With summer on its way in and college kids on their way out, Columbia gets a mellow makeover in May. A picnic is a relaxing and fun way to get your summer started, whether you’re courting a new love or looking for an action-packed afternoon with the kids. Take a break from your culinary routine with one of these remarkable repasts.
You need something to carry your picnic supplies, and nothing is more traditional than the wicker picnic basket. Dress up a romantic picnic with a hand-woven willow picnic basket from Pier 1 Imports ($50). With blue cotton gingham lining and a shoulder handle for easy carrying, it’s the ideal functional accessory for an evening out at the park.
Impress your date with a Missouri wine. Try Triple Oak Bliss ($18) from the Cooper’s Oak Winery in Higbee. The red blend is 34 percent Merlot, 33 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 33 percent Norton.
Forget paper plates; a romantic occasion calls for more elegant dinnerware. Match the outdoorsy atmosphere by packing wood utensils such as the mahogany, English walnut, cocobolo and cherry bowls made by Mike Ditmore of Rocheport (from $40).
Give your wine cabinet a contemporary look with pewter wine glasses ($55 each) from Bluestem Missouri Crafts. These handsome goblets, made by Don and Blenda Marquardt of Glasgow, are fairly sturdy, but consider wrapping them in cloth napkins for protection in the picnic basket.
To complement the wine, pack a chocolaty snack. Traditional chocolate bars are tasty, but there are plenty of opportunities to get creative with local foods. For example, pick up a couple croissants ($2.03 each) at Upper Crust Bakery, then spread on some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend($11.29) from Clovers Natural Market. Nutella works, too. The final product might not be the most nutritious treat, but it’s romantic.
The Candy Factory’s chocolate-covered strawberries ($9.25 per half pound) are another way to incorporate a sweet treat into your picnic. Select fruit coated with milk, dark or white chocolate — or choose a few of each. The berries are a Columbia romance staple, so indulge!
Of the 116 wineries in Missouri, Les Bourgeois is closest to Columbia. The Les Bourgeois A-Frame is a popular picnic spot because of its gorgeous views of the Missouri River. You can bring your own food, but not your own alcohol, so buy a bottle of wine to complement your picnic. Bottles at the A-Frame range from $9.99 to $25. Glasses are also available with a $3 deposit.
If you prefer to use real dinnerware instead of disposable, look for a durable material that will hold up outside. Melamine plates from Tallulah’s are known to be unbreakable, so they’re safe to pack tightly into a picnic basket or bag. Good choices are the fleur de Provence salad bowl ($30) and the fleur de Provence dinner plate ($15).
Don’t forget such picnic essentials as the Peacock Corkscrew, available at Tallulah’s ($15), and Neumann Missouri Cheese Board, available at Bluestem Missouri Crafts ($28).
Give your winery picnic some French flair with a baguette, grapes and cheese. The goat cheese fromGoatsbeard Farm is made 30 minutes northwest of Columbia. The family farm is devoted to sustainable practices, such as feeding their 50 goats on a management-intensive grazing system. Fresh rounds, soft-ripened, feta and raw milk are among the cheeses available (prices vary).
Brighten up your rainy-day picnic with colorful and fun dinnerware. The Catalina Cove Collection from Pier 1 Imports (pieces start at $3) is sure to cure a cloudy day. Pair the blue and green floral designs with drinkware in similar colors, and you’ll be dining in style.
No one likes soggy food, so head to Tallulah’s for a waterproof picnic basket ($99). Complete with a handle and colorful designs, the basket is as delightful as the food packed inside.
Localize the classic chocolate chip cookie with Columbia-based Patric Chocolate. This chocolate nib cookie recipe is sure to take away your rainy-day worries. (Cacao nibs are available in the bulk bin at Hy-Vee on Conley Road and Clovers on Forum Boulevard.)
Patric Chocolate Nib Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ pound unsalted butter (two sticks)
1 cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
¾ cup Patric Chocolate Roasted Cacao Nibs
Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in bowl. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and mix in sugars. Add the vanilla and egg to the butter mixture and beat to combine. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in cacao nibs. Refrigerate dough until cool and stiff. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto a greased baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes.
Before your picnic, stop by The Heidelberg to pick up one of its delicious Fried Chicken Salads ($7.49) to throw in your basket. The tasty menu item includes breaded chicken, red onion, croutons, cucumber and cheddar cheese.
Wind often accompanies rain. Fight off the chill with tomato-basil bisque from Pickleman’s Gourmet Café ($3.59 for 8 ounces). Use a thermos for easy transportation.
A hot drink will also warm you. The Klean Kanteen ($28) from The Alpine Shop, keeps 20 ounces of tea, coffee or hot chocolate warm for up to six hours.
Picnics are usually a little messy; clean up with stylish cloth napkins (2 for $34) by Columbia’s own Gunilla Jonsson Murphy. Visit Bluestem Missouri Crafts to check out her collection.
The Original Artisan Potato Chips ($9 for a 1-pound bag) from the Billy Goat Chip Co. pack a lot of flavor without MSG or preservatives. They’re also gluten-free. Based in St. Louis, the Billy Goat Chip Co. sells its popular chips throughout the Midwest and online at www.billygoatstl.com.
If you’re going to splurge on anything for a budget picnic, buy some tasty bread. This wheat loaf ($3.49) from The Upper Crust jazzes up the classic peanut butter and jelly. PB&Js are always a favorite and with this bread, they’re even better.
Transport your favorite brew with this growler from the recently launched Rock Bridge Brewery. Sure, a liter of beer might be a little heavy, but you won’t have to worry about carrying and disposing of multiple cans or bottles.
We all have one or two (or 10) Shakespeare’s cups, so put them to good use and pack them for your picnic. You won’t have to worry about breaking wine glasses and if you lose one, you know where you can find a replacement.
Children don’t care if you prepared an organic pasta salad or if you slaved away all morning making a lemon tart. Stick to finger food and enlist the kids’ help. Try classic children’s snacks such as ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins), or use cookie cutters to make peanut butter sandwiches in cool shapes.
Cookies are a kid-friendly dessert, especially if you dress them up with frosting. For the adults, try Apple Pie In A Jar. Pick up the 8-ounce Mason jars at Westlake Ace Hardware.
Apple Pie In A Jar
Makes 8 pies
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons shortening
At least 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
Pour flour into a medium-size bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the flour until pea-sized balls form. Do not overwork. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, mixing the dough with a fork after each addition until it is moist enough to form a ball. Add a little more water if needed, depending on the consistency.
5 Granny Smith apples
Peel, core and dice apples. Place in a bowl. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg on apples to taste; add enough spices so a syrup forms as you mix the apples. The longer the apples sit, the better — make the filling a day ahead and store in the refrigerator overnight for best results.
8 wide-mouth 8-ounce Mason jars
Preheat oven to 375 F. Make 3 batches of pie dough, and set 1 aside. Divide 2 of the batches into 8 equal balls. Roll each ball into a ⅛-inch-thick circle. Line each jar with dough. Fill each jar with apple mixture. Roll out the remaining batch of dough to ⅛-inch thickness, and use a Mason jar lid to cut out eight circles. Place one on each pie and press a fork around the edges to join bottom and top crusts. Make sure the crust is below the top of the jar so lids will fit after baking. Brush the top of each pie with a splash of milk and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cut three lines into the top crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.
Think practically when planning a picnic with the kids. Bring juice boxes, paper plates and disposable utensils for easy cleanup.
Summer is the time for wicker, so don’t let your bicycle miss out on the fun. Pack a small wicker bike basket ($25) from Tryathletics for easy-access snacks while you’re on the way to your picnic.
Stay energized during your ride with a handful of Vitality Trail Mix($7 per pound) from Clovers Natural Market. This treat is an update to the traditional outdoorsy snack, thanks to additions such as soy nuts, dark chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds and dried blueberries.
Cycling burns a lot of calories, so you’ll want to have enough storage space for all your favorite munchies. Walt’s Bike Shopoffers several bike bags that close securely and are easily removable for carrying to your dining spot. Try the Detours Pike Place pannier ($85) or the Detours Town and Country handlebar bag ($70) for your next outing.
Columbia summers are sizzling, so pack lots of water for your ride and your lunch stop. Grab a sporty water bottle ($4) from Tryathletics for hydration while you pedal along.
There’s nothing more satisfying after a long bike ride than a hearty toasted sandwich. Try the traditional ham sandwich ($4.39) from Pickleman’s Gourmet Café with provolone and veggies for an easy-to-pack, no-mess option.
Stock Up For Your Picnic Adventure
The Alpine Shop
1102 E. Broadway
Billy Goat Chip Co.
4993 Loughborough Ave., St. Louis
Bluestem Missouri Crafts
13 S. Ninth St.
The Candy Factory
701 E. Cherry St.
Clovers Natural Market
2100 Chapel Plaza Court
2012 E. Broadway
Cooper’s Oak Winery
96-A W. Jones St., Higbee
327 Main St., Boonville
11351 Callahan Creek Road, Harrisburg
410 S. Ninth St.
Pier 1 Imports
1901 Bernadette Drive
Pickleman’s Gourmet Café
1106 E. Broadway
2513 Old 63 S.
3103 W. Broadway, Suite 105
QMDitmore Wood Turnings
Rock Bridge Brewery
612 Big Bear Blvd., Suite 523
227 S. Ninth St.
3304 W. Broadway
812 E. Broadway
1605 Chapel Hill Road
The Upper Crust
904 Elm St.
3107 Green Meadows Way
Walt’s Bike Shop
1217 Rogers St.
Westlake Ace Hardware
1910 W. Worley St.
1900 Business Loop 70 E.