Be the Master Chef with Five-Star Picnic Ideas That Delight Your Guests
For exquisite taste experiences, you might dine on a Waldorf Salad at the Waldorf Astoria, a Delmonico Steak at Delmonico's, or Salad Olivier at the Russian Tea Room. These types of dining experiences may be only a dream for people with five-star tastes and three-star budgets, but you can create you’re a five-star picnic with the right foods.
Taking cues from these types of restaurants gives you an advantage when planning a special picnic this summer. The extra attention you put into it will certainly impress your guests. Using fresh ideas and gourmet foods, your picnic can be a memorable culinary delight.
The secret to five-star quality is turning ordinary foods into grand presentations. Here are a few simple modifications to get you thinking like a prize winning chef:
Imagining a Whole New Main Course
Picture the most idyllic setting among rolling hills, surrounded by a beautiful view. Now, add simple yet elegant picnic necessities laid out on an inviting blanket in the summer sun. This is the beginning of a five-star restaurant style picnic. Now, what about the food?
You could serve some hastily prepared picnic staples like tuna sandwiches or fried chicken, but that's not what you want. Instead, create an impressive chicken liver patè served on crostini bread. Even classic chicken salad becomes gourmet when you add grapes, raisins, curry, and toasted almonds to it. The main dish may start out traditional, but with creative twists like these, you elevate the status of your meal in moments.
For example, consider a honey baked ham with a sweet glaze of brown sugar and pineapple as a main course, instead of the usual burgers or steaks. Or, serve it with a honey and raisin sauce instead. Consider grilling some salmon, which is a perfect upscale food whether served hot or cold.
How about some home-made pizza on the grill? This is another fun main dish that goes from ordinary to five-star with just a few twists. Cut the pizza dough into individual pizza sizes of six to eight inches each. Then top it off with some extra-ordinary toppings.
Choose some delicious gorgonzola or fontina cheese instead of mozzarella. Use arugula, watercress, baby-bella mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes, along with a variety of sprouts. Caramelize some onions for a quick twist on raw onions. Meats like pancetta or several other favorites are things you won't normally see at pizza franchises - be creative.
Raise the Bar on Salads and Sides
Now, don't stop there. There are still salads and sides to consider, conjuring up conversation and interest at your five-star picnic event. There are so many exotic ingredients that will compliment some otherwise ordinary salads.
You could whip up a marinated chickpea salad with Greek olives, feta cheese, olive oil, and garlic, instead of a typical three bean salad. Then there's the idea of a roasted red potato salad with plenty of herbs and a tangy vinaigrette dressing, to replace the typical potato salad with mayonnaise dressing.
Gourmet-style sides and salads could also incorporate seasonal favorites like kale, snow peas, radishes, and asparagus. Asparagus, for instance, can be roasted in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and pine nuts, then served warm or cold. Make a Parmesan cheese sauce to pour over vegetables to add gourmet flair on par with five-star restaurant recipes.
Other 'gourmet' ingredients include baked orzo, fennel, or couscous in a salad or side dish. Cooking like a five-star restaurant means being bold and creative enough to try new foods in new ways.
Instead of salad, choose a creamy dip surrounded by an assortment of crisp, cold vegetables. The key is to use unusual ingredients like chopped kale instead of spinach dip, which adds a new texture and a bit of 'zing.'
Use heirloom tomatoes instead of grape tomatoes to add new flavors, colors, and textures to your sides. Broccoli and cauliflower are classic dippers, but something like broccolini or other varieties of colored cauliflower make a difference in how food looks and tastes.
The Finishing Touch of Five-Star Desserts
Every five-star picnic meal deserves a suitably exquisite dessert. You may not have the means to serve a classic Baked Alaska, but what other upscale desserts can you imagine? Think of traditional favorites like apple and cherry pie, then jazz them up a bit.
Make individual fruit pies and cook them on the grill for a different approach inspired by famous chefs. Rice puddings, parfaits and layered cakes are also popular in many five-star restaurants. Seasonal berries also go well in a number of fancy desserts. Simmering a variety of fresh fruit together, then spoon some crème fraiche over the top for simply elegant five-star fruit compote.
Slice a pound cake into thin slices to make individual layered cakes, spreading a layer of cream cheese and fruit compote filling in between. Then, cut into small servings and wrap each personal cake up tightly. These are both fancy and five-star worthy.
Another simple yet elegant fruit dessert involves spooning some berries into a dish and drizzling a vinaigrette reduction sauce over the top. This is another 'trick' of five-star restaurants - mixing sweet and savory together for a flavorful explosion.
Of course, chocolate conjures up 'gourmet' ideas in a number of ways. How about a bowl of rich vanilla pudding topped with shaved slivers of dark or milk chocolate for an elegant dessert? Drizzle some flavored liqueur over a slice of angel food cake, then top it with chocolate shavings for another simple specialty.
This is what five-star restaurants do. They take simple ingredients and combine them in unusual ways. Putting these possibilities into action makes it easy to cook like a five-star chef, right from home.
This makes the process of turning ordinary picnics into five-star picnics so much easier. You don't even need to spend a lot of money. Choose your purchases wisely and combine complimentary ingredients to create some truly delicious gourmet dishes.