I love eating outdoors. Everything just tastes better and there’s something to be said about battling the elements before sitting down to eat. Especially here in San Francisco where the parks are so picnic-friendly… we’re an outdoor kind of city, rain or shine, but on a sunny day every inch of open space in our local parks will be filled with blankets and chairs. My goal is to become a professional picnicer and I believe I am well on my way there given my ever growing supply of picnic items. If you have the lofty goal of going professional, then at the very least you need a blanket that is waterproof on one side, like this one. I would suggest buying two actually… you’ll use them. Next on the list? A good cooler, preferably one that is collapsible and easy to carry. Then you should purchase a set of backpack chairs. Yes, they look kinda nerdy, but these will make your whole picnic experience so much more comfy and relaxed… but are also great for concerts, sitting on the roof, tailgating, extra seating at parties (ha!)… trust me, you’ll be so glad you’ve bought these. And finally… a portable picnic table. I love this one from Crate & Barrel. Oh, I almost forgot… I know it’s nerdy, but in a weak moment I did end up purchasing a picnic backpack online. It’s pretty nifty actually – it has a compartment for food that’s insulated, a wine cooler on one side, and a blanket on the other, and then inside there’s a small chopping board with a cheese knife, plastic wine glasses, a wine opener, napkins, plates, cutlery… you won’t win the cool awards, but you’ll be fully prepared for any picnic opportunity! I love this Cal one. And, this is definitely not a necessity but I did just buy a Smokey Joe Weber barbeque… I’ve seen people down at Fort Mason bbq-ing, so I can’t wait for the first sunny Saturday here in SF to try mine out!
Now that you have all your supplies ready to go, you can focus on the best part of the picnic – the food! You want to make sure that what you bring is easily served and not overly fiddly to eat… picnicking can get pretty messy!
I usually include a cheese & salumi plate of some sort, plus a variety of kettle chips and a couple of simple salads. A greek salad made with tomato, onion, cucumber & feta is perfect served at room temperature, as is a simple pasta salad, like my orzo salad or israeli couscous salad. It feeds a lot of people, is easy to eat, and easy to serve! Sandwiches are always great… I like to make homemade egg salad sandis, otherwise I’ll go one of the specialty sandwich shops in the area and pick up a selection. If you want to add some extra sparkle to your picnic you could always wrap each sandwich in parchment and tie with some string… I must say your friends will feel quite special and will love being able to unwrap their lunch like a present! Truth be told, I’ve never actually done this. But someday I will, I will!
If you’re barbecuing then I would suggest bringing a selection of delicious sausages and serve with some yummy mustards on soft squishy buns. Burgers are always great, but they’re so messy and require so many other condiments & toppings… and then you have to bring everything home when you’re done. I’m of the “keep it simple” mindset, so sausages make so much more sense to me, especially when you have lots of other yummy choices available. And if you’re heading outside on a cold, brisk day then a thermos of creamy tomato or carrot soup will help thaw out any of your frozen picnicking friends… they’ll so appreciate it!
kevin’s ready to go at a cal sc tailgate in LA
Keep your sweet selection simple – rice krispie treats, brownies, & chocolate chip cookies are definite crowd pleasers, but maybe break the mold a bit and consider bringing a sponge cake filled with whipped cream & strawberries. Don’t worry if you can’t bake, just head to your nearest specialty shop and they’ll be sure to have a good selection. Or, maybe make some sort of bar… lemon bars, the magnolia bakery magic cookie bar, oatmeal raspberry bars… just look online, there are loads of great recipes.
And of course you can’t forget the beverages – bubbly is always a must for me, but it’s also fun to bring a cocktail as well… my dad’s version of seabreeze is usually the drink of choice for our crowd – Kettle One vodka, white grapefruit juice & Guava juice… it’s really refreshing! Also make sure you bring some flat & sparkling water, and since Arnold Palmers are always in style, maybe add some lemonade and iced tea to your list!