High Society

Rooftop entertaining can take your party to the next level // Photographs by Cybelle Codish // Styling by Erika Patterson
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: 3Fifty Terrace atop Music Hall offers a 7-story view.

All over town, people are discovering that party space options are looking up — to the rooftop that is.

In the last few years — with more buildings getting refurbished and the hunt intensifying for unique event spaces — those who run businesses and living quarters are discovering there’s fun to be had (and money to be made) partying in the sky.

If your party is at the Madison Building in Detroit or the Detroit Opera House, you can look straight into Comerica Park. At the Park Shelton, you get a great view of Midtown. And the 3Fifty Terrace at Music Hall in Detroit is expansive and can accommodate a tent.

Some rooftops aren’t where you expect — parking structures, older but functional, offer big and open spaces. Newer facilities, such as the Detroit Z Garage, were built with entertaining in mind.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a rooftop or terrace where you live or work, there are a few logistics to consider. Most commercial rooftop rental spaces have it all figured out — providing outdoor kitchens, bathroom facilities, great seating choices, lighting, and an elevator that’ll take you there. Some older buildings aren’t as decked out (you may have to hoof it when you get closer to the top). And if you’re hosting it all yourself, you’ll have to get furniture, food, and drinks up there by yourself.

Then there’s the weather. Rooftop events are only feasible during two (and maybe — and that’s a big maybe — three) seasons of the year. When you’re putting all your people outside, you’re completely al fresco. That means there’s rain, cold, and wind to consider. The higher you go, the chillier the air can be. Bad weather can quickly turn an amazing event into a bust. And that can be disappointing when you consider that many great spaces can cost thousands to rent.

Fortunately, party rental companies will figure out getting all the party stuff you need there, including tables, chairs, linens, and lighting.

For those who can just walk upstairs to our own rooftops, clean space and permission are all you need. If your roof has nothing — nary a chair nor table — and renting isn’t in the budget, think big floor pillows you can reuse or ask friends to bring their own folding or camping chairs.

While real dishes, silverware, and such are nice, high-quality disposables are perfectly acceptable. Electric lanterns, candles, and strings of lights can make a dark space magical … and safe, since the best time to party is at night.

Of course, it’s not a party without food and drink. When it comes to eats, you might have to hire a caterer (some rental spots require you to hire theirs), or you can bring your own chow. Think of it as a picnic in the sky. Transport what you need and serve it mostly cold or at room temperature. If you can schlep up a grill to your rooftop, bonus (again, rental spaces often provide their own grills).

In the summer, bright, fresh salads and simple cooked proteins are good to put on the menu. With a grill, marinated meats, burgers, and such are the perfect casual fare. Of course, if you can bring it and chill it for safety, anything — plain or fancy — can be apropos.

For drinks, aside from having enough, lots of ice for chilling is the key consideration. Offering a signature drink in a large server is easy and logical — and there’s less to transport.

Rooftop parties can be hosted any time of the day, but nighttime is when the warm glow of city lights and the relaxed atmosphere offer even more “wow.” And, of course, at night “… the stars, they put on a show for free.”



PRETTY POTABLES: Offering a signature drink in a large server is easy and logical. There’s less to transport.

Detroit Vernors and Whiskey
Tempranillo Sangria

1 (750 ml) bottle Spanish Tempranillo
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup Valentine Distilling Co.’s Woodward Ltd.
½ cup triple sec
½ cup orange juice
1 cup Vernors Ginger Ale
Sliced lemons, oranges, apples and berries,
for garnish

Combine the Tempranillo, sugar, whiskey, triple sec, and orange juice in a large pitcher or drink container. Stir well and allow to sit at room temperature until almost ready to serve. Just before serving, add the Vernors and fresh fruit. Stir well. Makes 8-12 servings.


Smoked Salmon, Watermelon,
Goat Cheese, and Arugula Salad 

8 cups baby arugula
6 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) crumbled goat cheese
½ cup thinly sliced red or Bermuda onion
3 tablespoons slivered almonds or pine nuts,
lightly toasted
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
12 ounces smoked salmon,  sliced thin

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Toss all salad ingredients except salmon together in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with thin smoked salmon. Makes 6 servings.


Grilled Flank Steak with Fresh Mango and Cilantro Salsa

2-3 pounds flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 cup chopped mango
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
½ cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon or more to taste
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (wear
rubber gloves)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat grill to medium high. Rub the beef all over with oil and season with salt, cumin, pepper, and garlic. Combine all salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until uniform. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Grill the beef for about 8-12 minutes on both sides for medium rare.

Holding a knife at a 45-degree angle, slice steak into thin slices. Spoon the salsa over the beef or serve on the side. Makes 8 servings.


Pasta Salad with Fresh Spinach and
Basil Walnut Vinaigrette

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 medium cloves fresh garlic
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta Salad:
12 ounces dried pasta, such as penne
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 ½ to 2 cups fresh shaved or grated Parmesan cheese

Place the vinaigrette ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined and smooth. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain well but do not rinse. Combine the spinach (no need to chop) with the hot pasta and the remaining pasta salad ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl and toss well. Toss with the vinaigrette to taste (you may not use all the dressing). Allow to cool to room temperature. Add cheese and toss well. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6-8 servings.


8 Vegetable Salad
with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped radicchio
1 cup finely chopped red or
Bermuda onion
1 cup finely chopped zucchini
1 cup finely chopped red or
yellow bell pepper
1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas
or garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels,
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 roasted red bell peppers (fresh or jarred), cut in large pieces
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon drained capers,
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste

Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss well, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Optional: To turn this into an entrée, add 2 cups of cooked chicken chunks cut into 1-inch pieces.

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