Schmancy glassware, soggy sandwiches and other picnic faux pas
August 28th, 2011
08:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to get our grub on, we listen up.

Ignore all those back to school signs. It’s still summer. And except for the occasional hurricane, it’s still prime picnic season. You might be a very successful picnicker, might never have experienced a picnic disaster, but my colleagues in the Food & Wine test kitchen have learned the hard way the best things not to pack for a picnic.

Here are five of their top tips:

Just say no to deviled eggs
They’re a picnic staple, but Marcia Kiesel, F&W’s test kitchen supervisor, says the best place to eat deviled eggs is in your air-conditioned home or at your favorite temperature-controlled restaurant. The best deviled eggs are messy and hard to pack and shouldn’t be sitting on your picnic blanket in the sun for more than a fast few minutes.

Think sandwich alternatives
Of course there are great picnic sandwiches. But for every good one, there’s one that gets completely flattened or soggy or both. Grace Parisi, F&W’s senior recipe developer, has a brilliant idea: make bread salads instead. You can mix chunks of toasted bread with virtually any sandwich filling: meat, cheese, vegetables, tuna (perhaps draw the line at PB & J bread salad). And when bread salads get soggy, that’s a good thing. Think of them as a much cooler alternative to pasta salad.

Improve on fried chicken
I know, fried chicken is pretty close to a perfect food, but for picnics you actually can make them better. F&W's test kitchen assistant Gina Mungiovi recommends bringing chicken nuggets. That’s right, chicken nuggets. Here’s what’s great about good, homemade ones for picnics - you don’t have to worry about any bones lying around the table. (Excess garbage at picnics = bad.)

Champagne is not a picnic wine
F&W’s Kiesel likes to drink Champagne just about anywhere - except at picnics. Champagne is best served well chilled which means you need to pack plenty of ice. And the bottles themselves are heavy; if your picnic is for more than two people, you better be strong if people are going to have more than a sip of Champagne. Plus Kiesel has the scars to show for an errant cork on a windy day. In fact, picnics are a great place to check out all the fab new boxed wines out there.

Picnics are not the place for your fancy margarita glasses
Here’s another tip from Kiesel. You might have an amazing arsenal of cocktail glassware - you might even have a second set in plastic. But don’t bring your wide, shallow margarita glasses to a picnic because as much as drinks tend to spill at parties, they spill extra at picnics. Those al fresco margaritas will be fine in regular glasses or plastic cups. This advice also applies to anyone who drinks martinis at picnics.

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  2. Shirley U Jest

    Kate Krader and the F&W staff who helped write this: Thanks for Ireneing the picnic.
    First lets all agree there are various categories of picnics; as an opener let’s say a Category One picnic (cat1) is minimal, a sandwich and chips brought on a day hike. A Category Ten is a blow out picnic party. For the sake of balance let us all assume you are referring to a cat 5, average backyard or park BBQ picnic, where the picnic is the center of entertainment. I aim my following comments at such:
    – Just say no to deviled eggs: ARE YOU NUTS? Messy and hard to pack? Google or BING deviled egg carrier and see for yourself the plethora of deviled egg carriers just for picnics. Modern coolers and iced trays can keep them cool and covered at a picnic for hours. Why don’t you say no cheese for the same reasons, huh? That wouldn’t make sense either.
    – Grace Paris’s novel idea of a bread salad made me laugh myself out of my chair. I put croutons in my salads ALL THE TIME. Who hasn’t had sandwich meats or salads (tuna, shrimp, etc..) in a salad? Sometimes salads are served with a deviled egg in it.
    – Gina, you give chicken nuggets to children but not grown-ups at a picnic., unless you are trying to incite a food fight. Replace fried chicken with chicken nuggets…..HA HA HA HA… (my eyes are tearing, is this article supposed to be serious?) LOL again, If you don’t want soggy sandwiches, add the condiments, lettuce and tomato and such to it at the picnic table. How hard is that?
    – About Champagne: Okay, box wines have their place, and a good picnic maybe one of them. But while Kiesel argues that champagne is hard to keep real cold but ignores that its is as easy to keep wine cool as it is to keep champagne cold. Coolers and ice are a staple at all picnics. When people get decadent and bring a case of their favorite, one can be guaranteed, that cooler filled with ice and champagne won’t be left in the car. And as for the wind and corks, Kiesel, remember the golden rule, don’t pee into the wind….
    – Fancy margarita and martini glasses… Sure outside plastic is dandy, but to highlight the expensive ingredients and the careful preparation of that outdoor cocktail, isn’t it fair to splurge and serve it in the proper glass? I ask you.
    You talk about spillage and knocking drinks over, HA! that thought will make you all the more carefull not to spill that cold precious elixir.
    – Picnics are about simple but are also about accentuating the experience outside. Complex can be very simple when everyone chips in and brings their piece to the table. Cheers.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
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