Okay, maybe not quite what Ella Fitzgerald (and Sublime) sang about but oh, how I love a good picnic. And in sunny Southern California there are so many easy opportunities to bust out that basket: Shakespeare in the Park, Cinespia, The Hollywood Bowl, The Vineland Drive-In, not to mention the park and beach. Once, I even had one on my front lawn ~ because why not!
A picnic is versatile. It can be an inexpensive way to have a lovely time or you can really fancy it up. Of course, the centerpiece is always the food. My picnics usually include a tasty spread of cheese and salty meats. Sure, the proper French term is charcuterie but this is me keeping it real and really delicious. My terminology might not be fancy but this is definitely an area that I like to splurge a little.
When I need my fix, I go to Cheese Mongers in Sherman Oaks. The staff there are the nicest people around and they have a passion for all things fromage. Did I mention they give samples?! Shopping a gourmet place like this will be on the more pricey side but, for me, it’s worth it because going to the cheese shop becomes part of the overall experience. I love taking the time to chat and get their recommendations to build my perfect assortment. But for those who want a turn-key option, they also have these nifty pre-arranged plates that you can order!
Other snacks I like to include are: Rosemary Sea Salt Marcona Almonds from Trader Joes, cherry tomatoes, hummus, sliced veggies and pita chips. You can also achieve this same type of spread on the less expensive side if you hit Trader Joes or the local market for everything. If the group is going to be on the larger side (6+), I usually do a mix of fancy Cheese Mongers with more Trader Joes options for munching. Can you get cheaper? Absolutely! Just make some sandwiches, add cut fruit, a simple salad and some classic potato chips.
For summery beverages, I keep sparkling water and Italian sodas on hand. Thank you World Market. Packing a few of these pretty glass bottles will automatically up your picnic game. But for evening events, like Shakespeare in the Park and Cinespia, you better believe I’m packing wine.
For a little comfort, I like to bring a pillow or two and a sheepskin. It makes lounging sooooo much nicer without adding much extra weight to lug around. But for the beach, I’ll swap the sheepskin for beach towels. There are enough hairy-sandy things at the beach without adding one more!
Now here is the key takeaway: It takes very little effort to make your picnic special. Meaning, a colorful and festive blanket takes up just as much space in the trunk as a raggedy old one. It doesn’t take any extra time to put your almonds and cornichons in mason jars or tiffins, rather than a ziplock bag. And it takes very little energy to choose cute disposable plates or melamine options rather than plain white paper plates. So why not go for it?
We are sensory beings. Something as simple as a beautiful picnic spread is an opportunity to create vivid memories for your family and friends to let them know how much you love them. Time spent with them is precious, so let’s set the stage for those memories!