Style: Picnic pronto! Pack a basket and get outside

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

For me, all great moments revolve around good food — and lots of it. So when I think of summer, I think of picnics.

Picnics are perfect last-minute affairs, a spontaneous way to thoroughly enjoy a long, languid summer evening or soak up some rays on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Gather up your picnic gear in advance and keep it at the ready so you can pack up your alfresco feast at a moment’s notice:

A big blanket and cozy pillows: Wonderful food + a glass of wine + warm summer sun = the desire to doze. This tried-and-true equation for a great picnic always ends with the need for a blanket and pillow. For your picnic-to-go, have on hand a blanket that’s thick enough to provide some cushion against the hard ground and wide enough to fit you and your guests. Pillows are a definite must-have if you really want to get comfy. I’d suggest using a blanket that launders, in case you end up with mustard spills and grass stains. In the photo above, we used a large washable bed quilt. Because we take napping seriously, we also added in perfectly plump pillows.

A picnic basket: What are you going to carry all your picnic goodies in? I’m a sucker for iconic picnic baskets, either a sturdy hamper of woven wood with a hinged lid and handles, or a wicker woven basket lined with a cloth. Some styles have lids with built-in bands that hold plates, silverware and glasses in place, which is nifty. Others leave the top open so you can fit in tall things like a bottle of wine, a baguette and candlesticks.

Dishes, glasses and linens: I’ve never been a fan of dining with paper plates, plastic forks and cups, so when I picnic, I pack real dishes, silver and glasses. At times, I have gone all out, bringing the china, crystal, silver, linens and candelabrum to make my movable feast regal and romantic. Other times, I opt for fun and fanciful summer-themed dishes and glasses that are more durable.

Food containers and serving pieces: When you’re planning a picnic, try following my entertaining mantra: presentation over preparation. Instead of putting my time into preparing fancy food, I like to focus my creative energy on presenting the picnic goodies in a lovely way. One of my favorite ideas for a picnic: Use an interesting caddy to hold food like fresh veggie sticks or breadsticks.

You will find my picnic basket stocked with small trays for guests to put their plates upon, a cake plate to hold the main course and a pretty bowl full of ice to keep drinks cool.

Great food: I opt for simple fare that is easy to pack. Quiche is a crowd-pleaser in my home, as are sandwiches.

If you love to cook, there are millions of great ideas online about tasty but simple dishes you can make in advance or throw together the last minute. Fresh fruits and veggies, a loaf of warm artisan bread and a wedge of artisanal cheese, wine or sparkling water are simple classics you can grab at a market in a jiff.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at