Local chefs lay down creative ideas for dining alfresco

Lisa Cialini of Spring Garden Township sets up for a picnic with her children, from left, Isabella, 9, Anna Marie, 1, and Vincent, 4 (Photo by Kate Penn)

Lisa Cialini of Spring Garden Township sets up for a picnic with her children, from left, Isabella, 9, Anna Marie, 1, and Vincent, 4 (Photo by Kate Penn)

You don’t have to be Yogi Bear to love a picnic basket.

Options are as limitless as the sunny sky you’re dining under for your family lunch or romantic dinner for two.

“A picnic is to throw your care to the wind, have a really good time with friends,” said Michael Annis, executive chef at Sidney Willoughby Run in Gettysburg.

When Annis considers packing for a picnic, he thinks finger foods: sandwiches, hummus and veggies, deviled eggs.

“I like doing a variation on deviled eggs with local goat cheese, toasted almond,” Annis said.

He also thinks of baba gonoush, a hummus-like spread made with eggplant.

“I think that foods reflecting the season is important, but I also think it should be flavorful, easy to eat,” Annis said.

If you can skip packing silverware and plates, by all means do so.

But don’t skip the mayo.

“Mayonnaise kind of gets a bad rap,” said Kate McCandless, chef and instructor at The School of Culinary Arts at Yorktowne Business Institute. “Processed mayonnaise really can’t make you sick. Potatoes can go bad. Meat can go bad.”

So she thinks of sweet and savory combinations like chicken salad with walnuts and grapes, which keeps well, she said.

“I remember my mom used to make cream cheese and marshmallow fluff,” McCandless said. She suggests similar combinations of cream cheese with fruit.

Wait to compile the sandwich until you’re picnicking, she advises, so it tastes fresh and the bread doesn’t get soggy.

Jim Switzenberg, executive chef at John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville, picnics a couple times each year with his wife, Lisa. They pack crackers, crostini, smoked salmon, cheeses, strawberries and grapes.

“We sit down and put out a little spread of snacky foods,” he said. “We can do that with no planning.”

He suggests to just visit the grocery store’s deli section on your way. And forget the ice pack — use a wine bottle instead.

“A wine bottle acts as a great cooler,” Switzenberg said. “You want to keep it cold? Give it two wine bottles.”

Packing tips

  1. Keep meats and cheeses separate. Compile sandwiches immediately before you eat.
  2. Also keep hot and cold items separate.
  3. Bring a bag for garbage.
  4. Keep salad dressings separate. Pour onto the salad immediately before you eat so leaves won’t wilt.
  5. Bring an extra bottle of water in case you need it for clean-up or anything else.
  6. Pack an “emergency kit” including a fork, spoon, knife — and Band-Aids.
  7. Include hand-sanitizing wipes.

— Kate McCandless, chef and instructor,
The School of Culinary Arts at Yorktowne Business Institute

Tasty toppings

“A nice spread will give your sandwich a signature flavor,” said Melinda Stambaugh of Warehouse Gourmet in Hanover. She suggests these toppings:

  1. Dijon mayonnaise
  2. Herb mayonnaise
  3. Roasted garlic and onion mayonnaise
  4. Honey-balsamic vinaigrette (with roast beef)
  5. Olive tapenade (with roasted chicken)

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1 Response

  1. July 12, 2013

    […] 1. Local chefs share creative ideas for dining alfresco on Smart. […]

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