If there’s anything better than attending a party on a private dock overlooking the Folly Beach, South Carolina, shore at sunset, it’s attending one thrown by A-list event planner Tara Guérard, owner of Charleston-based event firm Tara Guérard Soirée.
Known for her super-fabulous weddings, Guérard here turns her attention to a more low-key beachside party to celebrate the arrival of a friend’s baby boy. With a private beach cottage—complete with a long dock and pergola-topped deck—as her venue, Guérard created a laid-back yet charming affair inspired by the sun, sand, and sea.
Guérard punctuated the party with brightly hued napkins, tray liners, straws, vases, and accent pillows. Feeding off the naturally rustic feel of the dock and pergola, Guérard kept the furniture simple and beachy with sea grass sectionals, wooden side tables, and a chandelier—all borrowed from inside the house.
The menu—prepared by the chef-husband of one of the guest of honor's friends— included simple salads and soups guests could snack on while standing by the bar or casually sitting with plates on laps. “You want something that can be picked up with one hand,” Guérard says. “We kept everything bite-sized, but served enough to keep people full.” Recipes below.
Tara's Tips for a Perfect Beach Bash
- Use sand to anchor jars and vases containing tea candles.
- Forgo expensive flowers for centerpieces made of natural sea grasses and ferns.
- Jazz up a basic wood serving table with pretty fabric draped and stapled (or taped) to your patio or deck so it doesn’t blow away.
- Swap out wineglasses for short-stemmed glasses, which are more stable in beachy breezes.
- Prepare a set of chilled and scented washcloths to pass around in case guests get warm in the sun.
- Serve chilled foods— salads, cold soups, watermelon, ice cream— to keep guests refreshed during the party.
Chilled Cucumber Soup
Prep: 5 minutes
Stand: 30 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
5 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
6 green onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 quart buttermilk
1 (16-ounce) container plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and transfer to a colander placed over a bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Combine half of cucumbers and half of remaining ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a container; repeat with remaining cucumbers and ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Makes 10 cups.
Tres Leches Mini Cakes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Stand: 5 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup whole milk
6 egg whites
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
¼ cup powdered sugar
Garnishes: fresh mint, blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 8, 8-ounce ramekins. Place on a baking sheet.
2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until fluffy; mix in egg yolks and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
3. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to yolk mixture alternating with whole milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into batter. Pour batter into prepared ramekins.
5. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes. Pierce cakes with a fork all over.
6. Combine ½ teaspoon vanilla, ½ cup whipping cream, condensed milk, evaporated milk and rum; gradually pour over warm cake, allowing mixture to soak into cake before adding more. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until well chilled.
7. Beat remaining 1 cup whipping cream, powdering sugar, and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixture until thick. Spread over cakes. Garnish, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Crab Cakes with Aïoli
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Cool: 5 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons creole mustard
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, divided
1 pound lump crab, picked
2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1 cup fine bread crumbs, divided
9 mini biscuits, split
18 slices yellow or red Roma tomatoes
1 cup arugula leaves
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
2. Combine onions, cheese, mustard and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a large bowl. Fold in crab. Fold reserved onion mixture into crab mixture. Set aside.
3. Combine egg yolks, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and white pepper in a food processor; process until smooth. With processor running, pour oil through food chute in a slow, steady stream, and process until thick. Pulse in Worcestershire and hot sauce.
4. Stir in ½ cup aïoli mixture and ½ cup breadcrumbs. Form into 18 patties, about ¼ cup each.
5. Combine remaining ½ cup breadcrumbs and seafood seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge crab cakes in seasoned breadcrumbs.
6. Heat half of remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry half of crab cakes in hot oil 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining oil and cakes.
7. Place tomato slice on half of biscuit. Top with crab cake; dollop with aïoli and top with arugula leaves. Skewer with long wooden or bamboo pick to secure. Repeat. Makes 1 ½ dozen.
Recipes courtesy of Tyler Dudley, Executive Chef, Daniel Island Club, Charleston, South Carolina