Picnic Perfect

A Basket of Ideas for the Perfect Local Picnic

From my earliest days, I remember the joy of eating outdoors.

Family photos illustrate my fondness for picnics. That freckled 5-year-old comfortably perched on a blanket in the backyard? ­ That would be me, happily feasting on a lunch of quartered tuna salad sandwiches, shoestring potato sticks, freshly picked strawberries and orange Kool-Aid.

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I haven’t located any scientific proof that a summer breeze and a nice outdoor location improve the taste of a meal. But we all instinctively know that food tastes better that way. And, in addition to some good company, the item that my most unforgettable picnics have in common is something locally made. Those garden-fresh local strawberries of my childhood remain a summer picnic favorite today. And for me, a simple picnic endures as the ideal way to fully appreciate the flavors of the local landscape. Northeast Ohio boasts a delicious bounty of picnic treats.

Tracking down a few local foods to fill your basket can make the picnic just that much more fun. Your hunt is likely to introduce you to the baker of that lovely baguette and maybe even a cheese maker or two.

When it comes to basic picnic ingredients like bread, cheese and wine, we have plenty of local options to choose from. And our local foodscape now boasts a dizzying array of delicious extras that can transform an ordinary picnic into a feast. Pressed for time? Local restaurants offer many picnic-perfect dishes that travel well and taste great at room temperature or chilled.

All you need to add is a comfy spot on the grass, maybe an outdoor concert, or a sunny spot on the nearest park bench. So, dust off that basket and get creative. Here are a few ideas to get you started on packing the perfect local picnic basket this summer.

The classic way to start your basket is with a fresh baguette from your favorite bakery, but if you’d like to try something different try the Sourdough from Western Reserve Baking Company in Hudson or the Homegrown Whole-Wheat Bread at Breadsmith in Lakewood. The latter is made with 100% whole organic Ohio-grown grains from Breakneck Acres in Ravenna, and only available on Saturdays.

If you prefer crackers to go with your cheese, you might want to travel a bit farther to Crumbs Bakery in Athens, Ohio, for their delectable crackers.

Speaking of cheese, two delicious local options to tuck into your basket are the Boucheron by Mackenzie Creamery in Hiram and Headwaters Tomme from Kokoborrego Cheese in Mt. Gilead.

The perfect accompaniment to your cheese and crackers is the dried Slovenian Smoked Sausage from Raddell’s Sausage Shop on East 152nd Street in Cleveland. It doesn’t get any more traditional.

Of course, in a pinch, if you want a ready-made option, you can pick up the Roast Beef Sandwich at Market at the Fig. Hands down the best truly local sandwich in Cleveland, featuring Middlefield Cheddar and the Fig’s Anchovy, Pickle and Horseradish Aioli. Or how about a selection ofSavory Tarts from Zoss the Swiss Baker for something compact and flavorful.

Want to add a bit of an international fl air to your picnic spread? Then head over to Koko bakery for Sweet And Savory Asian Buns. They boast the structural integrity to travel and thus make perfect picnic food. Taiwanese Shave Ice, Bubble Tea and a dizzying array of intriguing beverages also come nicely packaged to go for a quick picnic.

Don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth. The traditional picnic finish—a Fresh Pie from Diane Sikorski of Humble Pie. Baked with all-local ingredients including the butter and fruit, her pies come in two sizes to please every appetite. Want more of a sweet snack? Then Stutzman’s Organic Honey- Puffed Corn is a highly addictive option. Or for the fan of eating seasonally, how about a pint of Fresh strawberries from Woolf Farms in East Rochester?

And last, but definitely not least, be sure to toast the lovely weather and perfect picnic spot with a bottle of local wine. Yes, local. These days, a few vineyards are producing some perfectly delightful options. A favorite for the basket is Muddy Paw Semillon from Trebets Estate Wines in Madison, Ohio. Plus proceeds from each bottle go to the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village to help animals in need. You can visit Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights for this and other local options.