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In all honesty, the foodies that think picnics are just for summer are missing the point of leisurely eating in the midst of beautiful changing leaves on crisp days. First things first, a good fall picnic should last for hours. If you’re packed up and heading back to the car an hour after you unloaded, you’ve yet to hit your picnic peak. What you need is not only excellent food—sourced from your favorite grocery or farmer’s market—but a great venue and, of course, the right company. Here’s how to pack the perfect fall picnic.
Find a picturesque setting
A winery upstate is one of the most ideal spots for a picnic, because instead of packing booze, you can buy a local bottle (and all necessary wine accessories) on the premises. They’re also more likely to provide tables and chairs on a patio. But don’t be shy about asking the manager if you can walk around the grounds and set up your own blanket. If you don’t have a scenic orchard or brewery to picnic at on a fall road trip, of course, your local park is a perfect alternative.
Pack high-quality blankets and throw pillows
A luxury picnic doesn’t fall victim to canvas picnic blankets. Instead, bring a plush, knit blanket, and try to bring a machine washable one that you can clean post-picnic. If you’re planning to spend several hours in the park with friends awaiting an outdoor movie, add a few pillows to the mix so you can really get cozy.
Make an unforgettable cheese and charcuterie board
The secret to a great cheese board is variety. Choose two different meats (jamon and prosciutto), and at least one soft cheese and one hard cheese (typically manchego complements jamon nicely, and a triple-cream brie is a safe bet for soft cheese). If you want to add one more variable, a goat cheese rounds out this spread nicely, especially with fresh-baked crusty bread. The other secret is all in the extras. Bring a container of calvestrano olives, a package of dried apricots, and a local fig jam, which will pair perfectly with the cheeses. Not only does this elevate your spread, but having the extras gives your vegetarian friends more options.
Bring portable cocktails to start, and local wine to go with the meal
Bring a discreet carry-on cocktail kit ($24) so you can recreate a bar-quality drink in the wilderness. The cocktail is just to start the evening. Once you dig into the cheese and meat spread, have a robust red for the earthy wine fans, and a bottle of bubbly for those that want to continue their evening sans lip stains.
Wow your friends with homemade baked goods
After the cheese and charcuterie course, serve a savory galette filled with butternut squash, and other seasonal produce. For dessert, an apple-based dessert goes a long way. Apple crumble is easy to make the morning of, and keeps well until served. And don’t forget to divide and conquer. If you’re picnicking with a group, assign everyone various dishes. But if you’re meeting a date, try baking something together.
Don’t skimp on the details
Pack a basket with well-made disposable cutlery, plates, and glasses. You can find disposable champagne flutes that look like glass. Or if you’d prefer a more environmentally friendly approach, try a wicker picnic basket set from Williams-Sonoma ($349.95). Other details sure to elevate everyone’s experience that should be on your packing list: sparkling water (for mixing drinks or for those not drinking alcohol, and for stains), sanitizing wipes, and napkins.