What’s The Spread?
Picnic ideas from foodie moms
Fancy is, in no way, a pre-requisite for a fun family picnic. But there’s something to say for a gourmet spread in a lovely outdoor setting. For inspiration, we asked some of New York’s top food-minded moms to share with us their thoughts on the ideal picnic.
Jen Denton, co-owner of ino’, the tiny Italian sandwich bar in Greenwich Village
Denton and her restaurateur hubby Jason like to take their sons on a sailboat from Chelsea Piers, for a two-hour cruise around the Hudson. “They have these great 80-foot wooden schooners that sail out to the Statue of Liberty. The cost is around $100 for our family of four.”
On the menu: “We go to ‘ino and grab some limonata sodas, pressed mozzarella-and-prosciutto sandwiches, and a fennel, arugula and goat cheese salad to go.” For dessert? Biscotti from Sullivan Street Bakery.
Packing style: She packs it all in an L.L. Bean Boat Tote. “They are sturdy and wide, and come in all sizes and colors—perfect for any picnic.”
Karine Bakhoum, judge on Iron Chef America and owner of KB Network News, which launches New York restaurants.
Bakhoum loves to picnic in her garden in Southampton. “We sit around a low table, on a blanket by the pool. I do a Middle Eastern picnic, with mostly finger foods and salads.”
On the menu: Beef kebabs on skewers; lemon and cilantro marinated kebabs; petite grilled herbed lamb chops, grilled pita, hummus, homemade fava bean dip with baby carrots; feta, key lime and olive oil spread with fresh cucumber sticks; and of course yummy salads—grape tomato, red onion, tapenade and cilantro; yogurt, cucumber, mint and garlic. For dessert, cookies baked by the kids, or watermelon.
Packing style: She likes to use her French Straw basket from l’Occitane.
Raquel Pelzel, foodie writer, including cook books for Williams-Sonoma and restaurant reviews for New York magazine online and the Wall Street Journal
“We like to go to Fort Greene Park, where our 4-year-old son Julian can go bug hunting or something like that with a neighborhood friend, and then picnic after.”
On the menu: Couscous ‘confetti’ salad: pulse red and orange bell peppers in a food processor. Toss with couscous, feta, chopped basil, olive oil, lemon. Cannellini Dip: infuse olive oil with rosemary and garlic, strain out, puree with white beans. Eat with pretzel and pita chips. Watermelon salad: puree basil with mint, salt, water, lime juice. Toss with watermelon chunks. Peanut Noodles: quick peanut sauce with peanut butter, water, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, honey, lime juice. Toss with soba noodles, carrot ribbons, slivered snow peas (blanched), fresh cilantro. Focaccia bread gingers: top bread with mozzarella, canned tomatoes, basil. Cut into small “fingers.
Packing style: She uses a stackable Vivo Bento Box that she bought on Amazon. “Its colorful and cute and easy to transport salads and fruit. And we carry it all in a bag my mother-in-law made for us out of plastic grocery store bags. She cuts them into strips and then weaves them to make a cool eco shopping bag.”
Stacie Billis, founder of OneHungryMama.com
Billis heads straight for Brooklyn Bridge Park, in Dumbo. “The entrance at the end of Main Street is right near the playground, a great spot with a tire swing, slides, sprinkler and a sandbox. Walk past the playground and you end up in big, grassy area that’s adjacent to a pebble beach, where you can collect rocks or throw them into the east River. Hours of fun for little ones. “
On the menu: Spanish tortilla. “It’s yummy cold (straight from the cooler) or at room temperature (brown bagged).” Billis says making tortilla is easy: partially cook 3 peeled potatoes enough to cut through them, making 1/4-inch slices. Saute an onion that’s been quartered and thinly sliced in some olive oil over medium heat. Once the onions begin to caramelize, add the potato slices and sauté until they are cooked through and take on a golden brown color. In the meantime, whisk 10 eggs until frothy; add salt and pepper. When the potatoes and onion are done, add a little bit more olive oil to your pan and pour in the eggs. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook until the eggs get puffy, then reduce your heat even further. Cook until the egg is 95% done (with just some uncooked egg skimming the top), before finishing the tortilla under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
“Along with tortilla, I pack a baguette, some Spanish cheese like Manchego, cornichon and some quick oven-roasted chorizo, the fresh, not dried kind. You just throw the sausage in a roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil and cook through. Slice, pack, and pick up with your fingers when it’s time to eat.”
Packing style: She uses casual, reusable plates and flatware by Thomas Paul. (Ikea has less expensive, but just as pretty melamine tableware, too.) “I prefer to pack my own gear in this great cooler tote by Crate & Barrel. If you’re like me and already have melamine plates, steel water bottles and bamboo flatware, you can buy just the cooler for $36.95. Otherwise, buy your tote all pimped out, for $80.
Melissa Clark, food columnist for the New York Times and author of the forthcoming book, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite (Hyperion, Sept).
Clark likes to go to Prospect Park, where there is a defunct rose garden, next to the Vale of Cashmere. “There are no longer any roses, but it is a crowd-free spot with a thick, grass lawn and magnolia trees—away from the bustle of the long meadow.”
On the menu: Clark loves to make pan bagnats, especially flattened tuna sandwiches, with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, olives and anchovies, layered with basil and cucumber. “The longer they sit, the better . . . since the olive oil infuses the crusty bread and makes it easier to eat.” She also packs boxes of coconut water—not too sugary, and a healthier option than the usual juice boxes. For dessert? Dried cherries and fresh watermelon slices.
Packing style: Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Cooler Backpack