Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind. Okay … forget the barftastic Will Smith song. (Wouldn’t want you to lose your appetite.) The season of outdoor dining has arrived and a tasty picnic is just the way to do it. There’s something charmingly old-fashioned and even a little romantic (depending on your company) about setting out a blanket in the great outdoors and breaking bread among nature. But where do you get the bread you’re about to break? Glad you asked. Whether you’re in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Napa Valley, here are some delicious ideas for prepared picnics to go.
Cube Cafe – Los Angeles, CA
Make it a double at this charming little cafe that offers Cube’s Fried Chicken Picnic Box for Two. The $48 picnic includes their famous heirloom tomato & peach mozzarella salad, spicy fried chicken, two picnic-friendly sides and Gaviota strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream. Fork over a little more cash and you can add wine pairings. You can also do a la carte picnic options like the Cheese Monger’s selection of assorted cheeses and salumi, seasonal salads and soups, panini and desserts like homemade chocolate chip cookies. A la carte picnic boxes range around $25-$35 per person.
L’Epicerie Market – Culver City, CA
Don’t wanna get into a pre-fixe, pre-packaged picnic plan? Then this delightful new French cafe is just the place to get your a la carte fix. The little marketplace has everything you need including wicker baskets, wine openers, linens and delicious rustic fare thanks to chef Sebastian Archambault. (From breakfast wraps and French pastries to sandwiches, salads, cheeses and terrines). Founder/partner Thierry Perez will work with you to create a basket based on your budget and number of people. Even better — all wines purchased to-go are 15% off and Perez will pair a bottle to match whatever picnic bites you’ve chosen.
Napa Style Paninoteca & Wine Bar – Yountville, CA
Some like it hot. And some like it cold. Either way, you’re all set at this shop/cafe/wine bar located inside the flagship Napa Style store at V Marketplace. For $15, you can order Lunch in a Box, which includes a sandwich of your choice, salad, pickled veggies and a cookie. You’re probably gonna also want to grab a bottle of vino and then head straight outside to the patio … or take it anywhere in the area. (After all, you are in Wine Country.) Just watch out or you might end up with everything but the kitchen sink. Literally. This place carries cookware, tableware, picnic baskets, cute little plates, cups, napkins … even the picnic table!
Malibu Cafe @ Calamigos Ranch – Malibu, CA
This alfresco getaway up in Malibu wine country is offering a picnic basket to be enjoyed anywhere on the enormous property until closing. For $100, the Gourmet Picnic Basket for Two includes the following selections from their country-style menu and list of Malibu wines: A bottle of Saddlerock Wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot or Cabernet), one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert and a blanket. Did I mention the outdoor pool table, lake, rope course and Ferris wheel? Yeah, there’s no extra charge for all that.
Gladstones – Pacific Palisades, CA
It doesn’t get more LA than a picnic at the beach. This old-timer with a new look is inviting locals and visitors alike to experience Gladstones like never before — on the shores of Will Rogers State Beach. The new “Summer in the Sand” picnic lets you mix and match certain menu items as well as take home a Gladstones beach towel. The individually priced items include the California salmon salad ($25), grilled tuna sandwich ($18), seafood ceviche ($20), cup of chowder ($6.50), fries ($5) and house salad ($5), which come in an insulated picnic basket. To order, call (310)454-3474.
Russ & Daughters – New York, NY
It seems everyone in NYC is aflutter about Perfect Picnic, a new picnic delivery shop that just opened, but the ultimate New York picnic wouldn’t be the ultimate New York picnic if it didn’t come courtesy of this Lower East Side institution. From pastrami-cured salmon, stuffed trout and Holland herring to hand-rolled bagels, salads, shmears (including tofu cream ‘cheese’), caviar, dried fruits, sweets, and insulated totes, this place is loaded with all the fixins for a perfect picnic. You can also try pre-order options like the Oy Vey Schmear Package ($45, serves 6) and Kiss from the Sea caviar experience ($99.95, serves 1-3). FYI, these guys deliver overnight nationwide, so you can have your herring-and-green-apple bagel ‘wich no matter where you lay your gingham blanket.
Locanda del Lago – Santa Monica, CA
Don’t hold its Third Street Promenade location against it. Locando has been around for 20 years (longer than most celebrities … or their marriages) and now you can enjoy its northern Italian fare with three picnic basket options for a meal on the beach or in nearby Temescal Canyon Park. The three baskets include: Barca (Boat Menu, $20 per person) with chicken salad, focaccia al prosciutto, pasta salad, potato chips and housemade cannoli and panna cotta; Riva (Shore Menu, $28 per person) with market greens salad, caprese salad, salmone al limone, a selection of Italian cheeses, cannoli and panna cotta; and Montagna (Mountain Menu, $35 per person) with Italian antipasto, lasagna, Contessa Branca chicken creast, cannoli and panna cotta. To order call (310)451-3525.
Forage – Silver Lake, CA
Who says the Westside has the only picnic action in town? This uber-popular joint is where you can get farmers-market-and-backyard-forager-driven eats like pork belly sandwiches, soy “steak” salad, daily soups, easy-to-pack sides and loads of homemade sweets. (They’ll bag it for you, but if you want a real basket you’ll have to handle that yourself. How very DIY.) After you’ve gotten your grub to go, head over to the newly opened Silver Lake Meadow at the reservoir and lounge around in all your hipster glory.
Pastoral – Chicago, IL
It makes sense that a place named Pastoral would be where to get whatever you need for an idyllic meal in the great outdoors. With three locations (Lakeview, Loop, Chicago French Market), this gourmet food shop specializing in artisanal cheeses, bread, wine and charcuterie has a menu of five different picnic baskets made for two. Try the Summer’s Brew Picnic ($39.99), which comes with a trio of cheeses, two local ales (Half Acre Brewery’s Gossamer and Daisy Cutter), salametti, Sicilian spiced olives and baguette. If you’re going stag, not to worry. Check out the sandwich and salad menu and “Pastoralize” it for $3.79 extra to add on a small bag o’ chips, drink and cookie.
Oakville Grocery – Napa, CA
This nostalgic little country store out in the middle of Highway 29 is the perfect place to get provisions for your al fresco feast. Originally opened in 1881 (a second location in Healdsburg opened in 1997), this “Little House on the Prairie”-esque mart offers made-to-order sandwiches, gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, lots of wine and just about every accoutrement imaginable. The American Style Picnic ($110 for 2-4 people, $150 for 6-8 guests) comes with fried chicken, classic and smoked salmon deviled eggs, potato salad, caprese salad, chilled watermelon with feta, lime & mint, and cookies served in an Oakville Grocery logo cooler while the California Style Picnic (same pricing) is a little healthier with chicken and beef kabobs, caprese salad, potato salad, fruit salad and dessert bars. Whatever you end up getting, be sure to say hello to Nellie and Half Pint.