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Gastronomy

Picnic Redux

By Robyn Fadden

Revive the picnic tradition this summer with fresh culinary ideas, perfectly packable gourmet dishes, and tempting treats. While a baguette and creamy Brie will never go out of style, there’s something to be said for sunny-day surprises in the picnic basket, whether you’re out on a date or feeding the whole family.

Try these twists on tried-and-true picnic dishes:
– Visit a farmers’ market to find different kinds of cheese – sample Brie-like Lille, aged goat cheese, and smoked Gouda – and see what vegetables are in season for salads and crudités.
– Make coleslaw a fresh experience by replacing mayonnaise with herbed vinegar and olive oil.
– Turn a simple fruit salad into a summertime abundance of local and tropical fruits, from blueberries to mangos, sparking conversation and the taste buds.
– Take an entirely new direction with finger foods from Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisine, such as maki rolls with avocado and cucumber, falafel in pita pockets with fresh vegetables, or soft tacos with refried beans and all the fixings.

Add spark to the usual BBQ menu with:
– Spiced-up fresh shrimp on skewers.
– Sweet corn cooked directly on the grill or still in its husk.
– Marinated Portobello mushrooms, fresh fennel, and asparagus.
– Grilled cheese sandwiches elevated to epic proportions with prosciutto and fresh herbs, market-bought cheese, and bakery bread such as baguettes and ciabatta buns.
– Dessert: heat adds sugary depth to the natural sweetness of bananas, pineapple, peaches, watermelon, and strawberries – make a caramel or chocolate sauce ahead of time to drizzle on grilled fruits for serious decadence.

Cool down with drinks that sparkle in the sunshine:
– Keep the barbecue lit for halved lemons and limes – splash them in mixed drinks for a smoky-sweet flavour.
– Add fresh mint sprigs or berries to homemade lemonade or iced tea – make it with maple syrup or honey instead of sugar for a flavourful twist.
– Liven up a summery rosé wine with bubbly soda water, pomegranate juice, or a fruity garnish.

Play up picnic aesthetics for an unforgettable event:
– Choose a theme for the picnic and prep foods and costumes to go with it, such as Kentucky Derby opulence, 1950s beach-blanket style, or even a flying carpet ride complete with a Moroccan menu.
– With or without a theme, new picnic decorations, from bright table cloths and napkins to streamers and balloons hung from tree branches, add plenty of party flare to the day.