Proper planning precedes perfect picnics, preaches Perreca Papa.
That’s Maria Perreca Papa, who co-owns Perreca’s bakery and More Perreca’s on Jay Street. Easy innovations can add to the fun of grazing in the grass, Perreca Papa said.
Perreca Papa believes people are looking for themes and creative snacks as they prepare picnic baskets.
“Tuscany might be the picnic,” Perreca Papa said. “Think about a nice, robust Italian wine, the wonderful Italian hard cheeses like extra-sharp provolone and fontinella. Those are good, stable cheeses that can withstand some heat. It can reach 75, 80 degrees outside and the cheeses are still going to be OK in your picnic basket.”
As someone whose business revolves around Italian bread, Perreca Papa also appreciates Italian sandwiches. She thinks people prefer pre-made entrees, as opposed to lugging in charcoal, lighter fluid and portable grill tops and waiting 45 minutes or so to put hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken breasts on the sizzle.
“We make a muffaletta,” Perreca Papa said. “What’s in it — mortadella, cappicolo, Genoa salami, extra sharp provolone, basil, olive oil and our own Kalamata chopped olive salad. We stuff all that in the sandwich. We also make a roasted red pepper and fontinella cheese panini. We make a Margherita with sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil, a prosciutto and extra sharp provolone sandwich. These are all grab and go, and we have mounds of them on the counter.”
Perreca Papa said picnic people should also consider olives for side dishes instead of potato and macaroni salads. “They’re more fun; they’re more of an experience,” she said.
The picnic container counts, too. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a Williams-Sonoma picnic basket, but you could do your own thing, rather than pulling out the cooler that’s going to the baseball games for the kids,” Perreca Papa said. “You could get a nice wicker basket and you can line it with a tablecloth. It really makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t scream ‘soccer mom’ and it brings you back to years gone by before the kids.”
Nicole Tommasone likes salads. As a manager at Gabriel’s supermarket in Rotterdam, she said people who want to eat outdoors during the summer months like traditionals in potato and macaroni varieties. Gabriel’s also makes deviled eggs to go, and people will stash them in their picnic baskets.
Sometimes, she added, people prefer homemade turkey or ham salad sandwiches using store-made products.
“We have pepper shooters, and people take them all the time,” Tommasone said. “They’re peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone cheese or mozzarella cheese and oil. You just eat them like that.”
Tommasone also said that while sodas are popular with some segments of the population year-round, lemonade seems to make more friends during May, June, July and August. Especially pink lemonade, she said, which looks more festive through food dyes or through the additions of crushed fruits such as cherries, raspberries or strawberries.
Think about convenience
Picnics should also be planned with convenience in mind.
“Panini wraps should probably be your best bet because they’re cold and they travel well,” said Jeanette Bowers, general manager of the Brown Derby restaurant in Albany. “They’re OK if they get squished.”
Bowers, who also assists in the restaurant’s catering operations, said coleslaw and pasta salads are other hits for parks and playgrounds. She believes there’s also room for something different, like cucumber and tomato salad and fresh mozzarella and tomato salad.
People must do more than consider menus when they visit park and pond.
“Any time you go outdoors, you have to be prepared for the weather,” said Nola BalGallo, a supervisor at Peebles Island State Park in Cohoes. “So you want to bring something to sit on — if you’re not at a picnic table, of course. You definitely want to have some sunscreen if the weather calls for that and some bug spray. If you have pets, make sure you have them on a leash.”
Umbrellas are other options.
“An umbrella is a great idea for shade as well as rain,” BalGallo said. “We know living in the Northeast you can’t predict the weather. You may get a thunderstorm, so maybe a lightweight jacket of some type, too. If there’s lightning, put the umbrella down. We don’t want them to become a lightning rod.”
People who bring dogs should bring plastic bags for the animals’ calls to nature. Other plastic bags should be used for trash containers. “You want to leave the area clean for the next person,” BalGallo said. “So they can enjoy their experiences, too.”
If people are using park grills for cooking fires, BalGallo added, they should douse charcoal with water once hamburgers and hot dogs are off the flames. Hot coals should never be buried.
People will set up camp near wooden tables for an afternoon, but they don’t have to sit at them. Collapsible lawn chairs and blankets are better fits for the flesh.
“Bring a lot of paper towels, a lot of handi-wipes,” said Carolyn Davis, who co-owns PJ’s Bar-B-QSA drive-in restaurant in Saratoga Springs with her husband, John. “Take care of your comfort first, then you can enjoy your picnic.”
Hundreds of people will park themselves at the Davis picnic tables during a busy summer day. Carolyn Davis said that because her Route 9 business is close to Saratoga Spa State Park, people stop for sandwiches before heading to the green. Barbecue chicken sandwiches, pulled pork and Texas-style brisket are among the best-sellers.
People shouldn’t forget desserts just because dinner is served outdoors. Bob Van Allen, manager at Greulich’s market in Guilderland, said pies are a great way to end the day. And they aren’t as messy as sticky, pit-filled watermelons.
“Last year I brought pies to my family picnic and they went very fast,” Van Allen said. “I think after they’re done eating, they want some kind of a sweet thing. Most of them aren’t refrigerated like lemon merengue or Key lime, so they can stay out in the warmer weather for a while.”