by Alifair Skebe
The summer season is just beginning. The days and nights are warm, outdoor playhouses and parks in every city feature a fantastic line-up of music, plays, poetry and dance. You want to enjoy your lunch and dinner in this expressive milieu. You wonder how to put together that delicious, varied basket of goodies for yourself and your picnic buddies.
No worry! The Cheese Traveler has got you covered. Many of the suggested items can be purchased at The Cheese Traveler shop in Albany, NY or found in your own pantry.
Start with Cheese. Cheese is a classic picnic food predating written history. In ancient times, nomadic peoples from Northern China carried cheese in small urns, and to this day, travelers all over the world tote the nutrient-dense food on trips and outdoor hikes. In small ¼ to ½ pound wedges, cheese is wonderfully portable and resists spoiling in the heat. In fact, as the cheese warms to temperature, it becomes more flavorful: its complexities become stronger and more discernible. Choose an assortment of different styles, types, and milks for your picnic. Harder cheeses such as Comte, Gruyère, Cheddar, and Parmesan will generally last longer in warmer temperatures, though for an afternoon or evening jaunt, don’t be afraid to take a triple-crème, goat’s milk pyramid, Taleggio, or Stilton.
Add Charcuterie. Like cheese, cured meats are a classic, portable food. Smoked, dried, cured, or baked, charcuterie pairs beautifully with picnic cheeses. Adding a few slices of a salty, savory meat is a low-cost way to add some protein to your plate and delight your senses. Choose two or three meats to complement your cheese or to snack on alone. Typically, salami and dry-cured ham will last longer in the heat than cooked ham or pate; yet again, during a few hours of entertainment, there is little need to worry about their spoiling. A wonderful combination of charcuterie will include a hard salami such as Sopressata, Saussicon Sec, or Chorizo; a dry-cured ham such as Prosciutto or Jamon Serrano; a cooked ham or Mortadella; and a country pate.
Pair with Condiments. While enjoying cheese and meat, add flavor perks to jazz up your palate. Since you’re out in the heat, consider both sweet and savory combinations that will satiate your sweet tooth and replenish your salt balance. Choose a varietal honey and seasonal jam as well as a fine mustard, cornichons, and olives. Consider adding a handful of nuts and local, seasonal fresh fruit as well.
Bread and Crackers. What cheese would not be enhanced by crusty baguette, crispy crackers, or gluten-free crisps? Oh yeah.
Pack a Cheese Board and Knives. Your delectable treats could well be eaten out of the package, though isn’t it tastier and more delightful to dine with a little portable elegance? Consider using a Brooklyn Slate board, or a light-weight, wooden one. Arrange your cheeses and meats on the board from mildest in flavor to strongest. Pack a few knives, one for each cheese, and include several small spoons to scoop out the honey, jam, and mustard.
Pack a Set of Linens and Tableware. Choose a nice tablecloth or blanket. Include some cloth napkins, a set of flatware, and a couple of plates. Go for the classy ceramic plates or some nice, light-weight melamine plates.
Secure your stash with a basket. Choose a traditional wicker basket, a roomy backpack, or a tote bag. Pick up, zip or tie.
Now you’re ready to go!