The sun is shining and the ground has finally dried after the spring rains. Spring cleaning is in full force but put “picnic in the park” on your schedule and deal with the dust bunnies later. Pick your favorite park—we’ve got some great ideas where to pick up your picnic fare, along with some gear to make dining a breeze.
Bread & Chocolate
The dessert haven will surprise you with their perfect picnic spread—the spread sampler. Owner Bryce Quinn says the sampler is “easy to eat and easy to share.” It includes your choice of signature spreads, including house-made tuna, egg salad, specialty hummus, vegetarian cream cheese and a cream cheese seafood spread. The sampler is served with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and thin red onion along with a baguette or focaccia bread. It’s perfect for lounging on the picnic blanket.
But this being the spot for sweet treats, you can’t skip dessert. Quinn recommends the fabulous fudge ($3.50), and fudge brownie ($2.75). “Cut in half or quarters, they are the perfect bite,” he says. But if you’ve had enough chocolate (not possible), the mini cookie box, which comes with two dozen cookies ($24) is also a great option.
And to wash it all down? “Pair these with our house-brewed blackberry iced tea,” ($1.95/16 oz.) Quinn says. “It’s a customer favorite.”
One of the best things about a picnic is that because of its casual nature, sharing is pretty much a given. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up a couple of different sandwiches from Cecils Deli to split with your companion and try something new. Maybe it’s something you’ve been meaning to sample, like the loxburger ($10.59).
It’s Nova Scotia lox (cured with a milder brine and then cold-smoked) and cream cheese on a bagel, served with onion, tomato and sweet pickles. It’s a classic combination, and if you haven’t tried it before, Cecils is a good place to start.
Next sharing item? The Leonard da Vinci. ($11.19) If the loxburger is quiet and unassuming, the Leonard is the loud cousin. Turkey breast, smoked turkey, hard salami, gardinera (hot peppers, carrots, celery and pimentos), muenster cheese and lettuce on a kaiser roll. It’s a flavor bomb that you’ll thank us (and Cecils) for.
Top off the meal with some of their pie ($5.09) and wash it all down with peach, cherry, raspberry or strawberry lemonade ($2.29) and you’ll be ready for summer.
Between the specialty cheese department and the new wine shop, a cheese and wine picnic is a must from Kowalski’s. Culinary director Rachael Perron put together the perfect plates for us, and suggests some spring rosé or something bubbly to accompany the picnic.
Shepherd’s Way friesago ($28.99/lb.) is an extra-aged sheep’s-milk cheese made right here in Minnesota and has a distinct nuttiness, Perron says. Serve with guava paste ($13.49/lb.) and BobbySue’s Original Nuts ($24.99/lb.).
Prairie Sunset ($15.49/lb.), a cow’s-milk cheese from our neighbor Wisconsin, has sweet butterscotch undertones. Serve it with Olli Salumeria Napoli smoked salami ($10.49 each) on top of a baguette ($3 in the bakery), and it’s the perfect bite.
Good Thunder ($31.99/lb.) is a rich cow’s-milk cheese from Mankato that’s given a wash with Surly Brewing Co.’s Bender. The result is earthy, creamy, buttery and slightly hoppy. Serve with Sweety Drop peppers ($10.99/pound) and 34° rosemary crisps ($4.99).
Cooks of Crocus Hill
While the food is obviously key to a good picnic, it also helps to look like you know what you’re doing. Cooks of Crocus Hill has some suggestions to get you started.
Unbreakable tumblers by Mepra: They come in six trendy colors (cobalt, light blue, yellow, orange, lime and opaque) and two sizes. They’ll help you look good while observing the “no glass in the park” rule (short $5.50, tall $6.50).
Cheese board by Boska Holland: This white oak cheese board, at 8 by 4 inches, is perfect for traveling and has a handle for passing back and forth (or just holding onto, because sometimes sharing is hard) ($22.50).
Opinel folding picnic knife: It’s called a picnic knife, so it must be a necessity. This French-made knife is perfect for slicing cheese, salami, fruit or sammies. It comes in various wood finishes and sizes, depending on how serious you are about picnicking ($18.50-$20).