Travel Tips from JBF Award Winner Chef Michael White
Picnic basket or cooler
Bottled water (tip: freeze overnight and use as an ice pack)
Flatware or plastic silverware
Napkins / paper towels
Corkscrew and/or bottle opener
Tablecloth or blanket
Hand sanitizer or wipes
Salt and pepper
One sharp knife (consider using a Swiss army knife)
Portable speakers and iPod (don’t forget to charge!)
Sunscreen (depending on day or evening picnic)
Bug spray or citronella candles (don’t forget matches for candles)
Decorative centerpiece (a cup of freshly plucked wildflowers, a beautiful dessert)
Candles or lantern (evening picnic)
Location and Planning
When choosing a location for your outdoor meal, you should consider all types of scenic options -- parks, beaches, concerts or open fields are great places.
Plan the menu based on the number of people, how much you can carry, and how long the trip will be, factoring in when food will be ingested. (see food safety tips below)**
Some top NYC picnic locations for day trips include Milford, Pennsylvania; Long Beach; Shelter Island; North Fork, LI, and New Haven, CT.
Pair wines based on the menu, but for a picnic, you should chill the wine you choose, white or red
Rose wines and Reislings have broad appeal, and go well with picnic food - such as chicken and grilled meats
Cheese and meat plates can pair well with a Cabernet or Beaujolais
Fresh fruits can pair with a Chardonnay
Use a separate bag to pack your essential items including blanket, paper towels, handy-wipes, extra utensils, suntan lotion, bug spray, etc.
Plan ahead and bring anything you think you may need and a few extras just in case.
When packing your food, place heavier items on the bottom and lighter ones on the top. When packing your picnic cooler or bag, consider using Ziplock bags or Tupperware containers. This will avoid leaks and cross-contamination. Pack soft foods in hard containers. Any garnishes (basil, parsley, etc) should be packed separately.
Put cold foods in waterproof containers or wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and completely immerse in the ice inside the cooler. If using frozen gel packs or containers of homemade ice, place them between packages of food. Never just set containers of food on top of ice.
The trunk of your car can reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit so it is best to transport coolers in the passenger area of the car. When you arrive at the picnic site, put a blanket over the cooler and place it in the shade to maintain cold temperatures. Keep the cooler closed until ready to use the contents.
**Important: Food safety is key. A cooler keeps the food insulated until you reach your destination. Depending on how well the cooler is packed, food can stay cold for several hours. Foods that are kept out of the fridge or cooler for too long should be thrown out (especially if there is mayonnaise, eggs, meats, etc). Use your judgment to determine if you should keep certain foods. If in doubt - throw it out!