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May 15, 2010

Picnic picks

by Anya Gosine, Online Managing, Op/Ed and Food Editor
Summer is almost upon us, and among the activities you can do in the sun swimming, running, tanning eating is certainly one of the most appealing. No one can deny the irresistible charm of picnics; however, not everyone possesses the skills to execute one properly. Luckily, we here at Silver Chips Online are fans of both food and warm weather and have compiled a detailed guide to perfect picnicking.

Location, location, location

Without an ideal setting, any picnic is bound for failure. But the outdoors is an open place and aside from others' backyards and government property you can settle down just about anywhere. For a beginner's picnic you can start off in your own backyard, but as you progress in picnicking, dare to explore some of the area's most and least popular nooks and crannies. Some of Silver Chips Online's location picks include:

Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis has a beachfront view with your choice of either picnic tables or the sand as a dining location. Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Network
Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis has a beachfront view with your choice of either picnic tables or the sand as a dining location.
Sligo Dennis Avenue Local Park, Silver Spring: Located on Sligo Creek Parkway, this spot is only a short walk from Blair. It is complete with picnic tables as well as a small playground, basketball courts, tennis courts and not to mention a peaceful view of Sligo Creek.
Dupont Circle, Washington D.C.: Easily accessible by Metro, the center of Dupont Circle is a nucleus of tranquility surrounded by the energizing D.C. culture. There are plenty of open grass space as well as park benches, and it is only a few steps away from museums, embassies and other sight-seeing opportunities.
Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis: This Maryland state park is one of the Chesapeake's charms. Its sandy shores provide for great tanning potential and visitors are allowed to swim in the waters. There are also designated areas for fishing and crabbing (which can be convenient if you forgot to pack food). Picnics on the beach can be refreshingly pleasant as well as very romantic.
Montgomery Blair courtyards, Silver Spring: Why not? Be it during lunch or afterschool, the school grounds offer plenty of space, sun and shade. Of course, the exclusive Senior Courtyard stays exclusive, but the courtyards located outside the SAC are the perfect place to sprawl out with friends after a long day at work. With a little coercing, it is also quite possible to get receive some free music or entertainment from other Blazers while you eat.

Gearing up
Sure, those quaint wicker baskets are cute - but they are also bulky, impractical and not for the wise, modern-day picnicker. Stores such as REI and Target sell impressive insulated lunch boxes and coolers that epitomize 21st century technology. These wondrous products of innovation come with multiple pockets and compartments that allow you to pack multiple-course meals, separate salad from dessert forks, and keep everything fresh to the fullest. Though pricey, these can be worthy investments for the truly dedicated outdoor diner.

But if you are not willing to make such a commitment to the art of picnicking, a good ol' tote bag has a reasonable carrying capacity and is still easier to transport than a basket. But above all, it is most important to remember that Tupperware is your friend. And remember, there are also ways to emulate the high-tech cooling of those fancy products. Plan on bringing juiceboxes? Freeze them the night before and they will not only serve as ice packs for your food, but they will also be nice and cool by the time you are ready to drink them.

This insulated, thermal tote combines portability, practicality and class for $24.99. Courtesy of Target.com
This insulated, thermal tote combines portability, practicality and class for $24.99.
While baskets are an element of traditional picnics that is now obsolete, blankets remain a definite essential. The red and white checkered blanket is a classic, but old bed sheets are also an excellent substitute. If you are willing to bring them along, additional pillows can also increase the luxuriousness of your dining experience. Other useful pieces of equipment for both a stylish and functional picnic include hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and an umbrella if you expect a lack of shade. Finally, picnics are an opportunity to embrace nature, not destroy it, so in case your location of choice has no receptacles be sure to bring along some plastic bags for trash!


The craft of cuisine
We now arrive at the heart and soul of picnicking. A well-practiced picnicker can exert a good deal of creativity of their choices of food, but it is always important to try and have a fair balance of food pyramid options. What is packed on a picnic depends simply on personal tastes, but should also be appropriate for your picnic location for a pleasingly cohesive dining experience.
Here are some of our picks:

Traditional treats:
- Cold-cut sandwiches; PB&J is another great option
- Green salad
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Chocolate chip cookies (homemade tend to be a winner)

BBQ bash:
- Hamburger patties and buns
- Coleslaw
- Corn on the cob
- Watermelon

Beachside banquet:
- Mini crabcakes
- Shrimp & dip
- Fruit kabobs with melon, cantaloupe and mango
- Iced tea (mini-umbrellas really top this off)

Vegan varieties:
- Pita bread and hummus
- Pasta salad (no mayonnaise; replace meat with chickpeas)
- Tortilla chips and guacamole
- Vegan cupcakes


With all this information taken into account, you should now be an ultimate expert at the pleasurable pastime that we call picnicking. So whether you are planning an excursion with friends, some family bonding time or a date with a significant other, simply refer to Silver Chips Online to ensure that the meal is an absolute success.



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