I recently paired with Cambria Winery to provide ideas on how to make your everyday extraordinary. I was compensated, but all opinions are my own.
I don’t know that I can imagine a more beautiful setting than the Cambria Winery in Santa Maria for a picnic. From the Cambria website, the gentle hills, soaked with “soil and sun, fog and family” look like the perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and delicious food. But today I wanted to share some of my tips to transform your backyard, local park, or other a special place into a romantic picnic date- without breaking the bank.
One of my favorite things to elevate a picnic is to add lots of gorgeous, seasonal flowers- straight from the grocery store! I scatter them in inexpensive vases or fun and funky household objects (like some beautiful silver I picked up at thrift shops in Upstate New York and in Lucketts, VA, last summer.)
You don’t have to spend a lot to have a gorgeous floral bouquet- by layering tall and short blooms, or keeping pieces simple and tidy- all one size/color- you can make a gorgeous bouquet for less than a bottle of wine. I’ll soon be sharing my tips for making gorgeous bouquets with grocery store flowers (you really can get a boutique look for under $10!) and how I made some beautiful faux mercury glass for less than $5 per vase.
To really set the mood, we love setting a rustic comfortable looking table for outdoor entertaining- it is elegant but approachable, just like Camrbia’s wines!
So if you have a grassy spot like we do (in my in-laws orchard), grab some blankets, a good bottle of wine, and lets get to entertaining!
I grabbed an old, rusty milk jug and a round metal well cover that I found on my inlaws farm- but I’ve seen similar looking items at thrift shops around our town (we live close to farm communities, and you can find tons of great antiques on a budget!) When looking, its important to find sturdy, even items that you can dress up in a variety of situations. This milk jug would retail for around $20 in our area- be sure to ask if prices are firm when visiting stores, and look through all of their pieces to see if they can help you find a great deal.
For the tabletop, I used an old drum container lid- but any heavy, stable object would work (old table tops or doors, heavy signs, anything that will stay in place and not bend or give.)
I laid out some glasses, food and wine, as well as some canvas drop cloths (which are perfect for using outside as they are pretty thick and you can grab large drop sheets for under $20 at a DIY store.)
To keep the costs down even further when dressing up your outdoor table, find trinkets from around your home. I wanted to create a special setting, and finding well-loved pieces to serve works perfectly- like this Polish pottery turned popcorn bowl. I know it sounds risky to bring a breakable piece outside to eat with, but don’t be afraid to throw in wine glasses and bowls that make you happy and feel more substantial than plastic. It makes your experience more comfortable and enjoyable, and plastic can sometimes give off an unpleasant taste!
If you are in a public park, just be sure to check the rules to see if glass is OK.
Of course, one of the most important parts of a picnic is the food and wine! And to pair with Camrbia’s Chardonnay , I made a delicious Lemon and Thyme Brown Butter popcorn to pair excellently. This popcorn is light, slightly tart, with a rich butter and thyme taste that isn’t too overpowering to pair with Chardonnay. It was also delicious with the pinot noir- which I might dare to say I like even more than the chardonnay!
And finally, focusing on main dishes that are fuss free are the easiest way to go- and for me that usually involves things like cheese and antipasti… but there are lots of great dishes you can serve and keep warm to enhance an evening in your backyard or a garden or park nearby.
Some of my own favorites include: paleo shrimp scampi (the zucchini noodles are fresh and delicious, and if it cools a bit no worries), chicken risotto, or quick grilled lamb. These can be kept warm if wrapped in foil, or an insulated casserole dish, and don’t taste “off” if slightly cooler. Of course, delicious salads full of fresh fruits or veggies are always big hits as well!