Two Summer Picnics

by mary on August 19, 2013

hummus, bell pepper strips, green beans, and strawberries in glass dishes on a picnic blanket

picnic hummus, bell pepper strips, green beans, and strawberries

Every summer we go to the park, twice, for a picnic followed by one of the professional and well-done Shakespeare in the Park productions put on by Wooden O. Our first picnic this year, on a beautiful sunny late afternoon, began with our boys playing frisbee and the actors practicing a few key scenes before the show. We started our meal with hummus and bell pepper strips, green beans with fresh dill, and fresh strawberries and raspberries.

hummus, raspberries, strawberries, Trader Joe's sparkling cider

picnic sparkling cider and raspberries

Next we had West Coast artisan cheeses along with La Panzanella crackers and fresh cherries. Humboldt Fog cheese by Cypress Grove in Humboldt County, California is a favorite with my husband and me. It’s a mild, soft goat cheese with a slight bite and a line of edible ash down the middle of the block. It’s a rare but much appreciated treat in our household.

bing cherries, Dinah's cheese, humboldt fog

picnic cheeses and cherries

Our other two cheeses were from small Washington farms. I bought Dinah’s Cheese for the first time for this picnic and it was the surprise hit. My boys say it’s ‘like brie but better,’ and that’s true. It’s a camembert-like cheese, very rich and almost runny. It’s made from Jersey cow milk at Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island. Our third cheese was Tieton Farms delightful Sonnet, soft and very fresh with just a bit of tang.

Dinah's cheese (wheel) and Humboldt Fog (with stripe)

Dinah’s cheese (wheel) and Humboldt Fog (with stripe)

Interestingly, I’ve now realized that all three of these cheeses are bloomy rind cheeses. I like the fresh, soft, cheeses best and I chose all three of this same style of cheese without knowing about it.

gourmet chocolate bars

gourmet chocolate bars

For dessert we had several incredible chocolate bars. Two of them were salted caramel bars with a hard layer of chocolate covering a gooey soft caramel interior, yet they were different enough from each other to be interesting. The Bissinger’s is milk chocolate with a banana-infused caramel layer and toasted pecans. The Vosges is dark chocolate with an almost-burnt caramel inner layer, giving lots of deep, rich flavor.

The first two bars were so good, I doubted I would like the third one as much, but amazingly, I did. It was a very smooth white chocolate with crunchy dried strawberry crisps in it, made by Divina.

I wish I could show you the relaxed, smiling faces of my sons and my husband lounging on our picnic blanket. The meal, the sun, the excellent staging of Henry V made for a really fun time, a highlight of our summer.

For our second picnic, before we watched The Tempest,  I brought coleslaw and my first-ever attempt at baked beans. I used butter beans (large lima beans), which I’d never cooked with before, adapting a baked bean recipe from SpinachTiger. I’m still refining the recipe, but it was already good enough for my family to enjoy, and when it’s ready for prime time I look forward to sharing it.

baked butter beans and coleslaw on an enamel plate

coleslaw and baked butter beans

I hope you’ve had a happy summer, perhaps with fun times  outside with the ones you love.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

yummychunklet August 22, 2013 at 1:37 am

Everything looks delicious for a picnic!
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mary August 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Thanks!

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Tina August 24, 2013 at 7:32 pm

What nice picnic foods! The chocolates sound so good and like nothing I’ve had before. Add in Shakespeare in the Park, too? Fun!
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mary August 25, 2013 at 1:23 am

Thanks, Tina! Yes, watch out for those fancy chocolate bars, they are addictive!

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The Wimpy Vegetarian August 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Humboldt Fog cheese from Cypress Grove is one of our very favorite cheeses. I served it as one of the cheeses at a recent party and people raved about it. And I’m really looking forward to your seeing your baked beans recipe when you’re ready to post. I’m going to start experimenting with a baked beans dish too :-)
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mary August 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Ah yes, I do understand why you are a fan. I think of baked beans as a picnic and summer food, so I don’t know if I’ll get to it again before next summer. I used smoked paprika and liquid smoke extract to give it some smoky flavor without using bacon.

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The Wimpy Vegetarian August 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I use smoked paprika a lot for that, but haven’t used the extract. I think I’ll pick some up :-)
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Mireya August 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Shakespeare and picnic in the park…., that sounds like so much fun!
One of the disadvantages to living in Arizona, because of the heat, is that there isn’t much time in the year for the fun outdoor activities.

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mary September 3, 2013 at 4:32 am

But Mireya, I’m sure you will be just starting your picnics when mine end!

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