By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
Whether it’s at the beach, a park or at the end of a short hike, it’s the perfect time of year to break out the picnic basket, lay out a blanket and enjoy the company of someone you love.
So what do you need for the perfect romantic picnic? We’ve put together a list of suggestions for two, plus substitutions for a family-friendly picnic if a date’s not in the cards. Here’s what to pack:
Start simple with a good cut of cured meats. We’re not talking about a metric ton of cheap ham. You want to impress, so get prosciutto or salami, or, to knock it out of the park, get coppa from Salumi in Seattle.
Shoot for a mild Brie that pairs well with the intense flavor of the meat. Or consider the Cirrus or Seastack from Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend; find them at higher-end grocery stores or artisanal cheese shops such as The Cheesemonger’s Table in Edmonds.
Put the Ritz crackers down and look for something flavor-neutral that’s truly just a vehicle for the meat and cheese. Pita chips are en vogue and make a perfect delivery system.
Make it family friendly: Sandwiches are a simpler option with kids in tow. For something fun and out of the ordinary, buy sliced turkey, cream cheese, cranberry sauce and bakery rolls. It’s easy to put together and not too messy.
This should be light and fruity. Keep the big, bombastic table wine where it belongs: on a table. Some local, low-cost wines we’d suggest include Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese, a frequent award winner with aromas of strawberry and tangerine; Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, with floral and mandarin aromas and crisp fruit flavors; and Boomtown Syrah, with blackberry, cream and floral flavors.
Make it family friendly: Nobody says you can’t bring the wine along, but the kids will need something. There are plenty of options with juice boxes and the like, but for something special, let each kid pick out an artisan soda.
A nice bar of chocolate from, say, Theo Chocolate is quick and easy, but it’s not too inspired. Instead, head over to L’Artisan French Bakery in Silver Lake and get a couple of individual-sized tarts. It’s the perfect way to finish off a romantic meal.
Make it family-friendly: Cookies are a great alternative. Instead of the stock Oreos, however, look for some from Seattle’s Cougar Mountain Baking Company, which most grocery stores carry. I’m partial to the seasonal Ballpark Cookies with chocolate chunks, peanuts and toffee.
Thanks to portable iPod docks and iPhones, this is a lot simpler than the days of the mix tape and the boombox that took eight D batteries. The playlist can be tricky — think more soul and jazz and less Bon Jovi — but if everything’s charged, your picnic will have a nice aural quality.
Make it family-friendly: Same equipment, different playlist. Think more Pharell and songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack and less jazz. One hint: No Katy Perry songs.
We’re not sure anyone actually reads poetry aloud, and staring romantically into each other’s eyes can only last so long. The key is something you can do together, such as a crossword, Scrabble or cribbage. If you play guitar, bring that. If you’re down with technology, take the iPhone off the dock and play a game, such as Flipside Charades.
Make it family-friendly: Bring games, preferably something active. Bocce ball kits are easy to transport, and a Frisbee, football or a baseball are even easier.
Where to go
There’s no shortage of parks in our area that are ideal. In south Snohomish County, there’s Meadowdale Beach Park and Marina Beach Park in Edmonds. Head north and you’ll find Kayak Point Regional County Park in Stanwood or Camano Island or Cama Beach state parks. In between is Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park or Jetty Island, a short ferry ride from the Everett Marina. Looking to enjoy a picnic at the end of a short hike? Monte Cristo off Mountain Loop Highway and Bear Lake on Pinnacle Lake Trail are good, or check out two suggestions from guidebook author Craig Romano.