THE PERFECT PICNIC
By Becky Loomis
April 23rd is National Picnic Day, and I know all of my friends will be expecting me to arrive with a basket full of fried chicken and deviled eggs in one hand, and a bottle of Patron-laced kombucha in the other. But I find as much inspiration for my picnics in a Renoir painting, or in a film by his son, as I do in Garden & Gun Magazine, so there will be cheese and wine and fruit pastes, and someone might shoot a rabbit. Also, when I email everyone, I will ask them to join me for a meal “al fresco,” because then there’s always a chance a puzzled guest will show up naked.
If you decide to host a picnic this April 23rd, I hope you will devote most of your energy to planning the guest list, since the right mix of bon vivants will be crucial to its success. Stop by your local gourmet shop for wine, cheese and charcuterie, and then add something homemade or, if you’re short on time and ambition, transfer one of the things you bought into a mason jar for a similar effect.
Cherry and Thyme Compote:
• 2 cups tart cherries, pitted and halved
• ¼ cup light brown sugar
• juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
• 2 sprigs of thyme
• ⅛ teaspoon salt
• cheesecloth, butcher’s twine
In a heavy saucepan, toss the cherries with salt, sugar, and lemon juice and zest, and mix to combine. Add just enough water to cover the mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, wrap the thyme in a piece of cheesecloth and secure the bundle with butcher’s twine. When the cherry mixture has reached a boil, add the thyme bundle and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened.
Remove and discard thyme, and gently mash the cherry mixture in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid into a mason jar, and keep it in your refrigerator to mix with your favorite spirit, or, if it’s before noon, mix with your favorite spirit and a splash of seltzer.
Put the compote into a mason jar and take it to the picnic to serve with sliced baguette and a soft mild cheese, like Brie.
Try some of my picnic favorites:
Marin Brie, available at TASTE
Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, delicious with Virginia Bee Queen Ann Honey, available at TASTE
Sartori Bella Vitano Rosemary and Olive Asiago, available at TASTE
Vermont Smoke and Cure Pepperoni, available at TASTE
TASTE Box Lunches, available at TASTE
Virginia Vines Gift Box, available at TASTE