Picnics 101

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Cartoon courtesy of Kitt Wilhelm.

Summer days are upon us, and what better way to celebrate than gathering your best pals and spending the day outside eating food?

Though picnics are delightful at any time of the year, there is a certain appeal about the warm weather, the bustling summer farmers’ markets full of lovely produce for picnics and the general contentment that summer brings.

From purchasing the food to finding the best picnic spot, there are multiple elements involved in creating the picnic experience. Here are my tips and suggestions to have an ideal picnic.

Get creative with shopping for your picnic fare

Take advantage of Kansas City’s lovely, local establishments and shop for your picnic at small businesses and farmers’ markets. For me, shopping for the food is half the fun of the picnic. Don’t hesitate to take an adventure around the city for all the necessary picnic fare. Go to local farmers’ markets and get your fresh produce. The Overland Park Farmers’ Market, the Brookside Farmers’ Market and the City Market in the River Market district are all great options for finding the best fruits, vegetables and unique offerings from local vendors.

Kansas City also has many lovely bakeries to fulfill all of your bread and pastry needs. Some of my favorites include Heirloom Bakery, Ibis Bakery, Fervere and McLain’s Bakery.

Another key element in the picnic basket: cheese. Again, the Kansas City farmers’ markets have local vendors with lovely offerings. However, if you cannot go to a farmers’ market, Trader Joe’s has an excellent selection of delicious and reasonably priced cheese.

Your assembly of picnic fare can contain any number and variety of food options. Whether it be a classic and simple picnic or an extravagant one, just shop for some of your favorite items and pack your picnic basket.

Pick the perfect location

Kansas City is filled with a lot of wonderful spots for you to spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy our darling Mother Nature. Here are a few of my favorite picnic spots:

Loose Park – with over 75 acres, Loose Park has plenty of space to lay your blanket down and lovely shady trees to hang up your hammock. Also, an added bonus: on a nice day, you are almost guaranteed to see dogs running around the park and you might get to pet one.

City Market Park – Nestled within the River Market district, this small, but sweet park is a nice and convenient spot to head after gathering all your picnic provisions from the City Market.

Memorial Hill – Around the beautiful and impressive Liberty Memorial, is a wide expanse of beautiful green space that provides an ideal picnic spot a lovely view of Kansas City

Nelson Atkins Museum – With lovely green space, shady trees and the outdoor art exhibits, the Nelson Atkins makes a wonderful picnic spot. As an added bonus, you can always stroll around the museum after your picnic.

Swope Park – This park boasts of 1,805 acres of green space and is Kansas City’s largest park. Filled with woodlands, grassy meadows, ponds and gardens, Swope Park has endless options of areas to picnic.

Come prepared

Besides preparing the food, remember the picnic essentials: blankets (two to be safe), a picnic basket or tote, a camera, a knife to cut bread or cheese, sunscreen and eating utensils. Consider refraining from using plastic and disposable utensils.

Consider partaking in additional activities during your picnic and bring items such as a lawn game, a frisbee, a card game, a portable music speaker, reading material and hammocks.

Be sure to look ahead at the weather, but even if the weather isn’t perfect, just go with it. If it’s perfect and sunny then that’s lovely. If it is cloudy, that can be great for a picnic as well. If it starts to rain, re-enact a romantic comedy and find a nearby gazebo or tree to wait out the storm.  

Cartoon courtesy of Kitt Wilhelm.

Enjoy the outdoors and your friends

A picnic in its simplest form is basically an opportunity for you to gather your friends, your favorite foods and be outdoors. It can be as simple as having bread and coffee with a friend on your front porch or a more extravagant affair, or something in between. You can make your picnic however you want it to be, but if you want some suggestions for picnic fare and locations, here are some of my favorites:

1. Simple, but classic – Recommended location: Loose Park

  • Bread from Ibis Bakery (my favorite is their Orchard loaf)
  • A nice goat cheese
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Avocadoes
  • Strawberries
  • Chocolate

With these classic combinations, this picnic is ensured to be a good one. All of these selections go well together. You can put the avocado and tomatoes on the bread. You can pair the goat cheese and tomatoes. You can even pair the chocolate and strawberries with the goat cheese. You can put goat cheese and strawberries on the bread. The combinations are endless, because – in my opinion – goat cheese is glorious.

2. Morning Picnic – Recommended location: Memorial Hill

  • Coffee or tea in a thermos.
  • A selection of pastries.
  • Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries.
  • Bread and either Marmalade or lemon curd. I recommend Ibis Bakery’s Fresh Milled Baguette with lemon curd topped with blueberries.
  • Bacon
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Orange juice

There is something wonderful about starting the day off with a picnic. If you really want to go for it, then I would highly recommend a sunrise picnic. I am not a morning person, but I always consider sunrise picnics the only acceptable reason to drag myself out of bed. However, be sure to gather your picnic items the day before so you are ready to go.

3. Classic Picnic 2.0 – Recommended location: The Nelson Atkins

  • Bread – one or two types. I prefer a savory loaf such as a cheese slipper and a sweeter bread
  • Two or three cheeses: perhaps goat cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego, Gouda or Brie
  • A selection of meats: prosciutto, dry cured salami and Mortadella
  • Veggies such as carrots, cucumber, baby bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes from your local farmers market
  • Hummus from Al Habashi Mart
  • Olives and pickles
  • Dried tomatoes
  • Fruit: blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and apricots
  • Dark or milk artisan chocolate
  • Beverages – La Croix, San Pellegrino sparkling juice or wine if you are 21+

If you are willing to be a little extravagant, this is an upgraded version of the classic picnics. You can acquire almost all of these items from different shops within the City Market. Be sure to stop by Corollo’s Gourmet Italian Deli and Grocery especially for the cheese and meat options among their glorious offerings. This picnic fare combines all my favorite food pairings, though of course, you are welcome to swap out anything with a preferred option.

Cartoon courtesy of Kitt Wilhelm.

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