Whaddya do? I mean, do you ride around? Or do you go on some sort of picnic or something?
A festive way to welcome fall’s harvest and more temperate weather is to gather your guests and head for the hills—with picnic basket in hand. Picnicking has been a fashionable party pastime since the early 19th century, but how we enjoy them has changed with the times. While Mrs. Isabella Beeton, who wrote the book on British household management, recommended hosting picnics for 40 with four roast fowls, two pigeon pies, and a large plum pudding, among other dishes, today’s approach is decidedly more simple. Below are tips and treats from several of the world’s most renowned picnic experts to help you plan a casual and fun fall picnic party.
Chef Martin Cahill of Rosewood London counts picnics as a British culinary highlight and prepares fall picnic hampers for hotel guests to enjoy throughout the city. Cahill recommends pairing artisanal bread from a nearby bakery with smoked salmon or cured meats. He also suggests sticking to dishes that can be shared, consumed by hand, and prepared the day before, which makes Scotch eggs, “a proud nod to British cuisine,” a perfect choice that balances well with fresh and vibrant September salads.” To wash it all down? Try a classic Pimm’s Cup, an elderflower and cucumber gin and tonic, or a blueberry and mint iced tea. “If you plan to take slices of apples or other fruits (an absolute must if you are serving Pimm’s Cups!), storing them in iced water with a squeeze of lemon juice will prevent them from discoloring for an hour or two.”
Wendy Weston of Perfect Picnic NYC is a verified professional at alfresco dining. When packing for a fall picnic, she recommends thinking of it as “food made to travel—something that will taste just as good at the end of the day.” Cheese and roasted chicken are always winners. Her secret party pleaser? “A pickled vegetable is key. No wilting—just crunchy and delicious.” Also, “remember it’s a picnic…relax and have fun! Make sure you find lots of shade and have a few extra blankets available just in case.”
Ashish Verma, general manager of The Chatwal in New York, helps oversee the hotel’s luxury picnic experiences, where the mercurial temperatures lead him to favor fruits, local cheeses, and crackers—steering away from “more intensive courses that require add-ins, extra utensils, or specific preparations.” For a fall picnic, Verma recommends planning ahead, especially in a city as diverse as New York, by visiting local markets, bakeries, and stores. “It allows for a more intimate connection to the city and people around you. A picnic celebrates a respite from the bustle of daily life and allows us to simply enjoy our surroundings—whether that’s Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park or beneath the arch in Washington Square Park.”
For picnics, chef Alex Branch of Casa Calavera Los Cabos favors his restaurant’s elevated guacamole, made with stone crab and served with chicharon. “Make sure to choose ripe avocados that are dark green in color and yield to gentle pressure. Mash the avocado with a fork, or for something more traditional, a molcajete: the Mexican version of the mortar and pestle.” Just don’t overwork the avocados or you’ll lose all the texture, he notes. “For a picnic, pack it in a refrigerated bag to keep it chilled, and give it an extra squeeze of lime to prevent the avocado from browning. This will help keep it fresh no matter how long the picnic.”
Now, you just need somewhere to put all your fall-picnic delicacies. Go for the full effect with a basket outfitted with everything from wine openers to pepper shakers. Or opt for a simple wicker basket that can double as decorative storage when not dining alfresco. We’ve listed a few of our favorite options below. Just make sure to pack some dashing throw blankets for you and your guests to sit on and to toss over your shoulders in the event of a chill.
Mark and Graham Rolling Wicker Picnic BasketLes Jardin de la Comtesse Scottish Picnic Basket
Amberley Hampers Goodwood Picnic Hamper
Williams Sonoma Wicker Suitcase-Style Picnic Basket
Ralph Lauren Home Throw Blanket
Tom Dixon Check Fringe Blanket
Pendleton Plaid Throw Blankets
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Fall Picnic Parties
Welcome Photo and Quote “Cocktail”
Welcome Photo: To Catch a Thief, 1955
Welcome Quote: The Wild One, 1953