Everyone who’s tired of seeing picnic lunch menus that feature grilled 6-oz. burgers and chicken raise your hand and say “I”!
Since we’re in prime picnic months, allow me to suggest some picnic-themed banqueting items that can give this ho-hum menu a “food lift.”
- I am not a fan of deviled eggs, yet I would not recommend a picnic without them. Instead of cayenne pepper on the yolk, experiment with how different seasonings can give each egg a different flavor profile. For example, try cracked black pepper or Old Bay seasoning.
- Serve a chopped salad that is loaded with garden veggies with a fruit based vinaigrette like peach, apple or strawberry.
- Regionalize your pasta salad using spices and ingredients indigenous to the meeting destination (i.e., Southwest, Cajun or Southern items). Place grilled chicken strips on a platter off to the side so non-vegetarians can add protein.
- Gazpacho salad is one of my favorites. It’s a take off of the soup, which is chopped vegetables in a tomato juice base. Add flavor by mixing in fresh herbs such as cilantro, garlic or basil.
- Think about unexpected sweet and savory combinations involving fruit. For example, watermelon cut in rectangles topped with feta cheese crumbles and balsamic syrup. Use a micro basil garnish.
- Nothing says “pic-a-nic” better than fried chicken. Fry it up and present it in a traditional basket. I recommend using bone-in chicken as boneless breasts tend to dry out.
- Brisket is a wonderful grilled meat that has a reasonable food cost. Offer a variety of barbecue sauces for people to choose from.
- You say “fish,” I say “taco.” You can serve this fish right off the grill and straight into the taco shell.
By offering a sample of the above proteins, you can create stations with cuisine inspired by any region. Take inspiration from your regional meats to design your sides, and present them together as mini buffet lunch stations.
- Veggies are perfect on the grill.
- Talk to the chef about using various cuts other than the slice or the diagonal cut to make your presentation more interesting.
- Also use vegetables that one wouldn’t normally see grilled, such as sweet potatoes.
- For the display, have the chef place vegetables on a platter, and serve room temperature with olive oil and balsamic drizzle.
- Serve individual pies with a choice of homemade ice cream. (This was a big hit when I catered the Final Four.)
- Don’t forget that fruit can be grilled too. Try fresh peaches with cheese and a basil garnish, or grilled pineapple sliced very thin with caramel drizzle and a garnish of chopped nuts.
- If all else fails do an ice cream cart offering a mixture of frozen goodies. Chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches are perennial crowd-pleasers.
This is my “smarter than the average bear” story for now and I will be sticking to it.
Claire, Yogi and Boo Boo