We’re spoiled in Southern California with al fresco weather nearly year-round, but that distinct summer vibe—think flip-flops, beach towels, late sunsets, and barbecues—is hard to replicate in the others seasons. That’s why I’ve been fighting my laziness and making sure I tick off all the summer goals I made mental note of in June. Things like heading to Sunset Cliffs to watch golden hour on a weeknight or hanging out in Imperial Beach on a Friday evening when the farmers market turns the pier area into one big block party. And also picnics, tons and tons of picnics.
There’s no shortage of good picnic spots in San Diego, from Balboa Park and Mission Hills’ Pioneer Park to Windansea Beach and even the area outside our baseball stadium, Petco Park, but my favorite is Kate Sessions Memorial Park in Pacific Beach. The wide, grassy space (on a sloping hill) has trees, ocean vistas, skyline views, and a very lax policy on keeping dogs leashed (you didn’t hear it from me). It’s also where I chose to ring in the big 3-0. It’s a really special, really beautiful spot.So with the spirit of summer in mind, here are six steps to to plan your next picnic party:
The type of pack. Baskets are a sweet nostalgic touch, but I also have a cool backpack that comes with insulated pockets, slots to store plates and utensils, and even a clasp on the outside to secure a rolled-up blanket. It’s a great option if you’ll be biking to your picnic destination.
The tools. I highly recommend packing real plates, glasses, and cutlery. Beyond the argument for being eco-friendly, it’ll feel more like a proper meal. Don’t forget napkins, cutting/cheese knives, a bottle opener, salt, pepper, and a bag to store all of your trash. (Do not be a litter bug.) But my favorite tip of all is to bring a big Zip-loc because once you open those cheeses, the Zip-loc will be a safe place to store the now-unwrapped fromage.
The food. I like to include at least one veggie side, a serving of fruit, one cheese and/or meat side, one main, and a dessert that can withstand heat unless you have a proper cooler. On this day with my girlfriends, I packed baby carrots, grapes (the organic ones at Trader Joe’s are the best), caprese salad skewers (which look very impressive but are stupid simple to make), this Greek chickpea salad, and to make the meal a bit fuller, we added a cheese platter. Using my handy cheese guide, I combined goat, cow, and sheep’s milk cheeses for variety and added dried cherries, pesto, crackers, and sliced baguette. For dessert, we had chocolate pirouettes.
The drinks. Wine and beer are good options, but I hardly ever drink alcohol. Maybe a glass of wine or a sangria here and there, but 99.9% of the time, I want a virgin cocktail that tastes “fruity and fizzy,” as I often tell bartenders. A lot of the carbonated options out there are full of artificial flavors, but the new IZZE Sparkling Water is USDA Organic Certified—made with organic natural flavors and organic cane sugar. The twist-off bottles come in three flavors, including Mandarin Lime, Raspberry Watermelon, and (my favorite) Blackberry Pear, and it’s an ideal refresher in the heat—a bit bubbly, a bit sweet. A low-calorie drink, IZZE Sparkling Water has just 10 calories per 12-oz serving and a hint of organic pure cane sugar (1-2 grams). Lately I’ve been taking them to work for that inevitable 3 p.m. need for sugar. Between the bubbles and the sweetness, it’s satisfying and in the time it takes to drink, I forget about that donut/pastry/cookie I wanted.
The cool factor. Coolers, insulated bags, ice packs—there are a variety of ways to ensure that your food and drinks stay fresh. Some people pack cooler items on top of your basket because heat rises, but we separated our foods into separate bags by temperature. (My S’well bottle is amazing at keeping hot things hot and cold things cold.)
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.