Though it’s been unseasonably cool the past couple of days here in the District, the forecast promises high 70s/low 80s come Wednesday and Ms. Right-on-the-Money has invited me to the beach for Memorial Day — in other words, all I can think about is summertime, summertime, summertime. And, because I love an excuse to entertain, I’m dreaming up a fun day-in-the-sun outdoorsy picnic.
I received the most amazing barrel-shaped picnic basket from one of my bridal shower guests — it came outfitted with all the requisite glasses, plates, and utensils tucked inside. The one above is by PicnicTime — you can find a range of their products at eBags. If the basket is too elaborate a prop for you, test out one of these two canvas Anya Hindmarch totes (the first reads “Picnic” on the side and is available for $98 at Saks; the second accommodates six bottles of wine (!) and is available for $120 at Anya Hindmarch):
Then you’ll need a big red-and-white checked blanket or tablecloth to spread on the ground (gingham is an absolute must for the retro-style picnic I’m envisioning) — the one below is by Felix Populi ($80):
You can seat your guests on comfy Sunbrella ground cushions ($49 apiece, Crate and Barrel) in a cheery daffodil yellow.
As for dining implements? As you know, I find anything monogrammed and melamine adorable for outdoor entertaining. How about some gingham-patterned plates ($22 each, LaPlates):
These personalized Duraclear tumblers are perfect for summertime lemonade…or Mint Juleps ($68 for set of six, Williams Sonoma):
And for a summer salad — how perfectly designed is this little piece from Crate and Barrel? The servers snap in and snap out — ideal for transport ($14.95, Crate & Barrel):
Speaking of easy transport, how adorable (and useful) are these gingham Chinese takeout boxes? You could pack them with your picnic fare — individualized portions of fruit salad, sesame noodles, or caramel popcorn ($14 for 6 at Plum Party):
And what will you, the guest of honor, be wearing? I’d advise a matching retro-chic aesthetic. I’m into checks and polka dots — how about this straight-out-of-the-50s housedress ($88, Anthropologie):
I think it’d look beyond adorable with some white Jack Rogers and a little wicker clutch:
The darling bow version above is by Margaret Nicole ($160), but if it’s too frou-frou for your tastes given the daintiness of the entire look, consider this woven barrel clutch by Michael Kors instead ($178, Bloomingdale’s):
Alternately, consider pairing the Jacks and your clutch of choice with some crisp white jeans (J. Brand) and a blue-and-white checked top (Tory Burch — $225, Bergdorf’s):
The gingham checked shirt is quickly earning icon status. They’re all over the place right now — $40 at Gap; $69.50 at J. Crew; $151 for Gemma at Revolve Clothing; $160 for Steven Alan at Net-A-Porter; and so on and so on. Celebs are all over the look — including the lovely Reese Witherspoon:
If that’s too farmer-girl-next-door, why not an updated polka dot pattern? I’m absolutely bananas over this Alice by Temperley number ($425, Net-A-Porter):
Love the ketchup red color — perfect for the 4th of July. Alternately, for something in the more modest price range — this byCorpus dress really caught my eye ($58, Urban Outfitters):
I’m crazy about the neckline. So vintage-cool, easy-looking, and feminine. Love. I’m also head over heels for this sweet little tiered frock from Anthropologie ($158) — perfect for a lazy summer day!
If you find these dresses a bit too kitschy, you can look just as picnic-prepared in a white eyelet dress, like this Shoshanna ($330, Shopbop):
or this Lilly (on sale for $241 at Zappos — and it’s still full-price at Lilly’s eStore!):
Then all you’ll need is a pair of eye-catching sandals. These fun frillies are by Gap (!) and will only set you back $34.50:
Consider rounding out the look with this precious red-and-white-checked envelope clutch ($50, TopShop) or this cherry-red-accented rattan clutch ($275, Tory Burch) and a pair of classic red Wayfarers ($145, Shopbop):
And while I’m guessing you won’t be sporting swimwear to your local park (although — possibly appropriate for sunbathing season?), I’m ga-ga over this gingham ruffle bikini by Dani Kates ($41 for top, $39 for bottoms — Bluefly):
Sports Illustrated model Abby Clancy rocked this exact style for a spread in the magazine, so I’m shocked it’s not sold out yet. I’ve already snapped my set up and tucked it away for the honeymoon!
Looking for some easy-purchase last-minute accessories? I’m loving this Kate Spade “Picnic Quinn” bag ($275, KateSpade):
Or, as a substitute for a traditional picnic basket, consider this lovely waterproof tote from the “Chesapeake Collection” at Ellen Allen of Annapolis (love that she’s local!):
(It’s $250.) The interior has all kinds of pockets and pouches — my mom would die over it.
But once you’re there in the sun with good friends and good wine, the only thing you’ll need? Some good ol’ tunes. And lucky for us, Anthropologie has the perfect retro-chic answer to that need — a Roberts Revival radio ($328, Anthropologie — it comes in a range of adorable vintage-esque colors!):
Sit back and relax — quelle piquenique!
TheFashionMagpie’s Picnic Spread
Because I love to entertain, I’ve packed many-a-picnic in my day — so I thought I’d share some ideas on outdoor entertaining with you. Rules of thumb: avoid mayonnaise or anything else that will go rancid when left out too long. Try to aim for things easily eaten with one hand or scooped with a fork — nothing that requires cutting with a knife. I’m big into Mediterranean fare these days — so I’ve copied some of my absolute favorite Mediterranean-inspired dishes (friends ask for these recipes all the time!) I’d supplement these dishes with some pita rounds and/or pita chips, quality olives (i.e. from an olive bar at Whole Foods or another gourmet food purveyor, and harissa — a Tunisian hot chili sauce you can find in specialty markets).
The Magpie Couscous Salad
Cook a box of plain couscous according to the directions on the box. In the meantime, combine 1/2 C fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 C olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour some of dressing over warm couscous (enough to moisten and fragrance). Add thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 of an onion), 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, freshly chopped watercress, 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I like to toast mine over medium heat in a small fry pan for a few minutes, until lightly browned), and fresh grapes, halved. The proportions are approximate, so add as many grapes/nuts/onions as you’d like! Finish by adding more dressing, to taste, depending on how lemon-y you like it. I’ve also added shredded chicken in the past.
The Magpie Hummus
You’ll need a food processor for this one. Mince 4 peeled cloves of garlic in the processor and add 2 cups canned chickpeas (reserve the juice in a separate ramekin), 1/3 cup tahini, the juice of two lemons (you may need to adjust depending on the juiciness and size of the lemons), 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt. Process until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved chickpea juice and drizzles of olive oil to increase the creaminess. I will occasionally throw in a fistful of herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro) if I have it on hand — it just tastes fresh!
Kicked Up Brownies
Because no picnic is complete without ’em. Prepare the batter of your favorite boxed brownie mix. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Nielson-Massey — $19, Williams-Sonoma), 2 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee, about a cup of high-quality chocolate chips or chunks (Ghirardelli is good), and toasted walnuts (toss them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until they are fragrant). Bake as indicated on the box. They are delicious!
The Drink Situation
I love Bobby Flay’s red sangria recipe — turns out perfectly every time. I tend to use fruity Spanish reds as the base — I’m especially keen on Tempranillos, and you can find good-tasting bottles for relatively cheap ($8/bottle). If you’re not into that, my absolute favorite light summer wine is the inexpensive, palate-pleasing Famega ($7, Wine Library), which I discovered at my favorite wine shop, Best Cellars. Famega is a vinho verde, or a Portuguese white wine known for its light, tart taste and slightly fruity aroma. Although it doesn’t qualify as a sparkling wine, there’s definitely some petillance to it — a perfect, refreshing fit for a hot summer day.