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When you think of Shakespeare, generally it's his tragedies and darker plays that come to mind, but his lighter rom-coms have always been my favorite, especially A Midsummer Night's Dream. Honestly, part of it is because it was the first live play I ever saw, on a beach in Lake Tahoe during their annual Shakespeare Festival. I was probably only eight or nine, but it made such an impact on me; the magic and the fairies and the laugher, and I've just loved it ever since.
We've been wanting to pull this dinner off for years, but the stars didn't align until just recently. Why didn't do we this at actual Midsummer, you ask? Frankly, because it doesn't get dark until 10pm in June and we have young kids with bedtimes, so because this play takes place mostly at night, we had to wait for the sun to set earlier.
Guys, it was so, so worth the wait. Labor day marked the unofficial end of summer, so consider this our personal farewell to the season.
Setting up this dinner was all about adding magic and color. We started with a couple of bundles of bright, summery flowers from our beloved Trader Joe's and made several arrangements in various sizes. Then we strung up little bud vases filled with flowers and candles in tiny jars, dangling them from the arbor with fishing line so they would look like they were floating.
The table it's self was a riot of candles, color, and food. We started with a woven table runner, topped it with some gauzy cheesecloth for romance, added candles, rose petals, and fresh figs, then finished it with plates, chargers, napkins in rings, and utensils. We also gathered up a collection of lanterns filled with fairy lights and mixed them with more vases spilling over with summer color, before scattering more rose petals for good measure.
Food stayed true to the text, for the most part, and we piled fruits, cheese, chocolates, meats, and bread onto an antique silver platter. We wanted to include food mentioned in the play, but also just go with the sort of decadent, wild setting. A jar of honey with the comb still in it, scattered fresh green figs, and tender phyllo dough pastries completed our spread.
We served grilled salmon with charred lemon slices for our main course, because it felt summery, light and tender, and was true to the spirit of natural things that is so prominent in the setting of this play. Basically, fresh, colorful, and light was the theme.
Our table truly looked magical when it was all lit up and laden with food and wine; we kinda couldn't get over it. Also, having the dinner in the middle of Rikki's huge, blossoming garden was the perfect spot for this, and added so much to the overall ambiance. It was such an inviting space for us to tuck ourselves into for the evening.
We snacked on appetizers and chatted about the play, his other works, and about a Shakespeare class Rikki had taken while the warm afternoon cooled off into a beautiful twilight. Suddenly we realized the sky was streaked with color and our lanterns and candles were much more dramatic than they had been a little while ago. The change in light was our cue to start dinner for real, and we gathered at the table to enjoy the meal and the company.
The "floating" flowers and candles hanging from the arbor really did look like they were suspended in mid air by magic once the sun started to set. The entire scene really came to life once dusk set in and the candlelight took over. Watching the light turn over the course of the dinner was so perfect for how the play goes from day to night over the course of the story.
"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight"
-Oberon (Act II, Scene I)
After dinner, we really wanted to honor one of the most famous quotes in the play, so we walked through the garden over to Rikki's stone steps where we spent some time relaxing before dessert. The steps are cut into the slope of the hill, and gently part the sea of colorful wildflowers that carpet the entire area. So we sat chatting amongst the flowers, our wine and books in hand, and the shadows of the woods dark behind us. How perfect, right?
By the time we were ready for dessert, it was fully dark, and our table was awash in golden light; it could not have been prettier. We stuck to a simple berry tart, which is our favorite summer treat, and a perfect ending to the evening. Slices were passed around, wine was finished off, and as always, we said our goodbyes.