Eating out on Valentine’s Day is for amateurs. The menus have inflated prices, the restaurants are packed with diners that rarely get out, and the air is tense with expectations. I would like to suggest an alternative for you this year.
Several years ago my friend Andi gave me a in insulated backpack equipped with wine glasses, utensils, a mini black and white checkered table cloth and a wine opener. There is a detachable wine bottle sized coozie on the side. For several years, it sat unused in the back of the closet, but in the last couple of years I have put this fantastic item to task many times. I have become a professional picnic packer.
Why am I talking about picnics this time of year? Because it was 78 degrees yesterday! I am not sure if Winter has been cancelled or if Mother Nature forgot to blow in the icy wind and rain we are accustomed to this time of year, but nonetheless, you should take advantage of it. If winter does decide to happen this year, the alternative- which I like to call a “bed picnic” is always a romantic and welcomed option in my house.
The key to great picnic is simplicity. Food does not need to be complicated to be delicious. I also enjoy food that you can eat with your hands, or at most may need a fork when you are picnic-ing. Laboring with a knife just doesn’t fit.
Here is a list of contents I recommend:
Pistachios, in the shell
Dried Apricots, Pineapple, Mangos
A Baguette- with Salami, Prosciutto, – or any other delicious cured meats- spread with room temperature butter, add cheese- if you like- maybe Provolone, or Smoked Gouda, or soft creamy Goat Cheese. Have it prepared, sliced into mini sandwiches, and kept in the fridge until you are ready to go.
For a picnic I bring a white sheet and a pretty table cloth, and linen napkins. If it is hot, I freeze a large bottle of Water in advance- it keeps the food cold, and stays chill for us to drink.
Beverages add a whole new dimension to your picnic. I like to start with Bloody Mary’s and then have champagne with lunch. If you don’t know how to make a Bloody Mary- Zing Zang is a good mix. If you have some V8 around, the mix is easy to make. Believe it or not, steak sauce, like A1, can add some zest to tomato juice. I also suggest Worcestershire, Tobasco, Celery Salt, Salt Pepper and Lemon Juice. It is all according to your taste, and it is fun to play with. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget the Vodka, and add some olives or a pickle spear in the thermos.
For champagne, I like to pack the cute pink cans- Sophia Coppola’s Blanc de Blanc. It has notes of pear, and is crisp and perfectly bubblicious. The cans are only 187ml each, so you do not have to commit to a whole bottle of Champagne, and with the attached pink bendy straw, you are a bit less obvious than someone drinking out of a champagne flute in the park.
Also, I doubt any of us needed Toby Keith to announce the stigma that goes with the red solo cup, so think of something better to drink out of. For the Bloody Mary I like to to-go coffee cups with lids you can buy in the same section of the grocery store…or go eco friendly and drink out of coffee cups from home.
To set up the picnic, I like to pack the food so that it easy to eat- Chinese Food boxes work great (and they are cute), but so does Tupperware. I bring just one plate to share. I use the napkins and tablecloth to protect anything that may need it during transport. If you want to go overboard, bring a pillow. It always feels good to take a nap in the sun after a good meal.
Don’t ask me why, but food always tastes better in the sun.
If Winter does finally get here, just put the tablecloth on your bed, get in your pajamas, and have the picnic inside. Light a few candles. Watch a movie you don’t necessarily have to pay attention to. Have fun.
(image via http://simplesong.typepad.com)
Heather Saalfeld has lived and worked in downtown St. Augustine for the last 15 years. She has a ten year old son, Leo and a bad dog named Jeffe. Her passions are travel, food and entertaining. She is a bartender at St. George Tavern and Cap’s on the Water, and a full time student at Flagler College. In her spare time she attempts to garden. Her best days are spent with family and friends, usually around a large table in the back yard.