Date Night Entertaining Lifestyle

5 Summer Picnic Tips When Hosting Al Fresco

Last modified on December 30th, 2017 at 11:03 am

We’re sharing our favourite picnic tips and our favourite summer activities while dining alfresco with a picnic blanket, simple yet decadent dishes and crisp, bubbly Italian prosecco.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by the Ruffino Wines in partnership with Food Bloggers of Canada. All opinions are our own. Grab a bottle of Ruffino Pino Grigio or Prosecco now available at the LBCO in Ontario. And remember, enjoy and drink responsibly!


It’s officially summer here in Toronto and we’ve passed (knock on wood) the damp and muggy spring rain. It’s safe to say we’re living the blue sky, sun in our hair, 30° cliche weather where shorts, sundresses and hats are a wardrobe must. And with good weather comes one of our favourite things about summer; dining alfresco with a picnic blanket, simple yet decadent dishes and crisp, bubbly Italian prosecco.

But what makes a memorable picnic, well, a memorable picnic? We’re sharing our top picnic tips from beginning, middle and end to ensure perfect picnics every time.

“A picnic is more than eating a meal, it is a pleasurable state of mind.” – DeeDee Stovel

1. Location, location, location

Whether it’s in the park, by the beach, or in your own backyard, the location of your picnic should be in a comfortable, flat and perfectly shaded or perfectly sunny spot (or something in between). Find a spot that allows for easy eating, fun activities and enough room for you to stretch out and relax under the blue sky. Plus, bonus points if you find a spot that’s partially blocked from the wind, because sand and/or grass and/or gravel does not count as farm to table eating.

2. Set the Scene

Whenever we’re having a picnic one of my favourite things to do is set the scene. A large picnic blanket and pillows make dining on the floor much more comfy and relaxing when paired with an awesome playlist. Other accessories like cloth napkins, pretty dishes, cutlery, serving utensils and servings boards make dining outside more elegant and memorable. Be sure to pack an extra bag to put all your dirty dishes in once your meal is over.

picnic tips

3. Well Prepared Dishes

At the heart of every memorable picnic is a delicious and satisfying meal and the best meals are the ones that can be made ahead. Our recipe for the perfect picnic meal includes the 3 S’s: snacks, salad and sandwiches. Not only can they be made days in advance of your picnic, but can be made in bulk and are simple enough for everyone’s tastes.

Snack: we recommend a charcuterie board with a few different textured cheeses, meats, grapes, olives and jellies. Style your cheese board the night before, wrap it up and pack it in the cooler. Don’t forget to pack cheese knifes and crackers or crostini. The best part about a charcuterie board is that it can be used as your appetizer and brought back out for dessert. Just be sure to fill in the empty spots with chocolate.

picnic tips

Salads: our favourite salad to make using leftover bread and prepared the day before is panzanella. Rich, crispy and decent based on the accompaniments used, a panzanella travels well because it needs time for the flavours to meld together and for the bread to absorb all the goodness from the dressing. Made using fresh ingredients like basil, arugula, figs, and ricotta, this recipe makes dining alfresco so good you might not want to head back inside. Get our Fig Panzanella with Ricotta and Basil below or watch the recipe video here.

Sandwiches: who doesn’t love a good sandwich? Grilled chicken in sandwiches are much better for you than deli meats and can be paired with even more gourmet flavours. Grab your favourite baguette, smear it with mayonnaise, top it with a few pieces of chicken, sautéed onions and basil leaves, a few slice of cheese and arugula for a gourmet dish guaranteed to look like you’ve spent hours making it.

Tip: wrap your sandwiches in craft or parchment and tie a string around it to help keep its shape when travelling. Plus, it’s super cute, making your sandwiches look like they are straight out of France.

If you’re dining in your backyard or dining on the deck, opt for a simple yet elegant pasta dish. We love serving earthy pesto made with walnuts as the basil draws from nature and pairs well a light white wine. Get the recipe for our Walnut Pesto here.

picnic tips

4. Drink Plenty, Drink Responsibly

No picnic is complete without a little bubbly. A must-have picnic tip is to select a wine that is one with nature and Ruffino wine embodies that tip. Their Pino Grigio has notes of meadow flowers, hints of pear and is a fragrant and elegant addition to any picnic. But my all time favourite is prosecco. There’s something exciting about popping a bottle and carefully pouring as the bubbles erupt. Served as an aperitif with a decadent charcuterie board the prosecco might just be the star of the picnic.

Tip: freeze a few strawberries or raspberries and toss them into your prosecco. Not only will they help keep the prosecco cool but it’s a lovely touch and sure to impress.

Take your picnic to the next level with a bottle of Ruffino Pino Grigio or Prosecco , now available at the LCBO.

picnic tips

5. Disconnect and Be Present

A picnic is only as good as how present you are. Put your devices away and disconnect from wifi to reconnect with nature. Be sure to think of a few fun activities to keep you busy and phone-free while on your picnic. We love packing a good book, a ball to throw around, a deck of cards or a few badminton rackets. Keeping yourself entertained on a picnic adds to the experience and makes it memorable.

Bon appetit xo

Chef Sous Chef

picnic tips

Print

Fig Panzanella with Ricotta & Basil

Overhead view of Fig and Ricotta Panzanella

Changing the panzanella’s basic foundation, the swap of tomatoes for figs and a healthy sprinkling of mildly sweet ricotta cheese, makes this fig panzanella a summer staple perfect for picnics and backyard entertaining.

  • Author: Chef Sous Chef
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Food + Drink, Appetizer, Main
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread (torn or 1/2″ cubed (about 4 cups))
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1/4 medium red onion (thinly sliced with the grain)
  • 4 whole figs (diced)
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves (loosely packed and torn)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

No. 1 | Toss the bread with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil to coat. Heat a skillet on medium-high and add the bread to toast on each side until golden brown. Add more olive oil as necessary. Place them in a bowl to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

No. 2 | Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Whisk until combined. Add the sliced onions and figs to the bread. Pour all but 2 tbsp of the dressing and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours in the fridge.

No. 3 | Just before serving, add the arugula, basil and ricotta cheese. Toss with remaining dressing and serve.

Notes

Tip: always use slightly stale bread. It crisps much better in the pan and soaks up the dressing more than fresh could ever.

Styling tip: pile a salad dish high with your panzanella then top with additional ricotta, basil leaves and walnuts for a nuttier flavour and more texture.

Keywords: panzanella recipe, picnic recipes, easy fig recipes

 

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