Fresh air and a change of scenery are reason enough for planning a picnic, which can be as simple as spreading out a blanket in a local park and sharing a baguette and a hunk of cheese with a couple of friends. It's a great way to shift gears, slow down, and take stock. With a little planning, though, picnicking can be elevated to an art form of sorts, or at least become the kind of memorable event that you look forward to and make time for each year.
Plan A Picnic Around An Outdoor Event
With warm weather comes outdoor music events in the form of festivals, concerts, and the like. Look in the Arts section or equivalent of your local newspaper or keep your eyes open for postings in grocery stores, coffee shops and other likely local haunts. Once you've found an event that sounds like fun, make a phone call to find out about bringing food and beverages. If you get the go-ahead, start planning, because there's just no better way to enjoy music outdoors than accompanied by a light but varied feast of cold salads, fine cheeses, imported salami and prosciutto, a few fancy pastries and some fresh fruit to top it all off---a smorgasbord of prepared fare, in other words, either homemade, if you prefer, or from the local gourmet shop or deli. And even, in the unlikely event that you can't find a musical event nearby that permits picnicking, that's no reason not to enjoy a regal repast at your local park.
Stock Up On The Right Supplies
The first step in preparing for your gourmet picnic is to pack all the utensils and accessories you'll need. Just make a list of what you'll be serving, then assess what you'll need for each of these dishes or items. Basics include a cutting board or two, a cheese knife, paring knife, large bread knife (especially if you're planning on picking up a watermelon), serving spoons, forks, spoons, knives, plates, bowls, good sea salt, a pepper grinder and napkins. You might also consider wineglasses and a corkscrew, as well as whatever else makes sense for your intended menu.
Be sure to organize food and utensils into totes and baskets that are easy to carry and store. Put the perishable food into an insulated tote.
Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
As far as the menu itself goes, try to provide a broad range of tastes and textures---the wider the range, the more it will feel like a feast. Think in terms of appealing contrasts like crisp, salty tortilla chips with cool, creamy guacamole or a juicy, fresh salsa; gourmet deviled eggs; smooth, rich Brie cheese with a loaf of coarse, chewy peasant bread; and, flaky, crunchy pastries with juicy, succulent strawberries, honeydew, cantaloupe, and other fruits. And of course, there is nothing better than the aroma and taste of fresh grilled food in the open air. Bring a portable grill to easily cook up your favorites anywhere.
Beyond The Blanket
Spending time away from home in a pleasant outdoor setting with good company and a good meal is the essence of a successful picnic. Bringing the right gear and keeping it simple and organized will keep everyone comfortable and happy. Many of us really don’t like sitting on the ground so, bringing some folding chairs will add to the relaxation.
Set a table rather than laying everything out on a blanket. Bring along a folding table and chairs, a linen or cotton tablecloth, and an enclosed candle or oil lamp if you'll be dining at dusk. Your picnic will become the stuff of memories as well as a regular ritual that you look forward to each summer.
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