As a chef, one of my favorite things about summer is taking advantage of the outdoors, while also enjoying delicious food, al fresco. A summer picnic is a terrific way to leave your phone behind and “digitally detox,” by spending quality time with family and friends. The typical Italian picnic consists of great cheese (chef’s note: I like Parmigiano Reggiano and Drunken Goat), a crispy baguette, some sliced salumi, olives, fresh fruit, and of course, a little bit of vino. Have I made you hungry yet? If you’re not sure how to go about planning the perfect Italian Picnic, I’ve included my top ten tips below. I can assure you that if you employ these suggestions at your next outdoor affair, your friends will be impressed, and their taste buds satisfied.
MY TOP TEN TIPS FOR PLANNING THE PERFECT PICNIC:
#1: Think of your picnic as a small party on the go.
Plan, plan, plan. Being prepared is everything, so take time to organize the menu beforehand.
#2: The location.
A picnic on the beach is much different from the one in your back yard. You might want to think about the availability of running water, restrooms, or if location is pet-friendly.
#3: A picnic basket doesn’t always have to be a basket.
Baskets are fun, coolers are practical, and plastic grocery sacks are inexpensive. Wooden crates are great for lugging around a heavy load. Or a stylish beach bag might be just the thing.
#4. Set the mood.
The red-and-white checked tablecloth for Italian flair, fresh flowers in a bowl, and don’t forget the lighting! A scented lilac candle is a nice touch if it’s going to get dark.
#5 Make it simple.
Ensure that all of your picnic foods are simple to transport and not too heavy to carry. Opt for paper or plastic plates and cutlery: also easier to carry, and makes for an easy cleanup.
#6. Make it interesting.
And easy to eat, of course. I like to pack cheese, cured meats, bread, and other finger foods because they are delicious and easy to pack and eat. While I personally may prefer to leave soup behind, you might love to pack a chilled gazpacho for your picnic.
A dessert picnic is another fun idea. Dessert could be tarts or tiramisu from a local bakery, homemade cookies, fruit, delicious Bauli mini croissants (I love the vanilla custard variety!) or whatever else your heart desires.
#8. Avoid cups.
Bring bottles of your favorite soda, lemonade or water. Individual bottles means no need for bringing cups, which is nice.
#9. Packaging is important. I like to use a combination of disposable and reusable containers, utensils, and plates for my picnics. Dishes — paper, bamboo, tin, or sturdy glass are nice. Cloth napkins add an elegant touch, but paper napkins are easier and don’t require washing later on.
#10. Have fun!
Even if the weather lets you down or you forgot something on your way, remember – it’s not that serious! The goal is to relax and enjoy.
I hope these tips get you excited about planning a summer picnic. We live in an age with so many distractions (IPads, Apple watches, IPhones) that is important to make sure we set aside quality time outdoors, and enjoy the beautiful weather before brutal winter returns. For those who might have a little extra time this summer, I also wanted to include one of my favorite Picnic recipes for Strawberry Shortcake. I use Bauli mini croissants to make this dessert an easy, no-bake treat to whip up. Summer is strawberry season, and I like to purchase my strawberries from the local Farmer’s Market – I find that local strawberries are sweeter and juicier than the ones in the grocery store. I hope you enjoy my strawberry shortcake recipe as much as I do – it’s the perfect quintessential Picnic treat!
Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake with Bauli Mini Chocolate Croissants & Whipped Cream
- Bauli Mini Chocolate Croissants, halved
- 1 C Heavy whipping cream
- ¼ C Powdered sugar
- 1 t Vanilla extract
- 1 C Strawberries, cut in quarters
- 2 T Lemon juice
- 1 T White wine (optional)
- 1 T Granulated sugar
- Fresh mint
- Bring the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla to a volume with a whisk or a stand mixer.
- Toss the strawberries with white wine, lemon juice, sugar and chopped mint.
- Place 2 halved mini croissants on a plate, cover each one with 1 T of whipped cream and finish off with strawberries.