Taming the Outdoors
Memorable picnics are simple if you use the right ingredients: a gorgeous setting, good food, and great company. However, before you even begin to plan the details of your next picnic, keep in mind a couple of elements that are unique to entertaining — and eating — outdoors:
The weather: Believe it or not, the sky may not do what you want it to. Always plan a rain date for your outdoor celebrations, more than a day away if possible. And make sure you watch the forecasts closely, so you can surprise your guests by pulling out bright ponchos if it begins to pour in the middle of hors d’oeuvres.
Bugs, flies, and other critters: Your eight-year-old may think they’re cute, but it’s a good idea to pick a picnic site that is relatively free of small friends. In summer almost no place is bug free, so spray your site thoroughly a little while before the guests arrive (so the smell of insecticide won’t be what welcomes them).
Keeping food fresh: Without a refrigerator behind the next bush, it’s very important to take every possible measure to safeguard the freshness and quality of the food you’re serving. Good suggestions for keeping perishable food safe include:
- chilling foods thoroughly before putting them in a cooler
- using two smaller coolers, one for beverages and fruits and a separate one — which will be opened less frequently — for perishables including meats, cheeses, and poultry
- filling your coolers to the top. Full coolers retain the cold considerably longer than not-quite-full ones
Keeping guests comfortable: Carefully consider your guest list. You may not want to invite the same people to a picnic involving a hike up to the top of a waterfall that you would to a backyard cocktail party.
Outdoor resources: The best outdoor hosts take advantage of their surroundings. Plan activities and outdoor games into your day. Excellent choices include Frisbee, treasure hunts, kite flying, swimming, nature walks, and climbing.
Planning Your Time
The key to successful outdoor entertaining is organization. I have found that following a time line helps me organize better and minimizes last-minute calamities. Here’s a good path to follow:
2 to 3 weeks in advance:
- Scout out your location
- Send out invitations (Be prepared to provide written directions to any out-of-the-way site)
1 week to 10 days in advance:
- Plan your menu (check below)
- Make a list of all of the food and supplies you can imagine needing, with a separate section for those you will need to purchase especially for the event
- Arrange to have someone available to help you the day of the picnic with setup and last-minute details
3 to 4 days in advance:
- Shop for all picnic food and beverages
- Shop for all other supplies
1 to 2 days in advance:
Prepare most, if not all, picnic foods
Day of picnic:
Check your Don’t-Forget-to-Bring List (check below) . Keep foods refrigerated until the last possible moment. Arrive at your picnic site about an hour before your guests, to set up. There’s no need to arrive much earlier, as setup will be pretty minimal and foods can spoil if you take them out of coolers too long before serving.
The Freshest Picnic Menu
I’m a sucker for showstopping picnic food — piles of fried chicken, savory salads, crunchy sandwiches, and ripe, fresh fruit. Make it easy on yourself and on your guests; as a rule, serve cold foods and prepare them all ahead of time. Even food prep should be kept to a minimum outdoors. Some terrific picnic suggestions here what I will link for every every recipe here in hub one after another-
Roll-Up Party Snack Recipe
Pesto and Brie Sandwich Recipe
Blueberry Scones Recipe
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownies
Serve ’em all up or just make a few!
Refreshing Summer Sippers
What’s an unforgettable picnic meal without just the right cooling drink?
Wine adds the perfect romantic touch. And even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, following a few simple rules will help you pick the best wines to complement picnic fare.
Good summer bets:
- Crisp, light whites like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc (chilled well)
- Lively, medium-bodied reds like Beaujolais or red Sancerre
- Dry sparkling wines like Blanc de Noirs
Summer picnics are also the time for exotic refreshers. I especially enjoy the Thai limeade.
To spruce up old picnic standards like lemonade and iced tea, try splashing them over mint-flavored ice cubes (coarsely mince fresh mint sprigs into a bowl of water; simmer, and freeze into cubes). I try, whenever possible, to avoid lemonade and tea mixes and instead to serve homemade. A garnish of mint or a wedge of precessed fruit is always a fresh touch.
Most importantly, make sure to bring more than enough bottled water on your picnic — spending time outdoors in the heat and sun is very dehydrating, especially if you’re serving alcohol.
Anything But Paper Plates!
After you’ve thrown out the last paper plate on which you ever want to waste another dollar or inch of space in a landfill, you’ll be ready to host a really unforgettable picnic. There is a better way! Here are some interesting, inexpensive (and lightweight) picks:
- Many online stores, sell great-looking acrylic, tin, and enamelware plates, serving pieces, and cutlery. For an original alternative to disposable plates, try mixing different colors and styles. “Real” plates add a festive and unusual touch in the outdoors, and you’ll use them for years.
- Cloth napkins in bright solids, checks, stripes, or bold floral are a favorite of mine for outfitting a picnic basket and setting a special outdoor spread — but don’t forget to pack some paper towels for backup.
- Pack large, sturdy plastic or glass tumblers for beverages, even wine, as stemware and disposable plastic cups tip easily. Canning jars make an excellent alternative to glasses and look great.
- Pack foods in containers that can double as charming serving pieces. Clear self-topped canisters and large jars with painted caps are much more fun to look at than your collection of yellowing take-out containers.Check with search in online and you will lots of options who sell attractive and portable storage/serving pieces in a variety of colors.
Your Own Special Touches
Getting to the party site even just a little bit before the crowd will give you enough time to add the extra touches that will make your picnic outstanding. And these little mood setters don’t require a lot of money or extensive planning:
- Use the flowers at hand. Bring a big jug of water along and pick a wildflower bouquet. Aster, black-eyed Susan, columbine, flax, goldenrod, lady’s slipper, Indian paintbrush, and Queen Annie’s lace are just some of the wildflowers that bloom all summer long in many areas of the country.
- Pack bunches of fresh herbs such as mint and basil, and they’ll serve multiple purposes. They look great clustered together in a jar, they perfume the air, and they taste wonderful in drinks, on salads, and on their own as palate cleansers.
- Cover picnic tables with festive cloths in crisp solids. Periwinkle blue, saffron yellow, and fire-engine red are colors that bloom in natural light and surroundings. While white is always a wonderful summer color, it’s not really practical for picnics, where spills are as common as watermelon.
- For picnics on the ground, heavy cloths and cotton blankets are the best choice. Wool blankets are too warm to sit on, and a weighty cotton cloth will provide a more plumb surface for serving and eating. For a really exotic touch, spread fanciful old rugs.
- Instant centerpieces can be achieved by letting masses of fresh fruit spill out of open picnic baskets. Add some thoughtfully placed wildflowers, herbs, and greens and you’ve got a work of art.
- Instead of an ordinary cooler, try a large galvanized metal tub (about $20 to $30) filled with ice to chill wines and other drinks.
- For a festive tabletop, scatter many short candles, anchored in mismatched Ball jars and tall glasses to guard against breezes.
- Citronella candles in Terra-cotta or galvanized metal pots are widely available, pretty, and useful for keeping bugs away. They are especially elegant looking — and necessary — when you’re entertaining at night.
Dining by Candlelight
There is something magical about a party under the stars — whether it’s simple cocktails along the water or dinner in a pine forest. Here are some ideas for making the most of these special summer nights:
- Stringing tiny lights in a few trees around the garden creates a lovely look for outdoor parties at home. Use white or gold lights for a firefly-like glow.
- Of course candles — the more the better — are always desirable. Use different sizes and shapes and encase them in hurricane glass or old lanterns.
- Citronella candle pots and torches are beautiful, practical additions to evening events. They will help keep the insects away and look great doing so.
- Bonfires are wonderful at night — at the beach or campsite — especially if you build them with aromatic woods such as orange, eucalyptus, or pinon.
- Flashlights are a must. Make sure the batteries are fresh, and always pack extras.
Picnics at the Beach
My mother used to call the sand I’d inevitably get in my cream cheese and jelly sandwiches “the kiss of the devil.” This grit notwithstanding, the beach can be a superb site for a party, day or night.
Here, a few easy ways to maximize your fun:
Umbrellas: A beach umbrella is one of the best accessories you can have on the sand. It will keep you and your food shaded, and it makes a handsome beacon if you have friends meeting you at a crowded spot.
Sunscreen: Always a must at the beach — make sure you have SPF 15 or higher.
Light foods: Think light and refreshing when it come to foods for a beach picnic; fruit salads, fresh vegetables, cold roast meats. Avoid salads heavy on mayonnaise and rich cheeses.
Individual servings: Prepackaging food in individual servings (think box lunch) helps to avoid getting sand in everyone’s food and helps keep food safe if some people are still in the water when others want to eat.
Once you’re at the park, up the mountain, or on the sandbar, there’s pretty much no turning back. So try to make very sure you have everything you’ll need for your picnic before you leave the house.
In addition to the coolers of food and drink, the baskets of cutlery, the cups and plates, and the cloths, cushions, and throws, there are many unexpected and easily forgotten items that will be sorely missed if not available when needed. According to some highly experienced summer hosts, this is a pretty good list of the basics:
- Wine opener (corkscrew)
- Can opener
- Garbage bags
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Extra napkins
- Paper towels
- Extra tablecloths, picnic blankets, and towels
- Bug repellent
- Ice (lots and lots)
- First-aid kit
Most important of all, don’t forget your sense of adventure, and you’ll be all set!