Penny Lyons is here to tell you that entertaining does not have to be hard.
Lyons — founder of the website Lyonslifestyle — and her husband, Jim, have been throwing parties and events of all sizes and stripes for nearly four decades, styling ﬂorals, menus and tablescapes, plus designing and preparing her own food and cocktails. Lyons says her goal is to bring back elegant at-home entertaining by proving it can be simple (you don’t have to do everything yourself!) and inexpensive (she’s a big proponent of mixing high-end and low-end pieces). The key? “Making the ordinary extraordinary,” she says. She created this Nantucket-inspired elegantly casual lobster dinner beside the pool at ICON Harbour Island exclusively to inspire TAMPA Magazine readers. Here are her top tips for pulling off your own get-together.
Begin with an inspiration
“My inspiration for a poolside lobster dinner was my love for al fresco dining while taking advantage of Tampa living, combined with my favorite summer meal — baked stuffed lobsters, a recipe handed down from my mother-in-law,” Lyons says. She adds that guests love sitting at a beautifully and thoughtfully appointed table. “It says, ‘I’m happy you’re here and I’ve gone the extra mile to make you feel special.’”
Create a cohesive color scheme for your whole party
The Connecticut native says she’s passionate about blue and white, an eternally popular color scheme that’s found in pieces to ﬁt any budget. Everything in her setup ﬁts the theme, from the stemware to the wine labels to her own Lily Pulitzer dress. Lyons found her place settings and the garden stools atop the cocktail bar at Coton Colors, one of her favorite Tampa boutiques. “The plates are bold in color and design and are perfect for poolside dining,” she adds. “I also love to mix and match patterns and styles and sizes. There are no rules in entertaining.”
Select a “pop” color
“A pop of color is always a welcomed idea, and a blue and white color scheme provides just the right canvas,” Lyons says. For this dinner party, she chose yellow as her “pop,” inspired by the lemon served alongside the lobsters and found in the center-piece, the lemon four-layer cake, the Mexican sweet corn, lemonade with blueberries, melted butter and more.
Add a touch of whimsy
Lyons says this is one of her secret weapons. For this table she chose starﬁsh, which she tied with raffia to the colander found at each place setting. She also added tin pail ice buckets and a Simon Pierce glass star from her private collection. “These touches of whimsy often serve to spark immediate convivial conversation when guests are seated,” Lyons adds.
Penny Lyons is an entertainer, party planner, food stylist and table designer. She’s been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and has done public speaking on lifestyle and entertaining topics across the country. She shares lifestyle inspiration on her website lyonslifestyle.com and on Instagram (@lyonslifestyle).
Baked Stuffed Lobster
2 1½ lb Maine cold water lobsters, split and cleaned
¼ lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
4 oz lump crabmeat
4 oz cooked shrimp (optional)
¼ cup dry sherry (or to taste)
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup melted butter on the side
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper (to taste)
Mix the following together in a bowl:
Melted 1 stick butter, breadcrumbs, crabmeat, shrimp (optional), sherry, juice from one squeezed lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Have your local fish market split and clean lobsters for you (speak to fish monger about immediate cooking)
2. Skewer each lobster from head to toe to prevent curling during baking
3. Place each lobster on its back on a cookie sheet
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
5. Stuff each lobster loosely with seafood stuffing
6. Drizzle with ¼ cup melted butter
1. Bake in middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes
2. Turn on broiler for a few minutes if you prefer toasted stuffing.
1. Remove from oven
2. Remove skewers
3. Drizzle with remaining ¼ cup of butter over two lobsters
4. Squeeze juice of half a lemon on lobsters
5. Sprinkle with parsley
6. Shine claws and exposed shells with olive oil
7. Serve with a warm side of melted butter for dipping lobster meat
8. Serve with a half lemon on the dish (optional)
Penny’s Mexican Street Corn
“I had my first Mexican Street Corn in NYC at Tacombi on Bleeker Street a few years back. I melted in my chair along with the mayo and sour cream! I like a heavily loaded ear of corn!”
6 ears of sweet summer corn
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 small bunch cilantro to garnish platter
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cotija cheese (or crumbled feta if desired)
1 tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
Lime for sprinkling
Butter for griddle
Cooking spray for grill
You can either boil or grill corn. Either way, coat corn with mixture while HOT.
TO BOIL: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Gently place shucked ears of corn with silks removed in water and boil for 3 minutes. Turn off water. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes until tender. Drain. Pat dry.
TO GRILL: You can grill stovetop on a griddle coated with butter or on an outdoor grill sprayed with cooking spray. If grilling, I prefer husks on and tied back like a ponytail. This makes for a more dramatic presentation. Grill, turning corn for 7-10 minutes. Temps depend on your grill. Medium heat on a griddle and medium to high heat on the grill. Keep an eye on corn to prevent burning, working to get a nice char
Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan cheese and cilantro in a bowl. Spread mayonnaise mixture in baking dish and roll each ear, generously coating. Place on decorative platter. Sprinkle ears of corn with cotija cheese, chili powder to taste and chopped cilantro. Sprinkle with the juice of 1 squeezed lime. Garnish your platter with a bouquet of cilantro tied with raffia and serve immediately.