GFM JUL 2016
Local, open-air eating places and tips.
A picnic is a fantastic way to gather with friends and family. And what better time than the Fourth of July? Enjoy a summer breeze on the beach, or host a backyard soiree—you can make your al fresco meal as casual or as elegant as you’d like. Pack the best basket with these simple tips.
Find the Right Location
The first step to a successful picnic is finding the perfect spot. If you decide not to host at your home, choose a space at the park or beach with tables or a shelter to make setup a snap. In Macon, an awesome venue would be at Amerson River Park. There are several picnic areas, but our choice would be the two picnic pavilions near the Overlook and the Great Lawn. Both provide Ocmulgee River views, and if you’re lucky, cool breezes as well. See the map at www.ohtmacon.com/amerson-river-park/.
An off-the-beaten path picnic spot is the historic and lovely Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon. After a picnic lunch, visit the graves of three governors, two United States Senators, a Congressman, and a special section devoted to the graves of some six hundred Confederate soldiers who died in this area. Though locked behind a tall wrought iron fence, you can also visit the graves of The Allman Brothers Band members, Berry Oakley and Duane Allman.
In Perry, our choice would be Rozar Park. You’ll find picnic tables, benches, and grills. For a larger park selection, visit www.georgiafamily.com/Fun/Things-for-Kids-to-Do-in-Middle-Georgia/15-Top-Parks-%26-Playgrounds-in-Central-Georgia.
If you select a location without amenities, you’ll need to bring chairs and blankets to provide a comfortable setting for guests. Determine how many people will be in attendance, and plan accordingly.
Coordinate the Menu
Take time to create a delicious, simple, and convenient menu. Choose items that are easy to eat and fare well in warm weather, avoiding foods that melt or spoil unless you’re near a grill and are willing to bring a cooler. When you’re ready to prepare the dishes that you want to take to the picnic, a high-performance blender, like a Vitamix S50, will reduce prep time and cleanup.
Effortlessly chop and blend ingredients to make a variety of picnic-friendly dishes, sandwiches, and snacks—such as hummus, dips, salsas, chicken salad, nut butters—you name it. You can blend right in the small, double-wall insulated container that can go into your cooler and directly to your picnic location. Sandwiches might fare better if wrapped.
Consider healthy recipes that require little prep work but are sure to please. Blend peanuts and cashews for a mixed nut butter that’s perfect for kids’ sandwiches or as a dip for apple slices and celery sticks. For the ideal blend of sweet and spicy, chop apples and jalapeño peppers to make a crunchy apple salsa to spread over greens. You can also create a nutritious guacamole appetizer by mixing avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon juice.
Serve up ice cold watermelon wedges. It’s a real crowd pleaser, and you can keep the mess down by inserting popsicle sticks into the rind of each wedge.
If you can avoid spoilage, southern fried chicken, grilled meats, and corn on the cob are traditional favorites. Finally, if you want an intimate and more sophisticated picnic, nothing works better than fruit, cheese, and wine.
By selecting dishes that can be quickly and easily prepared before your picnic, you’ll find yourself with even more time to enjoy guests.
Make packing for your picnic a breeze by creating a checklist with necessary items like plates, cups, utensils, napkins, and more. Be sure to count your guests, and bring enough for everyone, remembering extras for dessert. Strategically pack your basket and cooler to avoid smashing, breaking, or spoiling food. Secure heavier items on the bottom, and insert smaller, lighter items on top.
In the cooler, place chunks of ice or frozen packs in between layers to prevent items from shifting while keeping contents fresh. As a rule of thumb, once the ice melts, perishable food has likely reached an unsafe temperature and should not be consumed.
Plan and prepare items ahead of time, and you will be ready to host a splendid picnic in the great outdoors. So gather your friends and family, grab a blanket, and let the fun begin! #