How to Host the Best Picnic Ever
Yogi Bear had the great idea of ”pick-a-nicks”. Eating out makes everything better and it’s also much more convivial and fun.
Outdoor dining sounds so much more awe-inspiring than a “picnic,” but whatever you call it, outdoor dining can be a delicious way to entertain friends and family.
But before you take the basket, there are a few intermediate steps to take to organize the perfect picnic.
Start by deciding why you want to have a picnic and who would attend. Is it for immediate family only, or will several families in the neighborhood participate? Is it a birthday party or another party? Will it be a casual event or a more formal affair?
Knowing who will be invited and the reason for the picnic allows you to plan the menu. If there are parents and children, the menu should include foods that children are likely to eat, such as macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. Set up a table for the kids far enough away from the adults for pleasant conversation, but close enough to keep an eye on them, and get there quickly if little Johnny starts choking on a not-quite-chewed hot dog.
On a related note, bring a well-stocked first aid kit and keep in mind that mayonnaise can be used to soothe burns caused by accidentally approaching too close to the grill.
Once you have the guest list, choose a location. Many parks have picnic tables and pavilions available on a first-come, first-served basis, but on holidays you may need to reserve the tables and/or pavilion in advance. Don’t assume you’ll just show up and find a seat. Some may allow you to use an open party tent and your own table in an open space, but confirm all of this before you arrive, to avoid a nasty surprise.
If the guest list is limited to adults, you can decide what to serve based on who is there. For example, if the guest list consists of your family and a few cousins, you can most likely plan a casual meal of burgers and hot dogs, along with chicken for those who don’t eat red meat.
This brings us to another filter to apply to your plan: Find out if anyone on the guest list has any food allergies or food preferences. Don’t assume everyone can eat what you make, or you might find guests filling their plates with nothing but pickles and potato salad staring at you.
If the guest list includes co-workers, and especially if your supervisors are on it, you need to expand it a bit. This is the culinary version of “dressing to impress”, so you’ll want to serve unique or special dishes such as appetizers from portobello mushrooms with cheese, a selection of drinks including a range of sodas, wines and spritzers, as well as several brands of beer. Use better quality disposable dishes, cutlery, napkins and cups than you would use for “just the family”.
Whatever your choice of appetizers and sides, prepare them in the days leading up to the event, in trays that are easy to transport to the picnic site, and put them in the refrigerator. If you run out of fridge space, which you are sure to, ask your neighbors (who are guests at the event) if they will keep them in their fridge. Ice drinks the morning of the event; a trick to make things easier is to add ice to coolers when they are already loaded into the van or SUV, before bringing all the food and supplies to the picnic site. Don’t skimp on the ice; it rarely lasts as long as expected and is essential for keeping drinks cold and food fresh. Serving hot sodas or beer is a big no.
Another option is to break away from the traditional picnic food choices of deviled eggs, baked beans, coleslaw, burgers and hot dogs, and opt instead for a theme such as pizza. , with unexpected sides such as a refreshing black-eyed pea salad, freshly made guacamole, or broccoli and mozzarella pressed sandwiches that are as fun to watch as they are good to eat.
For desserts that will make you a legend, consider Hello Dollies, chocolate chip toffee cakes made with Ritz crackers for a one-of-a-kind treat, or brownies on a sheet pan that look like a pizza crust. thin but are much tastier.
If you opt for pizza, you can use a number of propane grills that have optional oven accessories. To add excitement, let your guests choose the toppings. Don’t wince if they ask for Hawaiian pizza – it’s an acquired taste with many loyal fans.
Finally, pack insect repellent and sunscreen; Coming home sunburned is not the way you want your guests to remember an otherwise great affair.
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