A picnic sounds like an easy event to plan. Just put some food in a basket, go to a local park, and enjoy a perfect meal outdoors. But packing for a picnic isn’t quite as easy as making lunch to eat at home, because, let’s face it, how many times have you gotten up from the table because you forgot a serving spoon, or you dropped a fork and needed a clean one? Or after one bite of the sandwich, you decided that you wanted a pickle or some chips? Or you forgot the mustard?

Unless you’re picnicking in your own backyard, once you arrive at your destination, what you have is all you’ve got. That lovely bottle of wine won’t get opened if you don’t have a corkscrew. A little planning and some key gadgets can minimize the annoyances and make a picnic seem effortless.

First - let’s pick out the right basket

A picnic basket doesn’t need to be wicker. Or basket-shaped. There are a variety of basket styles available to fit your lifestyle and your picnic needs. Are you packing for two, or four? Are you traveling by foot, bike, or car? Is this a date-night supper, or quick lunch in the park across from the office?

Many retailers sell both baskets and even backpacks specifically designed for picnics. They can come complete with dishes, wine glasses, metal utensils, napkins, a cutting board, serrated knife, corkscrew, and tiny salt and pepper shakers. An insulated storage compartment for food, detachable wine storage and a picnic blanket complete the set. Some can even be personalized or monogrammed.

The backpack basket is great if you’re doing a little hiking to your picnic space, whether that hiking is urban, back-country trails or even perhaps a short bike ride. But since space (and weight) is limited to what makes sense to carry on your back, they’re probably best for wine, cheese, and nibbles, or a few sandwiches and a few sides, rather than a huge spread.

Tips for serving

One thing to keep in mind is that your chosen picnic spot might not be close to running water, so if you drop your serving spoon in the grass, maybe you’d rather grab a clean spoon instead of trying to clean the dirty one.

In fact, I suggest bringing along plenty of extra utensils. They don’t take much space, and for serving spoons and random cutlery, you don’t need to go all-out with high-end equipment. A visit to a local thrift store will probably supply you with a big handful of unmatched and interesting flatware and serving spoons for cheap. When the picnic is over, wash them, put them in a plastic bag, and store them in the basket so you’re ready to go next time.

Speaking of cutlery, bring along a few extra knives as well. You don’t need your best equipment, but I’d suggest something better than a butter knife. A knife that comes with its own sheath is a good idea, it keeps it safe from cutting unwanted things. A few small cutting boards can come in handy, too. Remember, you might not have a good way to rinse your used boards, so it might be handier to bring a few extras. While I love small flexible cutting mats, you might be working on a bumpy surface at the picnic area, so a solid board might be a better choice.

For the wine and cheese basket, don’t forget the toothpicks! I packed cheese, olives, and some pickled items, none of which really required plates or utensils to nibble, but toothpicks are certainly more civilized than poking in the olive container with your fingers. Buy a little toothpick dispenser and keep it in the picnic basket.

While the picnic baskets I mentioned came with their own napkins, some extras in a dispenser that will keep them from blowing away is a good idea. After the picnic, leave it in the basket or use it for backyard dining.

Many of the baskets on the market come in 2-person and 4-person versions. Even if you think your picnics will only involve two people, the 4-person version might be a good choice, since you’ll get extra plates and utensils that can be used for serving, and you won’t need to pack up as many extras.

Here are some great picnic recipes from Bellisari’s. Enjoy!

Barista Grilled Chicken Wrap

Servings: 2

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup rinsed and drained black beans
¼ cup drained sweet corn
¼ cup grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
¼ cup peeled and diced jicama
¼ - ½ cup ranch dressing
1 large tomato, diced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 leftover grilled chicken breast, chilled and diced
¼ - ½ cup of Bellisari’s Barista Sauce
Sundried tomato tortillas

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine lettuce with basil, cilantro, black beans, corn, cheese and jicama. Toss with ranch dressing (as much as you’d like). Place diced tomatoes, top with avocado slices. Toss diced grilled chicken in two tablespoons of Bellisari’s Barista Sauce. Mix all together. Spread mixture on tortilla, roll and enjoy.

Chilled Orzo & Asparagus Salad

Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 box orzo
1 jar Bellisari’s Blue Cheese, Honey & Shallot Spread
1 cup Walnut Pieces
½ lb. thin asparagus spears
1 cup dried currants

Directions:
Place walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated 350°F oven until lightly toasted, 4-5 minutes. Rinse asparagus spears and snap off and discard their tough ends. Break spears into 1½ inch-long pieces. Cook orzo as directed.

During the last 3 minutes of orzo cooking time add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp-tender. Add Bellisari’s Blue Cheese Honey & Shallot Spread and mix well. Stir in walnuts and currants. Serve.

Saigon Deviled Eggs

Servings: 6

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. of paprika
3 Tbsp. of Bellisari’s Saigon Street Sauce

Directions:
Place eggs in a pot of salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and let the eggs cook in boiling water until they are hard boiled (about 10-15 minutes). Drain eggs.

Peel eggs and cut in half, lengthwise. Remove the egg yolks and mash them together in a small mixing bowl. Mix in the paprika and Bellisari’s Saigon Street Sauce. Spoon mixture into the egg whites; cool and serve.

Inspiration and information from seriouseats.com