Al Fresco French Picnic

Al Fresco French Picnic

Having a few friends over or entertaining for a crowd can be quite intimidating for those who… well… aren’t so gifted in the hosting department. No need to fret! This little twist on the French picnic was the perfect way to throw something together in a flash after a long day at work, and I managed to hit up Central Market on my lunch break to grab all of the ingredients. The best part about putting a little meat and cheese display together is that it keeps you out of the kitchen and your attention focused on relaxing with friends and sipping on your cocktail.or wine.or beer.or…. water? After devouring the picnic, McB grilled steaks and I put together a spinach salad with marcona almonds, avocado and lemon truffle dressing (blog post on the salad coming soon). Pop a few Sister Shubert’s, the world’s best dinner rolls, in the oven and you are done!

If you don’t have a local specialty grocery store like Whole Foods or Central Market then you can still find any of the items where you normally shop. It is also important to put a teensy bit of effort into the presentation… and this does not take long. For all of you lazy people reading this that put the the black plastic tray of cut up cheeses out… STOP doing that.immediately. AT least transfer it to a plate of some sort. Why give it away that you ran out, bought a pre-packed appetizer, and threw it on the table. There is an art called “faking it”… who is to know that you didn’t cut up those cheese squares if it’s on a decent plate or platter!? However, this appetizer that you will be making focuses on imported cheeses and meats, olives, and herbs – it is much more dignified.

If you are in the mood to go party shopping for the upcoming holiday weekend and really prepare for your gourmet extravaganza then head over to Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Pier 1, or Target. You can find perfect serving pieces at any price and impress all of your guests. [Pictured Above] The rattan tray and Vagabond House horn cheese spreaders/knives were purchased at Kuhl-Linscomb (the best, sigh, store in Houston,Tx), and the copper wine coasters and cutting boards were purchased here and here.


  • a soft cheese like herbed goat cheese or brie
  • a hard cheese like manchego, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, or asiago (OR all of them) 🙂
  • always a smoked gouda. always.
  • pesto
  • olives
  • artichokes
  • cornichons (a dramatic word for teeny, tiny, and deliciously sour pickles)
  • almonds, spring for marcona as they will change your life. Yes, they are worth the $12.
  • prosciutto
  • salami (my favorites are genoa and soppressata, and both are heavenly on pizza)
  • crackers: thin and crispy 34-Degrees rosemary crackers (purchase here), pita chips or the always safe bet, Carr’s crackers.
  • don’t forget red or green grapes, rosemary and basil for garnish.
  • and wine, prosecco, etc…. duh. (leaving this up to you)

Putting It ALL Together 

  • start by placing all of your cheeses on a cutting board, then the meats, and sprinkle the almonds around
  • garnish with the grapes, rosemary, and basil
  • an easy way to get your basil in ribbons is to take a leaf and roll it up then slice it… you instantly have beautiful basil springs
  • using a few tiny bowls arrange the pesto, olives, cornichons and artichokes
  • use a cloth napkin in a bread basket for the crackers
  • put toothpicks in a shot glass for the olives, etc.
  • do not forget cute cocktail napkins, glasses/personalized styros, or your cheese spreaders
  • place the chilled wine in your new copper coasters and grab a wine opener
  • enjoy — you have just assembled a rustic al fresco dinner party!

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