Blanket Not Included: what to pack for a picnic 

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by Jessica Elizarraras
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Put away the Styrofoam cooler. Picnics don’t have to mean carting an unsightly cooling container to a secluded spot only find spoiled snacks. Taking snacks out on the trail or if you’re dying to enjoy the cooler temperatures ahead, doesn’t have to mean dropping a lot of dough, but the meal can still be special.

Consider a stop at Gaucho Gourmet (935 Isom) for snacks on a weekday when you’ll have ready access to store staffers to steer you in the right snacking direction. In case this is a special occasion picnic, or you’re especially hungry, Gaucho Gourmet does offer a gourmet picnic basket for two ($49.50) with all manners of cured meats, cheese, Italian dipping sauces and other good stuff.

Here are a few tips on packing a simple outdoor feast that will impress friends and fill bellies with minimal effort.

Meats: Think cured and ready to slice with a trusty Swiss Army knife. Consider a Spanish-style sausage from Aurelia’s Chorizo or an al diavalo caccitorini, an Italian hunter’s sausage made with pork, black pepper, spices and garlic. Pre-cut slices are discouraged unless you’ll be heading to your shady spot right away, as slicing can dry out the meats.

Canned fish: Admittedly not for everyone, and definitely the kind of snack that calls for several napkins and utensils, canned sardines, specifically the Matiz Gallego line of sardines with lemon, in olive oil or with piquillo peppers. Creamy, fishy (in the best way possible) and great with crackers, the sardines definitely require some post-snack antibacterial.

Cheeses: Semi-firm or hard cheeses are the way to go: Spring for the Le Grein, a Muenster-like cheese out of Piedmont, Italy, and leave the creamy goat cheese at home.

Carbs: You can’t have cheese without crackers. You can’t make bruschetta without some crostini. Gaucho’s Isola brand sundried tomato crostinis are sturdy and just a bit bready, but I’d also check out original flavor artisan crackers (I found a La Panzanella iteration at Central Market for $3.99).

Olives: One way to add more green to your spread comes via salty, briny, poppable olives. Gaucho carries a self-serve bar for mixing and matching ($4.95 a pound, make sure to keep some of the brine in your containers) along with canned olives.

Dips: My favorite find was a slightly spicy bruschetta topping made with sweet peppers via Cara Nonna. The seven-ounce jar doesn’t require chilling, nor does it have to be refrigerated after it’s opened.

Somethin’ sweet: Aside from fresh-cut fruits (that will require some sort of ice pack), or dried fruit, the staff at Gaucho recommends Amarena’s Fabbri jarred wild cherries, $3.95 for a two-ounce jar. They’re tart and sweet and I wouldn’t object to pouring some of the cherry syrup into some bubbly.

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Put away the Styrofoam cooler. Picnics don’t have to mean carting an unsightly cooling container to a secluded spot only find spoiled snacks. Taking snacks out on the trail or if you’re dying to enjoy the cooler temperatures ahead, doesn’t have to mean dropping a lot of dough, but the meal can still be special.

Consider a stop at Gaucho Gourmet (935 Isom) for snacks on a weekday when you’ll have ready access to store staffers to steer you in the right snacking direction. In case this is a special occasion picnic, or you’re especially hungry, Gaucho Gourmet does offer a gourmet picnic basket for two ($49.50) with all manners of cured meats, cheese, Italian dipping sauces and other good stuff.

Here are a few tips on packing a simple outdoor feast that will impress friends and fill bellies with minimal effort.