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Summertime Spells Picnics for Every Palate and Every Occasion

By Ellen Samsell Salas


“Picnics are a way to bring people together and celebrate the joys of life. They’re an experience outside of meeting up for just the typical dinner and drinks, and a place to foster memories for the future.”
– Ashley Grier, owner of Better Together Picnic Company


Dressed up or put together at the spur of the moment, picnics, from the French “pique-nique,” are perfect for warm summer days when the sun is late to set. While you might not enjoy the liveried servers and formal place settings known to 19th century English gentry or the idyllic graciousness of artists Renoir and Manet’s picnics, you can tailor your al fresco dining adventure to fit many occasions and suit tastes from young to old, gourmet to plain wrap.


A List of Essentials
To ease the burden, invest in a foldable, lightweight wagon.

  • Picnic basket (or “hamper” in British parlance)
  • Ice chest or cooler
  • Insulated food carriers
  • Water-resistant ground cloth
  • Coordinated table linens – bright for a birthday or subdued for an engagement
  • Portable lawn chairs
  • Bottle opener and corkscrew
  • Plastic drinking glasses including champagne flutes
  • Paper, reusable plastic, or today’s chic melamine plates
  • Knives, forks, and spoons – don’t forget serving utensils
  • And, since you’ll likely be picnicking in Georgia, bug repellent and sunscreen


Picnic Themes


Celebrating Our Southern Roots

Make sure you stock the cooler with ice and take along warming bags. Surprise everyone by prefilling jam jars with individual servings of creamy banana pudding. For a fun touch, decorate each jar with gingham fabric and tie with a bright ribbon or make individual pineapple upside-down cakes using a muffin tin.

  • Fried chicken
  • Barbecue pulled-pork sliders
  • Tomato pie
  • Cole slaw
  • Succotash salad
  • Homemade biscuits
  • Pimento cheese with crackers
  • Deviled eggs
  • Pickled okra and peppers
  • Spiced pecans
  • Banana pudding
  • Pineapple upside-down cake


It’s Teatime

Immortalized by Jane Austen, and more recently in Downton Abbey, comes the tradition of English tea. Whether you call it a cream tea, high tea, or just that pick-me-up “cuppa,” this picnic will charm even die-hard coffee lovers. Set the mood by taking a three-tiered cake stand, linen tablecloth and napkins, tea set, and silver sugar tongs.

  • Cucumber, watercress, tomato, and egg-salad sandwiches
  • Homemade scones
  • Petit fours
  • Crisp butter biscuits or shortbread
  • Buttercream chocolate chip cookies
  • Devon clotted cream
  • Lemon curd
  • Strawberry jam or marmalade
  • Thermos of hot Earl Grey or Darjeeling tea
  • Cream and sugar
  • Champagne mimosas


Join the Fiesta!

These favorites from south of the border travel well and can be kept warm with little effort. A heavy-duty serape will not only add color to the fiesta but will also serve as a perfect ground cover. For entertainment, hang a pinata filled with sweet treats and small toys. 

  • An ample supply of chips, red and green salsa, pico de gallo, and fresh guacamole
  • Empanadas
  • Mini tacos
  • Sliced quesadillas
  • Fried green chiles
  • Mexican gazpacho
  • Mexican street corn salad
  • Flan and Mexican sweet breads
  • Horchata (Mexican sweet milk)
  • Margarita mix


Quintessential Charcuterie

You can’t go wrong with the array of possibilities in this picnic. Dress up your fare by serving it on a silver platter, or dress it down by packing a wooden one.

  • Assorted meats – salami, spiced ham or prosciutto, smoked salmon or salmon pate
  • Cheeses – aged cheddar, smoked gouda, and stilton for those who like flavor; brie or gouda for the less adventurous
  • Mini cheese and onion quiches
  • Dijon or other gourmet mustard
  • Dried apricots, dates, or other fruit paired with gourmet nuts
  • Olive tapenade
  • Red and green grapes, strawberries, and sliced kiwi
  • Pickles, olives (both kalamata and green), and stuffed grape leaves
  • Bruschetta
  • Baby carrots, artichoke hearts, or hearts of palm
  • Breadsticks, hard-crusted baguettes, and sliced pita or flatbread triangles
  • Chilled pinot grigio or chenin blanc
  • Sparkling water


Music, Dancing, and Dining Under the Stars

Summer means outdoor concerts enhanced by dinner and, sometimes, dancing.

  • Spicy hummus with crudites
  • Grilled, sliced chicken breast with aioli
  • Assortment of roasted summer veggies
  • Roast beef wraps
  • Quinoa and mint salad
  • Sliced sourdough baguettes
  • Chocolate cheesecake squares
  • Sparkling water
  • Libations – chenin blanc or pinot grigio, petit syrah or zinfandel, and an assortment of craft beers


Fourth of July Fun for All

Choose from childhood favorites that are sure to please everyone from Grandma and Grandpa to those just toddling about. Make the nation’s birthday special by including homemade options. Opt for red, white, and blue paper goods and take along a few sparklers to add to the spirit of ’76!

  • PB&J sandwiches for the young at heart
  • Southern ham sandwiches for more mature palates
  • Homemade potato chips
  • Grilled corn, roasted kale, or green bean salad
  • For the kids – white, chocolate, and red velvet mini cupcakes
  • For the adults – strawberry shortcake with seasonal berries and robust dollops of whipped cream atop homemade sweet biscuits
  • Cooler filled with everyone’s favorite sodas, fruit juice pouches, water, sweet tea, and lemonade


Cause for Celebration

Whether it’s an engagement or anniversary, a graduation or retirement, make this picnic one to remember. You’ll definitely need champagne flutes for this theme! Take along a bouquet of flowers, party hats and balloons, or hang a festive banner to fit the occasion.

  • Chocolate pudding dip and an assortment of fresh fruits for dipping
  • Sliced chicken wraps
  • Onion and cheddar cheese puffs
  • Herbed goat cheese and water crackers
  • White-chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • Candied pecans or almonds
  • Champagne