Planning the Perfect Picnic

Planning the Perfect Picnic for an Outdoor Concert or Play

A picnic dinner for a summer symphony performance or theater in the park calls for something a little more special than a sandwich and some potato chips.  With a little creativity, you can put together a tasty and elegant meal to wow your friends and incite the envy of other audience members.  Follow these simple steps to create the ultimate upscale picnic.

Beautiful Picnic Setting

Let Life Imitate Art

Tailor your menu to the performance.  Under the Tuscan Sun outdoor movie night might inspire an Italian themed picnic, an evening of cool jazz could be accompanied by classic American fare with an upscale twist. A few well-chosen accessories and a good color scheme will add style to your party.

Keep Your Cool

Bring a big thermos of a blended frozen drink.  Lemonade blended with ice and frozen strawberries poured out and topped with a splash of prosecco (or premixed with vodka) will cool everyone off and set the tone for the evening.  Serve the guests as they arrive, while you get your spot set up.  Use plastic champagne flutes or cups with festive swizzle sticks for a little extra style.  If you plan to serve white wine or beer with dinner, chill it thoroughly in your fridge at home for at least 24 hours before the event and keep it on ice until you pour.

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Focus on bite-sized foods before the show starts.  Hors d’oeuvres on toothpicks may be passé for a party at home, but will be much appreciated when your guests are juggling a drink in one hand and socializing before curtain time. Consider a caprese salad of buffalo mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and basil leaves pre-made on toothpicks and drizzled with a little balsamic and olive oil as you set out the platter.  Olives or spiced nuts are another good option for pre-show nibbles.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Offer an entrée that your guests can customize to their taste.  Basics like grilled meats or veggies cut into bite sized pieces can be served with a cold pasta dish, such as cold noodles with an Asian-style peanut sauce.  Alternatively, bring a mason jar half full of undressed salad greens for each guest and provide an assortment of toppings.  Choose flavors that would all go together if your guests take a little of everything.  An earthy array of grilled steak cut in bite size pieces, roasted beets, toasted pecans, and chilled farro tossed in balsamic dressing and accompanied by crumbled bleu cheese offers menu options for many dietary needs.

Outdoor picnic scene

All’s Well that Ends Well 

For an indulgent dessert, pre-make individual brownie sundaes in disposable cups, layering brownie and premium ice cream and re-freezing. Carefully pack in the bottom of your cooler (well wrapped against moisture and buried in ice).  At the end of intermission, top with fudge sauce and a dollop of whipped cream for a sweet second-act treat.  For a lighter version, portion out fruit sorbet instead and serve with bite sized shortbread.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Don’t forget lots of napkins, extra cutlery, plenty of chilled bottled water and (rather unsophisticated, but necessary) bug spray.  Your guests will likely be more comfortable on beach chairs than sitting on the ground for a long performance, so bring chairs (or ask everyone to bring their own).  A flashlight might be helpful when you are gathering up your belongings after the show.

With a little preparation and imagination, you can easily create a memorable meal that your guests will enjoy as much as the performance.


About Jane

Hi I’m Jane!
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