Avoid a picnic let-down with semi-warm potato salad on flimsy plates. If you stick to the necessities, picnic success is closer than you think
The key ingredients
It’s easier than you think to create an Instagram-worthy picnic spread with these key ingredients:
- Easy food
- Good friends
- A great location
The Rochester area has endless options for prime picnic locations: Oxbow Park in Byron, The History Center of Olmsted County, St. Mary’s Park, Chester Woods or the Plummer House Gardens all offer picture-perfect scenery.
Once you’ve set the location, turn to everyone’s favorite (and most important) part–the food. My philosophy is to highlight locally raised food with simple preparation.
Choosing seasonal produce from local farmers is the ultimate starting point. To create a spread that all your friends will love, hit the Rochester Farmers Market and choose the offerings that look tasty that weekend.
Cut things into shapes and sizes that are easy to grab with no utensils needed. For variety, I like to leave some things raw (think carrots, tomatoes, radishes) and grill others (zucchini, asparagus, potatoes). Don’t miss the jars of different pickled veggies (The Old Fashioned Dill Pickles from Moses Farms in Chatfield are top notch) and homemade spreads to jazz things up. Since these items don’t require immediate refrigeration, your picnic can last for hours without worry.
To accompany all of your fresh finds, you can’t beat the cheeses from The CannonBelles in Cannon Falls. Choose a variety of hard and soft (although if the weather is warm, you may wish to stick with harder cheeses), mild and pungent. Arrange them simply on a board surrounded by apples or grapes and crackers or bread, and go wild.
For a heartier snack, nothing beats a galette in my book. Flaky pastry filled with whatever your heart desires AND you can eat it with your hands? Sign me up! Take the shortcut and use store-bought pie crust or make your own. Do whatever works for you. The internet is chock-full of flavor combinations, but my personal favorites include a layer of the Smoked Tomato and Rosemary Jam from southeast Minnesota’s Flavour In a Jar with super ripe tomatoes and balsamic glaze, zucchini and ricotta (with lots of flaky sea salt), or fig jam and goat cheese. You can certainly take these the sweet route too! Pile up some local berries and bake until bubbly– you will not be disappointed.
Betting on the right beverage
Whatever tasty beverage you choose to accompany your killer spread, the best vessel is a mason jar. They’re great whether you’re whipping up a drink at home and need to transport it, or if you’re uncorking a bottle of wine once you’ve arrived at your perfect picnic spot. Simply replace the lid to avoid any spills on the uneven ground.
My top choice: Make a fruit-filled Sangria while prepping your picnic, pour into individual mason jars so they are perfect by the time you reach your destination! Looking for a zero-proof option? Shake things up with a lemon-limeade instead!
Topping it off
Don’t forget a sweet treat to top off your perfect picnic. Bake ‘em fresh or stock up from a local bakery or cottage food producer! Might I suggest a cake cup from Bites By Kara (bitesbykara.com)?
With these tips, you are sure to have picnic success. Make some yummy snacks, gather some friends and settle in at a peaceful spot. Snap a pic to share the fruits of your labor, then kick back and enjoy the company in front of you!
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