What is gourmet food? This should be an easy question to answer, but it’s not. General consensus tells us that it’s high-quality premium foods. Great, so now we know what gourmet food is… Well, no. That definition is as obscure are the word itself. From experience we know that gourmet foods are normally made with quality ingredients, have a beautiful presentation and are deemed sophisticated meals. But who makes the rules on what’s quality, beautiful and sophisticated? I don’t know, but what I do know is this gourmet picnic guide will impress your guests and have them believing they’ve had a culinary experience from a masterful chef.
Cheese Boards and Pâté
When I was young, I thought having a little bit of cheddar cheese on my burger was fancy, so you can imagine my delight when I first clapped eyes on a perfectly laid out cheese board. This is fine dining at it’s most beautiful and yet incredibly easy to put together. Go down your local deli and get a few quality cheeses and meats, spread them out on a board and sprinkle generously with fruits and nuts. Great looking, tasty and simple. Perfect for a gourmet picnic!
An excellent accompaniment to a cheese board is Pâté, an extremely rich food where a little amount goes a long way. I like all sorts of pâté but as this is a gourmet picnic let’s splash out and get one of the finest – foie gras. A liver pâté made from fattened ducks or goose, foie gras is served at many of the finest French restaurants, and the French know a thing or two about fine dining.
Gourmet Picnic Sandwiches
When you hear the word picnic surely sandwiches are the first food item that comes to mind. They are quite simply a picnic classic. But how do you turn your standard, dreary looking pack lunch peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a beautiful gourmet picnic sandwich? It all starts with the bread. Scrap the pre-sliced square white loaf and buy crispy thick sliced bread, baguettes, ciabatta or bagels. The more rustic looking the bread the better.
Now for the filling. Gourmet sandwiches are typically deep filled using an abundance of meat dripping in rich sauces and covered with an assortment of salads, vegetables, cheeses and condiments all bursting out the sides. Visually, a gourmet picnic sandwich should have you salivating and dying to take that first bite.
Preparation and presentation is key to pulling off the gourmet feel to a sandwich and it’s not as easy as just throwing all the ingredients together. Being deep filled and having sauces and condiments means by the time you travel to your chosen picnic location the sandwich might look a mess. You could use saran wrap to avoid the sandwich falling apart but this won’t stop the sauces soaking into the bread (and saran wrap isn’t in keeping with a gourmet look). The best method is to pack all ingredients separately and to build the sandwich on site.
When I first started picnicking salads were rarely seen, it was all meats, cheese and pastries. Eating habits have now changed so much that I can’t remember the last time I went to an outdoor shindig and there wasn’t a salad. So let’s give the people what they want – but make it gourmet.
I do this by adding quality meats and dressing to the salad (as there’s not such thing as a gourmet lettuce and cucumber). I try to get organic salad and veg, as some people say it tastes better. I can’t tell the difference but picnic food is about the guests so listen to feedback and make the necessary changes.
My go to meats for a gourmet salad are salmon, shrimp, lobster or strips of beef fillet. The salads and vegetables I use depends on the time of year. As these items are seasonal I like to get what’s in season and produced locally. This guarantees a better tasting, fresher salad. But it also means you need to have a lot of salad recipes at hand. If you need a bit of help, allrecipes.com has a great selection of gourmet salads.
For presentation, I like the Mason Jar salad idea that is becoming extremely popular. This style of salad works extremely well for picnics as you can make several different individual portion sized salads that are easy to transport, and look great.
Oysters with Caviar
I’ve always found bringing seafood to a picnic is a risky choice as people either love it or hate it. And oysters and caviar are no different, so be sure to know your guests taste before splashing out on an expensive treat. I love seafood so oysters and caviar would get me excited with anticipation. And the beautiful thing about this classic posh combination is that it’s easy and quick to prepare – like all the best picnic foods.
Gourmet Drinks – Champagne and Single Malt Scotch Whiskies
Champagne needs no introduction. If you think it does you’re probably reading the wrong article. Champagne is the drink you’d expect with a gourmet meal so a gourmet picnic shouldn’t be any different. However, you can’t just pop open a bottle of bubbly and have people drinking from the bottle or plastic mugs. If you want to have that special gourmet atmosphere you’ll need champagne glasses (even if it’s just plastic ones) and a bucket with ice. My recommendation would be to serve champagne with strawberries
Single Malt Scotch Whiskey was once the height of masculine sophistication. But slowly it has crossed the gender divide to become a drink loved by all. Experts will tell you that whiskey should be drunk neat and at room temperature without ice which makes whiskey perfect for bringing to a picnic, as it’s just a case of packing the bottle. There are many single malt whiskeys to choose from and although I’ve had more than my fair share, I’ve not had them all. But I can recommend my current favorites of Jura and Macallan.