Kitchen Mission: Easy Alfresco

Create a cafe (that will rival any restaurant!) in your own backyard


A picnic, in concept, should be romantic and carefree, picturesque and spontaneous. Or, as I like to think of it, French. I take my inspiration for the ultimate alfresco meal from les Parisiennes, whom I imagine hopping on vintage bikes to pedal to the market, where they pick up baguettes, charcuterie, fromage and vin, resulting in a meal that’s delicious, shareable and effortlessly sophisticated.

My favorite pique-nique features two main-course-worthy cheeses, uncomplicated yet polished accompaniments, an easy fennel salad, and one super-sweet dessert. Best part: All these elements actually taste better served at room temperature. (No cooler required!)

Cheese-wise, you can’t go wrong with a mild, creamy blue and a kicked-up, spreadable chèvre. My can’t-miss combo is La Peral, a cow’s-milk blue from Spain ($5 for 4 ounces at Di Bruno’s), and Delice de Pommard, a tangy triple-cream goat’s-milk creation from Burgundy, flecked with mustard seeds ($15.99 for six to eight ounces at Di Bruno’s). My favorite fixin’s: honey (try a raw orange blossom) and a gourmet jam (choose an uncommon flavor like fig or quince). Grab crackers or a baguette, plus apples or grapes, and round out the meal with a few cured meats like prosciutto di Parma (sliced paper-thin) and easy-to-pop pepperoni rounds.