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Globe Magazine

How to plan a perfect picnic

A checklist for creating a meal to take along to a park, beach, or backyard.

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Robert Harris knows that a picnic is about more than simply a sandwich, drink, and dessert. At Season to Go — the Cambridge takeout and delivery arm of his catering company, Season to Taste — he crafts hand-held delicacies with regional themes, such as French or Southern. He also tries to incorporate bite-sized components of crunch, creaminess, salt, and sweetness, using ingredients from neighborhood shops. “Think global, but buy local,” he says. Here’s how he builds a delicious basket.

Supplies: Harris recommends picnic supplies from Didriks, a well-stocked boutique for the home cook and picnicker, which sells cutting boards and cutlery. (Order online and arrange curbside pickup from its locations in Belmont or Newton at didriks.com or call 800-833-7505.)


Crunchy: Start with a pre-sliced baguette (Harris likes Iggy’s Bread of the World, a favorite of local chefs), biscuit, or crackers, which serve as the vessel for your bite. Gluten-free picnickers can try endive spears or carrots.

Creamy: Next, layer with a favorite cheese. On a baguette, try a French cheese such as comté (Harris orders from Vermont Creamery); on a biscuit, go for a zingy pimento. Other spreadable options: white bean dip, hummus, tzatziki, or cultured butter.

Salty: Pile on the meat. Harris likes shaved Northeast Family Farms’ ham and saucisson sec from New England Charcuterie. Not a meat eater? Get a savory kick from pickles or a hard-boiled egg.

Sweet: Depending on your picnic theme, drizzle with honey or top with fresh fruit or preserves from a local farmers’ market. “The great thing about picnic season is that it coincides with growing season,” Harris says.

Sides: Visit your local farmers’ market for veggies, melons, and berries, he suggests. Pack your favorite chips, too.

Dessert: Harris heads to Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge for “phenomenal one- or two-bite pastries,” he says, such as oatmeal cream pies and nut-free double chocolate cookies.


Drinks: When it comes to wine, a screw-top is key for easy pouring (and don’t forget the wine glasses). Harris likes the light Thibaud Boudignon Rosé de Loire. Beer drinker? Try a “bright, refreshing lager” — Harris is a fan of Cambridge Brewing Company.

A Few Words About Kids: Start with a kid-friendly main dish. Think peanut butter and jelly — “there’s no shame in that game,” says Harris, a dad himself. Pair with local goodies: watermelon from the farmers’ market, a chocolate chip cookie from your local bakery, and fruit juice to wash it all down.

Eight great places to shop for picnic essentials

1. Dave’s Fresh Pasta

Grab essential provisions or simply ask these kind folks to make your favorite sandwich from their vast stock of breads, cheeses, meats, and condiments. 81 Holland Street, Somerville, 617-623-0867, davesfreshpasta.com

2. Formaggio Kitchen

A wonderland of charcuterie, cheeses, and wines, staffed by thoughtful experts happy to make recommendations. Various locations; 888-212-3224, formaggiokitchen.com

3. Petsi Pies

Sweet and savory pies are on the menu at this Somerville favorite. Order online, everything from bacon leek to strawberry rhubarb to a bacon cheddar scallion biscuit that will kick any picnic up several notches. 285 Beacon Street, Somerville, 617-661-7437, petsipies.com

4. Russo’s

A haven for fresh produce, deli meats, and baked goods. Order preassembled boxes of cheeses, kid-friendly fruits, organic greens, and bread from Iggy’s, picked up curbside. 560 Pleasant Street, Watertown, 617-923-1500, russos.com


5. Season to Go

Order picnic platters at the takeout arm of Season to Taste, Harris’s popular Cambridge catering company. 2447 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-945-9535, seasontotastecatering.com

6. Sofra Bakery

From the team behind the lauded Oleana and Sarma, this Turkish bakery specializes in bite-sized savories and sweets with a Middle Eastern twist. 1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, 617-661-3161, sofrabakery.com

7. Tony’s Market

A Roslindale institution for decades, Tony’s specializes in deli meats and cheeses, plus Italian groceries and cannoli to go. 4381 Washington Street, Roslindale, 617-323-7313, tonysmarketroslindale.com

8. The Urban Grape

This refreshingly unsnobby South End spirits shop, the victim of looting in early June, is still taking orders. Wines are meticulously categorized and described; order online to filter by country, color, varietal, price, and more. 303 Columbus Avenue, Boston, 857-250-2509, urbangrape.com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.