branch centerpiece with chardonnay and cabernet on table

Natural Table Decorations for Outdoor Summer Dinners

Creating a centerpiece is about much more than arranging an assortment of flowers or natural table decorations on the dining table. Instead, I draw inspiration for tablescapes from the meal’s occasion, the season, the natural surroundings and even the menu. I enjoy combining table décor and the culinary arts in ways that are unexpected, beautiful and fun.

For an intimate outdoor gathering, I like to play with the “edible centerpiece” concept, incorporating fire-grilled dishes created by my husband Todd Knoll, Jordan’s executive chef, into the actual tablescape. Using oak branches foraged from the Jordan estate as anchor pieces, I craft a casual, natural design that runs the length of the table. The resulting centerpiece includes not only the dishes themselves, but elements of the ingredients used to make them. The idea is to have a continuous flow within the centerpiece that tells the story of the food on the table. Here are my favorite natural table decorations to include on the dinner table during an outdoor grilling get-together.

branch centerpiece with chardonnay and wine glasses on table

Lichen: Lacy, pale-green lichen that grows on oak trees all around the property adds a natural, rustic look.

Oak Bark: Flat pieces of oak bark collected from around the Jordan property serve as natural pedestals for fire-grilled dishes.

Sumac & Rosemary: Nestled among sumac leaves and flowering rosemary branches is a plate of smoky Sonoma lamb chops seasoned with a savory rub laced with sumac powder. Fire-roasted potatoes rubbed with fresh rosemary leaves serve as an earthy accompaniment.

Olive Branches: This natural table decoration incorporates olive branches and leaves surrounding a mini, cast-iron skillet of grilled olives, and carrots roasted in olive oil. A dish of Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes a perfect dipping companion for homemade grilled fougasse bread studded with fresh herbs.

Citrus: Grilled oranges pay tribute to the citrus elements in Executive Chef Knoll’s roasted olives, while grilled lemons accent sumac-rubbed lamb chops.

Want more table décor inspiration? See our Tablescapes section. 

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About the Author

As one of eight children, Nitsa Knoll doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t helping host parties for her Greek family in Southern California. She naturally gravitated toward planning beautiful events with bold colors and flowers as focal points. Today, she spends her days overseeing events and hospitality at Jordan Winery, where she works alongside her husband, Todd Knoll. With an eye for design, her creative mind is constantly at work, planning the next dinner party or designing a new floral arrangement. She finds constant inspiration from the trees and flowers growing at Jordan Estate and throughout Sonoma County.

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