the new cocktails are always fun to try, but some of the standards fill Frey’s bar: “I love a good strong martini, and I like my martinis a little dirty,” he says. “A good cosmo or mojito is always good in summertime. Or a Cuba libre—rum and coke.”

Rachel Thelemann
Day Job: Executive director of the 50th & France Business Association Years employed in Edina: 8

Anytime in at least the past eight years, it’s likely you’ve seen Rachel Thelemann strolling the walks of 50th and France. While she and her children, Eloise, 5, and Finn, 6, live in Minneapolis, Thelemann’s weekdays—and many summer weekends—are spent working to promote and market the corner as a destination filled with lively businesses, delicious dining and top-notch professional services.

She uses a lot of the expertise she’s garnered working with local entrepreneurs in her own entertaining, which she does mostly with close friends, family and neighbors, often around one holiday or another, five to six times a year. Additionally, “I like to get together with people, so I’ll do little card parties or dinner parties,” she says. “My friends and family rotate a dinner experience at each other’s house periodically during the winter, so the hosting duties change.”

The Planning
“This is what’s fun,” Thelemann says. “Often there are kids, so [I think about] what they would like. For me, just setting a cozy, fun environment where people can come together and just be together makes an awesome party.” Thelemann had a “grateful party,” where she invited people she was most grateful for during a particularly challenging period in her life. “I had written the things about each person—about 15 people—that I really wanted to thank them for, then I shared all of those at the party,” she says, adding she could see this theme being implemented with different groups of people, like friends, family or even coworkers.

The Space
Definitely outside, Thelemann says. “My backyard has great stuff for the kiddos, and on top of the attached garage we have a deck.” Patio furniture adorns her garage roof, and three to four times a summer she invites people for a movie night, where she projects directly onto a big screen that is the side of her house.

The Décor
A lot of Thelemann’s décor embraces the natural outdoor setting, including potted plants around the deck. “I’ve strung up a bunch of those café lights around my deck,” she says. “I’ve also done those tiki torch things … plus, my kids love to decorate, so we’ll go to the dollar store and pick out stuff, then decorate with that.”

The Food
Most of Thelemann’s family members are good cooks, so usually everyone pitches in and brings a dish. On occasion, she comes up with a completely new menu, like a different cuisine from a different country, and assigns courses. “Once or twice I’ve made the entire meal, and also where people bring, say, a salad, but they can do whatever kind of salad they like. Everyone has an expertise,” she says. Menus are always built with kids in mind. Family favorites include grilled fish during summer, with plenty of herbs and spices, “just making up things and adding things together,” she says. “I like making yummy salads, using fresh ingredients, kale and pomegranate seeds, something interesting—and I guess I’m a pretty healthy eater.” But when she’s not the chef, she has local go-to catering resources including Yum, Sweet Retreat and Lunds & Byerly’s bakery.

The Drinks
Classic summer bevvies such as gin and tonics and mojitos make frequent appearances on Thelemann’s garage-top deck, and she has a trick for her margaritas—add half a can of beer to a full blender with the limeade, triple sec and tequila, also known as a “beergarita.” “I’m more of a craft beer drinker,” Thelemann says, “but for this, something lighter is best, not a stout or a brown ale.”


Jon Barnett
Day Job: Co-owner with wife Mary Jo of EdinAlarm Inc. Years in Edina: 25

It’s impressive indeed that the co-owners of EdinAlarm Inc., the design, installation and monitoring service for home and business security systems, find time to entertain at their Edina home every other week. Jon and Mary Jo Barnett, along with their 23-year-old son, Alex, and their cat, Oliver, have an ideal indoor space that includes a lower level packed with games overlooking an adjacent lake for optimum scenic value. (Daughter Camille is married and living in France).

During the warm months, the Barnetts are motorcycle enthusiasts. “I’m an avid motorcyclist, and Mary Jo and Alex took the motorcycle safety class last year,” Jon Barnett says. “We each got a Vespa scooter and rode last summer and fall. It was so fun; we’re looking forward to [another] great summer on the scooters.” Edina proves to be the perfect location for this activity, as Barnett says they can get to the lakes in no time and explore local breakfast joints around Minneapolis and St. Paul, all close to home.

The Planning
Jon Barnett typically does the planning and oversees the couple’s outdoor cooking space. The couple enjoys impromptu get-togethers, so their home is set up to “plug and play,” so that planning is minimal.

The Space
Most of the Barnetts’ entertaining takes place indoors, even this time of year, “but our home opens to a small lake, so our walk-out lower level feels like you’re outdoors,” Jon Barnett says. “We end up hanging out in the kitchen, mostly. It’s big and seats about 15. We have a main-level family room and a small four-season porch with a wood burner. Our lower level is the ‘play area,’ with a decent TV sound system, shuffleboard and pool table—and you can’t forget the Ms. Pac-Man arcade game.”

The Décor
“Mary Jo is an artist and always arranges and rearranges décor to keep it in season and interesting,” Barnett says. “She’s amazing.”

The Food
“We’ve had a Big Green Egg (grill) for at least 15 years and cook on it all year round,” Barnett says. “It’s really hard to screw up a meal when you use the egg. It’s such a great tool, messy but so worth it.” The Barnetts also have used Chow Girls catering and they recommend their service; they also had Chef Denny Cowan, lead chef from the Cordon Bleu cooking school, prepare a meal for guests at the Barnetts’ home recently. “He did a really nice job,” Jon Barnett says.


Smoked Salmon Salad


  • Pre-cut hard-cooked smoked salmon
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and cut (use the whole bunch)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 red pepper, peeled, seeded and trimmed
  • 1 cup (more if you like) rinsed, dried and coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 cup (more if you like) rinsed, dried and coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Dressing ingredients

  • 3 medium to large cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of one whole lime
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared mustard with horseradish and other spices
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • ¾ to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad assembly:
Mix all the veggies except the avocado in a large bowl, and toss. Remove skin from the bottom of the salmon and dice it into bite-size pieces, then add it to the vegetables. Mix your dressing, and chill all until ready to serve. (Tip: Use immediately or within a couple of hours for best results.) Add the avocado at the very end to keep it fresh.

Mango and Avocado Salsa on Pan-Seared Salmon


  • 2 cups diced ripe mango (about 2 mangos)
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup diced Hass avocado (1 medium avocado)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Big pinch of kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Juice from 1 lime

Ingredients for salmon

  • 1½ lbs. fresh wild king salmon fillet
  • 2 Tbsp. ghee (2 Tbsp. olive oil is an acceptable substitute)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the salsa ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly. Chill. (Tip: Best if made no more than 6 hours ahead of serving.)

To pan-sear your salmon, preheat a large heavy skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Coat the salmon with ghee or olive oil; place in skillet and cook on high for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Turn salmon over and cook 5 minutes more until salmon is browned. (Tip: Salmon is done when it flakes easily off the skin.) Transfer salmon directly to plates and serve with mango salsa as a topping or as a side.

Grilled veggies make perfectly pretty and tasty summer fare.