From a Chef’s Perspective: Picnic Like a Pro!
It is PRIME picnic season! Well, some days can feel so hot that all I really want to eat is watermelon and call it a day, but for those perfectly warm summer and fall days I have made a list of things that I keep on hand as well as some picnic pro-moves.
Things I keep in my car to be perpetually picnic-ready:
A trusty blanket! I mean, this one is pretty obvious. However, I find that actually keeping a blanket in my car instead of in a closet somewhere at home inspires me to picnic more! If you want to splurge on the real deal, I highly recommend a blanket that has one waterproof side. This will ensure you can picnic even after some light rain, and your blanket won’t get mildewy! If that’s a little overkill for your blanket needs, I love the Mexican-inspired blankets that come in bright colors. Easier for your friends to spot you when you’re 2 roses deep and ignoring your imessages.
A backpack cooler. A picnic basket is cute and all, but really it’s not the most useful way to bring the goods. A hard cooler is a little obnoxious to carry, and perhaps a little too attention grabbing when you’re trying to low-key day drink at a park/beach. The best way to “secure the bag” as the kids say these days is with a cooler bag. A backpack is ideal because it’s low-key, hands-free and can be easily squished into the corner of your trunk when you’re done instead of taking up a bunch of space. Remember this is a picnic, not Thanksgiving dinner. If you can’t fit it all in here – you’re going too crazy. Reel it in.
This classy AF camping knife-and-board in one!! One of my rules for picnicking is to only serve foods that don’t require a fork and knife to eat. However, cheese is pretty much a must and having one sturdy all-purpose knife is a must. I’m a total knife nerd so I go for the nice wood handled classics, and this one won me over because it doubles as a cutting surface.
A *reasonable* speaker. Nothing hurts my soul like listening to music from someones iphone they shoved into a plastic cup. Stop it. It’s amazing how good these portable speakers have become and they don’t have to break the bank. Just make sure you keep it down, your picnic neighbor’s may not love Cardi as much as you (we) do. (Pro-tip: keep the speaker in the backpack and you’ll never forget it!)
A roll of paper towels and a thing of wet wipes. Picnicking is messy. It only looks tidy and pristine for that first Instagram photo but then people get a buzz on, wine is spilled, cheese melts. It’s okay, that’s a hazard of having of good time! Keep these in the trunk for those good times, thank me later. Also if the park/beach lacks a bathroom those wet wipes will be even more handy.
A single garbage bag so you can carry-in, carry-out. Respect your park/beach rules, always.
What to eat…
This is a picnic, not Thanksgiving. Don’t overthink a picnic. The rules of thumb I use are:
Doesn’t require fork & knife
Ideally, doesn’t even require a plate
Can be eaten on a cracker, or with a toothpick
I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…
Bridge Lane wine in a CAN! Lightweight, easy to chill, and *discreet*. No brainer.
Cheese (not too runny/stinky)
Charcuterie / Salumi, pre-sliced!
Carrots, Radishes & Cukes for the healthy crowd
Smoked fish spreads
Berries, dried fruit
Bean salads (and other non-mayo deli salads)
That’s it! Some napkins and toothpicks should be all you need to enjoy a solid picnic feast. Don’t overthink it- this is a nice long grazing occasion so you want food that can sit out for a while.
Some of my favorite North Fork spots to picnic:
Southold Town Beach
Mitchell Park, Greenport
Bailie Beach, Mattituck
Orient Beach State Park
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