food

Just 4 ways to level up your next socially-distanced picnic.

S.Pellegrino
Thanks to our brand partner, S.Pellegrino

Spring is upon us! This means it’s officially time to throw down a picnic blanket, don your best gingham and pack those baskets. Here’s looking at you, fully-vaxxed folk!  

As we’re transitioning out of lockdown in many states, we’re relishing our newfound freedoms and enjoying the privilege of gathering outdoors. 

I’ve always loved a picnic, even before everyone was talking about them in 2021. I like to think of them as an opportunity to romanticise the every day. The food isn’t there just to be eaten; it’s there to be presented and savoured, you feel me?

If you're in the same mindset, it makes sense that you want to make your picnic experience as luxurious as possible. 

I’ve planned my fair share of picnics over the years and I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t. From what to pack to what to drink, here are 5 ways to level up your next socially-distanced picnic. 

1. Perfect your platter

Food is obviously the central part of any good picnic. As well as asking all guests to bring a plate, creating a platter will always be the pièce de résistance (the masterpiece!) of the whole rendezvous. So, it's important to get it right. 

The thing about a lot of picnic platters is that they look good on the ‘gram but often won't have that eatability factor.

My number one tip for picnic food is to always think about what you reach for first on a picnic platter or grazing board. Let's be honest – no one eats the 'filler nuts' and the prosciutto always goes the quickest. 

When preparing your platter, keep this in mind and start by buying the largest amount of the 'good stuff' – the cheese, the cured meats and some other substantial morsels. Everything else can fit around these in smaller proportions. 

My birthday picnic setup. Image: Supplied.

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Here's my regular shopping list for a platter/grazing board. Amounts will depend on how many people are attending of course.  

  • Cured meats - my go-tos are proscuitto, jamón serrano, ham off the bone and salami.
  • Cheeses - my general and not-very-expert rule of thumb is one soft, one hard, one blue and one fancy. I made this up one time and it seems to be a winning formula.
  • Olives 
  • Dips - hummus is a crowd favourite, as is roasted beetroot, capsicum, taramosalata, tzatziki, chunky pesto or olive tapenade. 
  • Veggies - if you go for a raw/crudité vibe then make sure you chop at home to make setting up more efficient, and if you go for roasted, opt for antipasto style veg like peppers, mushroom and artichoke.
  • Fruit - for fresh fruit, I usually go for strawberries, blueberries, purple grapes and figs. And for dried, I go for dates, apricots, mango and pear.
  • Crackers - I think a platter is only as good as its crackers. It's best to have a selection, especially for those who are gluten-free. I like cranberry and pumpkin seed crackers.
  • Accoutrements - these are the things that can really take your platter to the next level. Things like honeycomb to go on top of cheese, quince paste, chilli jam and chutneys.
  • Other substantial things - the stuff that will actually satiate you such as falafels, dolmades, arancini or frittata.
  • Filler nuts, if you must!

To ensure you have minimal food waste, plan how much you think each person will eat, so you don't over cater. 

If you have leftovers, there are plenty of things you can do with them to make sure they don't go to waste. If there are heaps of leftover cheese, I like to mix them all together in a ramekin and bake them for a three-cheese fondue, perfect for dipping bread or veggies in. 

If you have various other leftovers like fruit, veg and dips, these can be stored in the fridge to be used throughout the week.

2. Food and drink pairings

A picnic wouldn't be complete without drinks. I'd even go so far as to say they are more important than the charcuterie or fromage. Because dehydration is not cute.

There's nothing more quintessentially 'picnic-y' than some bubbles, but if you're like me and don't always feel like, or want it to be alcoholic (I've been alcohol-free for two years!), then you're probably looking for other fun alternatives. I love that now we have so many refreshing substitutes that still feels a little bit special.

Too often though, I find that many of the alc-free spirits or ready-to-drink cans are loaded with sugar and artificial flavours in order to make them taste like real cocktails. So, I'm always on the lookout for delicious but healthier drinks to bring to my picnics. 

Enter, the new S.Pellegrino Essenza range. The new flavoured mineral waters are fresh, light and feel like a party in your mouth. 

The Essenza range contains no sugar and has all-natural ingredients and flavours which means you can have a tasty drink with a twist of flavour, just without the nasties. 

Image: Supplied

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The flavours are Mediterranean inspired too which I love, and feels very timely for the warmer months. There's Lemon and Lemon Zest, and Tangerine and Wild Strawberry. So delicious! 

Sanpellegrino (or “San Pell” as it’s been affectionately abbreviated in my friend group) is already synonymous with luxury water, but this new drink collection really brings it up a notch.

I also love that they come in super slim cans, so they’re the perfect accompaniment to a picnic and will fit in your bag easily or stacked in an esky. Plus, they're recyclable of course.

These S.Pellegrino Essenza options are honestly the perfect way to elevate your picnic. You could even pair them with complementary foods to give your guests an amazing experience. 

My suggestions for picnic pairings:

Lemon and Lemon Zest 

We all know sparkling water and lemon is a classic combo, so this flavour of San Pell just cuts out the middleman and rolls it all into one can. So handy! And with the double lemon in the name, you can bet they don’t skimp on the citrus flavour. 

Image: Supplied/Two Peas and Their Pod.

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I'd pair this with fresh and light-flavoured food such as a fruit salad or watermelon and feta salad. Or if you want something more substantial, a ceviche drowned in lime juice would make the perfect pairing too. Lemon and lime is a match made in heaven and you can never have too much tang. 

Tangerine and Wild Strawberry

This drink really packs a punch. It's super fragrant, with the citrus-y zest of the tangerine and the sweetness of the strawberries. 

Image: Supplied/Vikalinka.

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I'd pair this with medium-flavoured foods like grilled antipasto vegetables, chicken souvlaki or freshly made pesto pasta. 

3. Style me pretty

Styling is a non-essential but much-appreciated element to any picnic. Just a few small touches can make the world of difference if you do them well. 

To style your set-up, place a few overlapping picnic blankets on the ground. If you don't have picnic blankets, then throws or linen sheets also work. Then I like to place a big palette in the centre for a bit of *drama*. You can usually find these given away on Facebook Marketplace, small local grocers, and even in council pick-ups.

As you can see, I love a palette moment. Image: Supplied.

Then, on top of the palette, I'll place a large wooden grazing board in the middle and maybe some smaller ones around it. 

To create some height, I'll also add a cut off tree stump to the corner of my big board to drape the grapes from. I got my stump from a florist – they were using them to put vases of flowers on and it was around $10. You can also find them on Facebook Marketplace or Etsy.

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To make the board look interesting and enticing, I'll place all condiments in little glass jars with spoons. 

I'll also pick some fresh natives from the garden and stick them in between the palette boards. If you don't have natives, then rosemary also works wonderfully placed on the board. 

4. Entertain me 

As much as food and drinks are an essential part of a picnic, once you're full, it's nice to provide some games for your picnic guests to play. The best picnics are the ones where people hang around for hours, with no thought about leaving. 

Conversation cards are a great thing to bring along to a picnic. They typically require critical thinking and self-evaluation and will help you form better connections with your loved ones. Trust me, the uncensored conversation that flows is great. I whip these bad boys out at any opportunity I can.

Image: Supplied.

Other fun games I love are Bat and Ball (try and hit it 50 times, I challenge you) and Finska.

Want to try the S.Pellegrino Essenza range for yourself? Shop the range here

Feature Image: Supplied.

S.Pellegrino
"After 120 years as the world’s unparalleled, classic sparkling water, S.Pellegrino is ready to delight you with a exciting taste experience: S.Pellegrino Essenza. Just as everyday little pleasures make life more enjoyable, S.Pellegrino Essenza is a fresh, new way to add a touch of taste to your casual mealtimes. S.Pellegrino Essenza feautres vibrant blends of delicious Medeterrean fruit flavours. Discover exciting, new combinations of refreshing essences: Lemon and Lemon zest, Tangerine and Wild Strawberry, Dark Morello Cherry and Pomegranate. Prepared only with natural ingredients and no artificial flavours."