1. Sandwiches are perfect picnic finger food, and the Milwaukee Muffaletta (with three cold cuts, provolone and mild olive salad on a seeded roll) makes it all so easy. Cut the sandwich into wedges (one can easily satisfy two people) and you’ll be snacking all afternoon. From Glorioso’s Italian Market, 1011 E Brady St.2. Ditch the creamy, heavy pasta salads for a grain-based creation tossed with a zesty vinaigrette. Here’s a quick, simple DIY favorite: Combine 3 cups of cooked quinoa, ½ cup feta or goat cheese, ½ cup fresh raspberries, ⅓ cup dried cherries and ⅓ cup fresh chopped mint. In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ tsp. sugar, ½ tsp. salt, 1 T. za’atar (a blend of sumac, salt and sesame seeds). Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss. Top with fresh cracked pepper.
3. Viroqua-based Wisco Pop comes in four flavors, including cherry, strawberry and a bright, citrus-infused ginger. Sweet but not too heavy, they make drinking soda pop fun for grown-ups. The ginger soda also makes a great mixer with bourbon or vodka, hence the flask tucked into the basket. Sodas are carried at Outpost Natural Foods, Bavette La Boucherie and West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe.
4. Add a mix of sweet and savory nibbles such as dried apricots, mixed pitted olives and spiced nuts. Make your own spiced nuts at home. It’s cheaper and a snap to put together. How to do it: Spread 3 cups of raw almonds on an ungreased baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk 3 T. of melted butter with ½ tsp. garlic powder, ⅛ tsp. ground cayenne pepper and 2 tsp. za’atar. Pour mixture over nuts and toss to coat. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the nuts are browning evenly.
5. Dessert bars and cookies don’t require utensils to eat, plus these scrumptious, whimsical sweets – Nutter Butters, iced sugar cookies with sprinkles, Rice Krispie treats and key lime bars – from C. Adam’s Bakery (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.) will lead to a blissful little catnap.
THREE PRIME PICNIC LOCALES
Kilbourn Reservoir Park: Take the steps up from East North Avenue at North Bremen Street
Lake Park: Lots of great spots north and south of Lake Park
Bistro Village Park: Superb view of the Milwaukee River from this park at 250 Elm St., Thiensville
“Pack a Picnic” appears in the June 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.
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