The best way to make the most out of warmer weather? Pack up your meals and head outside. Afrim Pristine is the co-owner of the Cheese Boutique, which packs up custom sandwich and charcuterie meals designed for dining alfresco. He is also the author of the upcoming book For the Love of Cheese, and the world’s youngest Maître Fromager. Here, he sheds some light on how to make the most of outdoor dining, and what to pack in your picnic basket.
1. Select a diverse menu
A spread of different foods will please the masses, and ensure they leave full. Consider packing 10 to 12 different finger-friendly snacks, ranging from meats and cheeses to fruits and dark chocolate. This will feed 4 to 6 people, with more than enough to go around.
When choosing cheeses, go for a mix of textures and flavours to keep things interesting – from soft and pungent to hard and crumbly. These will pair beautifully with a fresh, flavoured baguette, such as a fruit and nut variety or walnut sourdough. Check out the best pairings for chocolate and cheese here.
Packing some well-chosen fruit will not only help cleanse your palate between cheeses, but also round out the meal as a dessert, especially when paired with your favourite bar of dark chocolate. Apples, pears, figs and grapes are all excellent fruits to pair with both charcuterie and dark chocolate.
2. Plan a complementary drink list
Fruity red wines (such as Beaujolais) are an ideal choice since they don’t have to be served cold. Light, wheat beers are always refreshing on a hot summer’s day, while crisp, white wine and non-alcoholic apple cider will offer an excellent balance of acidity with rich cheeses, chocolate and charcuterie.
3. Prep and pack for success
Pre-slice all your supplies, including fruit, hard cheeses and baguette (use crackers if you want to avoid this step), since the goal is to pack as few utensils as possible. For any soft cheeses, store them in a small glass container with a lid, so they can easily be dug into once they get runny throughout the day.
Store all remaining food in paper bags (plastic will cause ingredients to sweat), then tuck them in an insulated cooler bag, which are the most travel-friendly and will keep items, including your dark chocolate, reasonably cool. Freeze your water bottles before packing, which will allow them to double as cold packs while keeping your drinking water ice cold throughout the day.
4. Don’t forget the details
Packing a bottle opener, corkscrew, sturdy, flat-bottomed cups, and a variety of tea towels, wet wipes or paper towels will help keep the festivities running smoothly. Consider any serving utensils you’ll need, along with a few small trays or boards to keep glasses or plates steady. Last but not least: bringing along a trash bag will make clean-up a breeze once it’s time to pack-up and head home.