Adventure in Normal Life / Boston / Food / picnic

A sweet season of colorful picnics & local fare

A picnic at the end of summer warm weather is just as sweet as a summer picnic. We began picnicking early this year, when the first warm breezes swept through Boston in the spring. Having invested in brand new picnic and outdoor gear, you could understand why we were eager.  Now at the conclusion of the season and start of autumn, there is still some of that transitional warmth, with a cool refreshing breeze that will want to make you relish the season, lie down with a hat over your face and daydream.

I’ve been also eager to visit farmer’s markets, as you know from these posts (here and here) and also enjoy featuring local makers. Willow Tree Farm, of Attleboro, MA kindly sent me a healthy chicken salad to try out with two of my favorite fixings – avocado and cranberry – and it inspired me to put together a picnic. What an enjoyable afternoon we had!

I’m always interested in the history of a local, small-town business, and Willow Tree Farm certainly has a story. This family-run business was founded in 1954 by Chet Cekala in Attleboro, MA. It began as a small poultry and egg farm and now has a growing line of products which include chicken and turkey pies, fresh deli salads (like the one I tried here). The business is still run by the Cekala family and they’re available at supermarkets across New England as well as their store in Attleboro, right where the original poultry farm was.

Here in New England, we’re having some great weather, and there are still many pleasant outdoor activities to do with friends and family. Planning ahead and picking up a few elements makes a picnic an easy and very affordable way to stay happily fed and ready for your next adventure.

If you’re wondering what to bring, here’s my basic checklist:

  • a fun beverage  (fun=fizzy for me) + water (nothing worse than dehydration and a sugar rush on a warm day under the sun)
  • some fruit
  • something crunchy
  • something hearty
  • cheese (if you’re dairy free, try a favorite spread instead!)
  • something sweet

This isn’t sponsored, but I want to share a few practical non-food items that made the picnic easy (links to what you see in the photos)!

  1. govino wine glasses (they’re unbreakable, dishwashable, and extremely light)
  2. melamine plates – these are from target in the marimekko design, but besides being fun and bright, above all, they’re unbreakable, light, and dishwashable as well.
  3. insulated cooler  (similar to what I have – check back!) + a light picnic blanket
  4. reusable eating utensils
  5. napkins or a dishtowel (you can use launderable ones that double as a lap-napkin or to tote back any dirty utensils.
  6. optional-small cutting board

We used the elements of our picnic in different ways: first, we sliced up the peach and figs we brought. They’ll go on crackers (Cranberry Coconut ones from Trader Joe’s) or on top of our open-faced avocado sandwich.

We picked up this Jasper Hill Harbison cheese from Vermont from the Boston Public Market – we first tried it on a cheese plate at L’Espalier and the unique flavors from the spruce wood that is wrapped around it. The flavors are mustardy, have a unique and delicious fragrance, and the sweet creamy texture is similar to a camembert. It pairs brilliantly with crusty bread.

Next, we assembled an open-faced sandwich with crusty sourdough bread from Clear Flour bakery, a local german-style bakery with delicious breads, pretzels, pastries, coffee. We also got a nice  heirloom tomato.

Bottom to top: bread, then avocado chicken salad, tomato, and topped with figs. It was a fresh sandwich that was also nice and light! We also tried out one of Trader Joe’s newfangled chips: a Somewhat Spicy Dill-Flavored Kettle cooked chip (that’s a mouthful!) It added crunch and a slightly spicy zing to the creamy avocado.

The fun fizzy drink was a sparkling French pink lemonade, which went perfectly with a couple of  lemon-lime Georgetown Cupcakes. Tip: they make 100 free cupcakes at each location, and you have to check their Cupcake Cam online for the secret flavor. Walk in, tell them the secret flavor, and you may have yourself a free yummy treat! 

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I hope this encourages you to gather outdoors with those you love, bring your favorite seasonal foods, and take a few moments to truly  breathe.

I’ll leave you with a poem from a beloved children’s book,  When Green Becomes Tomatoes , by Julie Fogliano which celebrates the little moments in the seasons:

i still love you sunshine and swimming and sea

and strawberries, you know that i do

but i’m ready to move on

to something that’s new

so now, i am waiting for sweaters

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