The Dude Society

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How To Take Her On A Romantic Picnic

The weather is about turn nice and that’s the perfect time to take your lady on a picnic.  Women love picnics; they don’t need to be complicated, and with a little forethought they can be surprisingly easy and stress free.  Here are a few food ideas and recipes to put in your next picnic basket.

The Basics

In general, you need to keep things simple.  While it might be nice to have one of those big fancy wicker picnic baskets with the fine china and silverware, using paper bags from the supermarket or a backpack is also fine. I suggest this bad boy if you want to be a picnic baller:

Picnic Time Windsor Picnic Basket

Pick a spot that’s not too far from home if you’re walking, as picnic items can get heavy.  Also, pick a spot that has some semblance of shade and sun so you can keep some of the food out of the sun or retreat there yourself if it gets too hot.

As for time of day, almost any time is good.  I would avoid the 1pm-3pm time frame as it can be unbearably hot, and if it’s an evening picnic just start early enough that you’re not sitting in the pitch black with mosquitoes all over you.

You will, of course, need something to sit on.  An old blanket or sheet, a few beach towels or even folding chairs are fine.  This site has a few specialty picnic blankets if you’re interested.

While the tools you need largely depend on the meal you’re bringing, here are a few things to consider.  You may need paper plates and plastic forks/knives, plastic cups, plenty of napkins and maybe some hand wipes too.  Purchase a few tiny plastic containers to transport salad dressings, olive oil, or other condiments in.  Speaking of condiments, make sure to bring salt and pepper.  You can steal a handful of packets from the deli if need be.  You may need a real knife (not just plastic) and you also may need a bottle opener or corkscrew depending on the beverage.

Don’t forget to bring a garbage bag.  It’s proper etiquette to clean up after you self when in a public place and you can then toss it in a nearby trash can instead of lugging garbage back home.

The Food

As mentioned, simpler is better.  You need to pick foods that stand up well while traveling and don’t need refrigeration.  Therefore mayonnaise (or dairy in general) and sushi are out.  No joke, these items can actually make people seriously ill if left in the heat.  Pick foods that are light and summery.  No one wants to eat Chinese food in the sun and no one wants a heavy, creamy ranch dressing that’s been warmed by an afternoon in the heat. Think of things that are good when served at room temperature or cold.  Avoid anything that actually needs to be kept cold.  Those ice packs you can buy really don’t work very well and hauling ice is a pain.

If any of the items have a dressing or sauce, bring it in a separate small container and add it once on-site.  Dressings contain vinegar which is an acid and makes things wilt and break down; other sauces may just make the meal messy and ruin the flavor.  A salad that has been dressed a few hours in advance will be mush at picnic time.

Lastly, think of things that pack and travel easily.  Anything that is messy, or needs special handling or storage should be left out.  A cake is a bad idea, as is a whole roast chicken, for example.  Below are some simple picnic ideas.  I have provided recipes for some items, but buying these already prepared at a high quality food store is also acceptable.

Under the Tuscan Sun – A simple Tuscan style meal

  1. A bottle of red wine
  2. Sliced Steak – Cook medium rare so it doesn’t dry out and you can cook it the day before, just wait until you’re ready to pack up for the picnic before slicing it. Serve either cold or room temperature.  This chimichurri sauce goes great with it (though I would cut the recipe in half) or you can just drizzle olive oil on the steak and use some salt and pepper.
  3. Slices of grilled rustic Italian bread. If you don’t have a gas grill, apartment dwellers can grill it over a gas stove or just toast it a bit in a toaster.  Do this just before packing up too so it’s still crispy.
  4. Caprese Salad – Sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella (never use Polly-O! or any other brand vacuum sealed in plastic) and fresh basil leaves.  Put them in a storage container and bring some balsamic and olive oil to drizzle over it at the picnic site. Remember, no dressing things before hand. This is a great salad that you can use in place of the Caprese Salad if you feel like making something a bit more complex.
  5. For Dessert bring some Biscotti

Sunday Brunch

This is an easy one.  Get some bagels and cream cheese, or some pastries from your favorite bakery, grab the newspaper, and a thermos of coffee and head to the park.  If you like to get tipsy early on a Sunday, bring a quart of orange juice and a bottle of champagne and pour some mimosas (1:2 ratio of OJ to Champagne, that is add twice as much champagne to a cup as you did OJ for you mathematically challenged.)

Wine and Cheese

Here is another simple one.  Buy a few different cheeses and some crackers, bring some fresh fruit (grapes go well here) and a bottle of red wine.  Any other cheese related condiment is good here too such as honey, jam, or mustard. You can augment this picnic by bringing olives, nuts, or some good quality Italian cured meats like salami, prosciutto, or pepperoni.  Bring brownies for dessert (they go well with the red wine).

Mexican BBQ

  1. Chips and Salsa
  2. Sliced grilled chicken – like the steak above be careful not to overcook it, and slice it just before leaving.  Store bought is ok here too.  For sauce, the chimichurri steak sauce is good, as is plain old BBQ sauce, or salsa (since you already brought it for the chips.)  If going the salsa route, consider bringing small soft flour tortillas and some shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
  3. Black Bean and Corn Salad – Here is a great recipe for this type of thing, many good quality food stores will have something like this in there prepared food section too.
  4. Fill a thermos with homemade Margaritas.  Don’t use store bought margarita mix, it tastes like crap.  Squeeze some fresh limes and follow this recipe. Just make sure to make enough to fill a thermos (or two.)
  5. For dessert bring some chocolate chip cookies.

An Afternoon in Paris

  1. Ham and Cheese Baguette – Slice a baguette lengthwise, butter it liberally (trust me on this it’s a good combo) and put a layer or two of good quality ham and sliced Swiss cheese on it.  Wrap it back up in the bag that the baguette came in.
  2. Cut up some fresh fruit and put it in a container for dessert.
  3. Toss this and a bottle of champagne in your backpack and you’re ready to go.

Ok, so now you have some ideas, so pick a nice day and go for it.  There are many other things you can choose to do here, just stick to some of the basic guidelines.  Your lady will love telling her friends how romantic you were to plan a picnic for the two of you.  Enjoy!

About the author

Rich is the resident food & drink expert. He's been cooking since age ten, and has probably eaten and drank at most every restaurant or bar in New York City.

All articles by Rich »

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