Romantic Picnic Ideas
Vanilla Sponge Cake with Blackberry-Tarragon Jam
Pastry genius Dominique Ansel bakes a delicate sponge, the foundation of France's intricate layer cakes, in a homey loaf pan like an English quick bread to create a new Anglo-French baking tradition. It's ethereal served with his easy, licorice-y jam.
This lovely, sophisticated take on an open-face tuna sandwich includes sliced tart green apple and a little parsley. Try it with a sparkling rosé.
John Besh of Restaurant August in New Orleans serves this lightly sweet, fruity white-wine sangria over plenty of ice cubes. "Use Viognier--it has a nice balance of fruit and acidity," he says.
Almond, Elderflower and Lime Travel Cakes
Inspired by French travel cakes (small sweets meant for bringing to parties, picnics and other events), William Werner created these miniature desserts. He calls them "gussied-up pound cakes."
Almond Butter and Fresh Blueberry Sandwich
Cut back on the sugar and use fresh blueberries instead of jelly in this simple twist on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Raspberry Pâte de Fruit
Jacques Pepin on a French classic: "Pates de fruits, or fruit jellies, are very popular around the holidays--and usually expensive."
Greek Salad Skewers with Anchovy Aioli
For a playful presentation, slide a fat, flat slice of cucumber onto the bottom of each skewer so these hors d'oeuvres can stand upright on a serving platter.
Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Apricots
Dried apricots are a wonderful fruit addition to these easy homemade oatmeal cookies.
7-Minute Salmon Caviar Sushi Bites
This is an inexpensive, easy, playful take on a sushi roll. It makes a terrific party snack.
Rosemary-Buttermilk Crackers with Chanterelle Spread
The key to the flaky, super-crisp texture of these crackers is pastry flour, a low-protein, low-gluten flour.
Pastry genius Dominique Ansel gives the beloved English "bacon butty" a French accent by subbing slender baguette for the standard white toast. Flavor upgrade: Ansel replaces the traditional ketchup with sherry.
Doughnut Holes with Raspberry Jam
Chef-owner Ginevra Iverson of Restaurant Eloise in Sonoma County, California, serves her light, crisp, sugared doughnut holes with sweet-tart raspberry jam. She won't send any imperfect doughnut holes into the dining room; misshapen ones, she says, become snacks for the kitchen crew: "They get slathered with jam and devoured by whomever gets to them first."
Melon, Berry and Feta Salad
Jenn Louis uses whatever melon looks best at the market, and she sometimes swaps out the feta for ricotta salata, or the chives for mint.
Chocolate Brioche with Sichuan Peppercorns
Gontran Cherrier, who has an eponymous bakery in Paris's 18th arrondisement, spent several years in the pastry kitchen at elite Paris restaurants like L'Arpège and Lucas Carton. So when he creates a bread, he often thinks about pairing it with a dish. He made this light chocolate brioche with foie gras terrine in mind; the Sichuan peppercorns add a spicy, aromatic kick that's good with rich foods. The brioche is also delicious with strawberry jam or quince paste.
Tomato, Haricots Verts and Potato Salad
This rustic Italian salad is a great way to showcase perfect, in-season produce. Swap out the summer tomatoes and green beans for roasted root vegetables and fennel in the winter, or asparagus and shaved artichokes in the spring--the possibilities are endless.
Chai Caramels with Salted Pepitas
To achieve a perfectly smooth caramel, Jami Curl of Quin Candy in Portland, Oregon, suggests gradually incorporating, in this case "poking," the granulated sugar into the corn syrup base instead of stirring it in. "Stirring sugar encourages recrystallization," says Curl. "That will create a grainy texture in your finished candy that nobody wants."