A blanket, basket and bottle of Chardonnay. Sounds like the perfect recipe, right? But to pull off the perfect picnic, you will need planning and preparation to nail down the particulars. Heading out to dine alfresco can be a great experience if you take the time to grab some great food and drink. Here’s my guide to packing your perfect picnic.
1, A, First
Be sure to plan a menu or some sort of focused theme before you go shopping. I can speak from experience to the inefficiency of aimlessly trolling a supermarket aisle for the perfect meal. You need to nail down exactly what you want to do while on your picnic. Are you traveling by foot, bike or car to the picnic destination? If you are walking a mile to the perfect shady spot by a hidden stream with your sweetheart, you don’t want to be lugging 40 pounds of camping stove equipment to pull off the perfect steak Diane.
HERE’S MY IDEA OF THE PERFECT STREAMSIDE MENU: A pint of fresh raspberries, a small block of Brie cheese along with a small spreader or knife, cut-up baguette and rotisserie chicken breast cut up on top of cold wild rice pilaf (the precooked stuff from Uncle Ben’s) mixed with pine nuts and raspberry vinaigrette. Take that list into any supermarket, and you’ll be in and out in 10 minutes with a picnic that will impress.
B (Is for Beverage)
Do your homework on the drinks. It would be terrible to be caught on the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes with a crisp and fruity Chardonnay and not have glasses or a corkscrew. You’ll need to keep that traveling variable in mind here as well. If you are biking through the mountains and headed up and down hills and along bumpy dirt roads, it might not be a good idea to grab a growler of your favorite IPA from the local brewery at the trailhead. And nothing screams refreshing like a glass of single-malt scotch at the end of a 3-mile hike to a scenic overlook. Am I right? So plan to match your beverages with your menu as well as your means of transportation.
WHAT I WOULD LOVE TO DRINK AT THE END OF MY HIKE TO THAT STREAMSIDE PICNIC: How about a crisp and refreshing Moscow Mule? All you need is a can of ginger beer, a lime and a couple shots’ worth of goodquality vodka, and you have cocktails for two that match well with Brie and raspberries. Any self-respecting liquor store on your way to the picnic should have these items readily available.
Make sure you include a light dessert of some sort. It’s easy to stroll through the bakery and grab something sweet as an afterthought or throw a bag of Oreos into the cart on the way to the checkout. But if you want the end of the picnic to match the deftness of your opening and drink selection, you should think outside the box a little. Try grabbing some ingredients that don’t seem to go together and some disposable plasticware from the housewares section. You can whip up any number of fun concoctions. (Or you could just grab a box of Twinkies; they never disappoint.)
I’D WRAP THINGS UP AS SUCH: Pick up a pack of those disposable Gladware containers, some plastic silverware from the deli and the following ingredients: one can of cherry pie filling (one that has a pull tab and doesn’t require a can opener), a couple containers of vanilla Greek yogurt, some plain high-quality granola and a can of Reddiwip. Voilà! You have a wonderful parfait that matches your picnic prowess better than any bag of cookies could ever do.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Chef Sean Gartland is the culinary director of the Flint Farmers’ Market and owns Feast Gourmet Kitchen Shop in Fenton. Be sure to check out his blog, feastonthisblog.com, for more recipes and cooking tips.