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Good times and good friends, tips for a perfect Chicago picnic

Creating the inspired picnic-slide0
Cristine Struble

Summertime in Chicago is the perfect opportunity to explore the amazing outdoor spaces around the City. From a local park to outdoor concert spaces like Ravinia, Chicagoans love spending quality time outside with family and friends.

Tips for the perfect summer picnic
Tips for the perfect summer picnic
Cristine Struble

The key to any successful event starts with the planning. From a delicious dish to a refreshing cocktail, the items in your picnic basket create the mood for the event. For date night at Ravinia, a summer salad paired with a sparkling cocktail can be a delightful backdrop to the starry night listening to music. Whether simple or elegant, your next picnic can be a smashing success.

Tips for Packing the Perfect Picnic

Summery Salad

Salad doesn’t need to be limited to just plain old lettuce- instead, mix up the classic salad with these yummy recipes that won’t wilt. They can all be made ahead of time and portioned into mason jars for individual servings that transport easily.

Double Pea and Feta Salad

  • 1 lb. sugar snap peas, stems and strings removed
  • (1) 1 lb. bag frozen green peas
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, slivered
  • 2 ½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¾ cup mild feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preparation: Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add sugar snap peas and green peas. When water returns to a boil, cook 1½ to 2 minutes, until sugar snaps are crisp-tender. Drain in a colander; refresh under cold running water. Drain peas well by blotting with a paper towel. Place peas in a large serving bowl with remaining ingredients except feta and pine nuts; toss until coated. Gently stir in feta and pine nuts immediately before serving.

Gazpacho Tomato Salad

Salad

  • 2 lb. mixed tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 small small red and yellow bell peppers, cut in ½-inch dice
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

Dressing

  • 2 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 1 lb. seedless cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Several dashes Tabasco sauce

Preparation:

Salad: Toss tomatoes, peppers, scallions, and parsley in a large bowl. Mound mixture in center of bowl.

Dressing: Put bread in a colander and place under cold running water until very soft and mushy; gently press out excess water from bread. Place in a blender; add remaining dressing ingredients and puree until mixture is very smooth and uniformly green. Pour dressing around tomato mixture in bowl right before serving, and toss.

Signature sips

Looking to mix up some drinks in addition to pouring the ready-to-serve? Nothing says summer like a cold glass of iced tea, and this cocktail recipe provides a refreshing, grown-up twist on the classic summertime sip. Plus, it makes enough for four servings so you can prep ahead of time and just pour over ice once you’re ready to kick back and relax at your picnic spot.

The Perfect Picnic

  • 8 parts Sauza Blue Reposado 100% Agave Tequila
  • 12 black tea bags
  • 48 parts water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Preparation: In a medium saucepan bring water, tea bags and sugar to a rolling boil. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags and pour into a thermos with lemon. Cool sweet tea in refrigerator for several hours. When the tea is cool, add the Tequila. Once you’re at your picnic, just pour over ice and enjoy! Optional: garnish with fresh mint.

**Serves 4

Break out the bubbles

Add some sparkle to your picnic with a sparkling, ready to serve cocktail The newest addition to the Sauza Sparkling Margarita ready-to-serve product line offers an authentic margarita taste with the unique addition of watermelon and effervescent bubbles for a fun twist on the classic margarita. Just open and serve over ice as a quick and easy way to transform your picnic into a celebration.

Picnic Jar-gon

Mason jars are synonymous with picnics and perfect for packing your meal or toasting with a cocktail. Aladdin offers a wide variety of mason jar inspired cups. Large and small, colorful or classic, this mason jar inspired line is a must have for the outdoor party. These cups bring about the new-staligic feeling of a summer picnic.

Basket brilliance

Want a picnic basket but don’t think you’ll get enough use out of it? A beautiful basket is essential for your picnic and useful long after it’s been emptied of its tasty cargo. Re-purpose your basket for a rustic flower arrangement, use as a napkin and utensil holder at your next BBQ, or line with a pretty dishtowel to convert it to a bread basket. Our favorite use for it? Transform into a portable bar by setting a tray or baking dish of ice within the basket, and use it for chilling and carrying drinks at your next outdoor get-together.

Beautiful Bandanas

Being outdoors is no excuse to not sip and savor in style. Swap out the paper napkins for pretty bandanas rolled up and tied with twine for an option that is as pretty as it is functional. Plus, they’re eco-friendly and won’t blow away once the breeze picks up.

I’m Going on a Picnic…

Play “I’m Going on a Picnic” with your friends for some déjà vu and a spiced up take on the traditional potluck. Have each person pick a letter out of a hat ahead of time and be responsible for bringing a dish beginning with that letter to your picnic. Everyone gets to contribute one dish for the group to share for a stress-free, fun picnic.

What are your tips for a perfect Chicago picnic?