Where to get restaurant-prepared picnic baskets
Everybody likes summer picnics, but not everybody likes preparing them, especially on hot, sticky days. Fortunately, there is a savory solution. With a little advance notice, many restaurants in the Hudson Valley will stock a picnic basket with everything from crab fritters to foie gras. These outings could be for two, four, or more.
We asked some restaurants in the region to come up with sample menus for a relaxed, al fresco meal. If ordered ahead, these multicourse feasts are nicely packed and available to be carried out and enjoyed elsewhere. Though the listed price includes only the meal and the trimmings, most of the restaurants provided wine or beverage recommendations, too, which are priced separately.
Before you order a prepared picnic basket, here are some tips:
- Ask about details like cutlery, napkins, glasses, corkscrews and such (some restaurants provide disposable utensils; others supply a higher quality and request a deposit).
- Always inquire as to the wine policy. Some establishments don't sell wines for carryout. Those listed below are available for takeout at the listed price.
- Familiarize yourself with the restaurants' menus (nearly all are available online) before placing an order. You'll likely be able to customize your picnic basket based on preferences, dietary constraints and such.
Without further ado, here are five restaurants where you can order a prepared picnic basket with all of the delectable details.
French-Mediterranean is the refrain at this perennial popular spot with a farmhouse theme (38 E. Main St., Mount Kisco; 914-242-1002; cafeofloveny.com). The cuisine is exceptional -- herbaceous and homey. Next door to Café of Love is the restaurant's retail and catering operation, Ladle of Love, which features a menu catering to those with sumptuous inclinations. Picnickers can preorder a prepared meal, which comes in a wire picnic basket with French-style dish towels that serve as napkins. Aside from the wine suggestions below, you can choose from the restaurant's fine cellar.
Picnic basket menu:
-Maine lobster roll with local corn off the cob and brunoise of English cucumbers with a tarragon-saffron aioli (served in a brioche bun)
-House-made potato chips
Wine suggestion: 2008 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($13)
Cost of picnic basket: $100 for two; $175 for four
Nearby picnic spot: Just over a mile away is Leonard Park (1 Wallace Dr., Mount Kisco; 914-666-3059), which is open to Mount Kisco residents and their guests. If it isn't in use, set up your picnic at the Japanese teahouse and pagoda, which offers views of a pond and the grounds.
Chef Philip McGrath is among the most respected chefs in the Hudson Valley, and with good reason. French-trained, he went out on his own in 1998 with different ideas, eventually taking over Pleasantville's dilapidated train station and converting it into a smart and upbeat restaurant (20 Wheeler Ave., Pleasantville; 914-741-0717; ironhorsegrill.com). His culinary cruise line makes numerous ports of call -- the Mediterranean, Asia, India and the Middle East among them.
Picnic basket menu:
-Roasted local golden tomato gazpacho
-Spiced tortilla triangles
-Peekytoe crab and lobster sliders with roasted corn-and-tarragon dressing
-Organic chicken-chopped salad with toasted pine nuts
-Rainbow Ridge Farms "Meridien" goat cheese with tart cherry chutney and fennel seed toast
-Iron Horse cookies
-Izzy water and Boylan's Soda
Price: $38 per person
Nearby picnic spot: You might consider bringing your picnic to Parkway Field for the eighth annual Pleasantville Music Festival (noon-8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 14; 914-714-2738; pleasantvillemusicfestival.com). Another option is to drive to Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which is rife with attractive spots where you can enjoy a picnic (125 Phelps Way, Pleasantville; 914-631-1470; nysparks.com; $6 parking fee; free parking for Empire Passport holders).
This delightful, kid-friendly place serves New American cuisine that is bright, eye-appealing and full-flavored. It offers two set takeaway picnic baskets for groups of four -- the Mexican picnic and the barbecue picnic (6 S. Broadway, Irvington; 914-591-2033; rivercitygrille.com).
Mexican picnic basket menu:
-Assortment of tacos and soft corn tortillas
-Blackened chicken, pork shoulder and beef
-Gazpacho salad (cucumbers, red peppers, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil)
-Roasted corn salsa
-S'mores quesadillas (Nutella & Fluff inside a crispy flour tortilla, served with chocolate-covered graham crackers and charred marshmallows)
Barbecue picnic basket menu:
-Selection of sliders on brioche rolls
-Vermont white cheddar cheeseburger with chipotle ketchup
-Crab cakes with coleslaw
-Chickpea cake with smoked paprika aioli and fresh mozzarella
-Gaufrettes potato chips
Price: $60 plus tax per picnic basket (serves four)
Nearby picnic spot: With sweeping views of the Hudson River plus picnic tables and barbecue pits, Matthiessen Park is a great spot for a picnic (1 Bridge St., Irvington; 914-591-7736; irvingtonny.gov; open only to Irvington residents with a valid Irvington park permit). If you're not an Irvington resident, you might continue on to the Scenic Hudson Park, which lacks tables and benches but has plenty of room to lay out a blanket (29 Bridge St., Irvington).
"Hudson Valley Mediterranean" is how owner Laura Pensiero describes Gigi Trattoria (6422 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845-876-1007; gigihudsonvalley.com) and its offshoot, Gigi Market & Café (227 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook; 845-758-1999). One of the most popular dining spots in the mid-Hudson Valley, Gigi Trattoria has been a leader in the locavore movement for years.
Picnic basket menu:
-Sicilian salumi bruschetta
-Bacon and cheddar Feather Ridge Farm deviled eggs
-Abbacchio (Roman style spring lamb) BLT (homemade lamb bacon, bibb lettuce, fresh tomatoes and walnut-mint pesto)
-House-cured salmon with shaved cucumbers, pickled fennel and dill mascarpone
-Baby greens salad with sherry-shallot vinaigrette
-Biscotti and assorted cookies
-Saratoga Water and Harney & Sons Iced Tea
Wine suggestions: 2010 Cotes de Gasgogne Domaine des Cassagnoles, Languedoc, France ($19); 2010 Millbrook Pinot Noir 2010, Millbrook, NY ($30)
Cost: $25 per person
Nearby picnic spot: Just over three miles from Gigi Trattoria is the 76-acre Burger Hill Park, a popular spot with hikers and picnickers that offers panoramic views of the region from the 550-foot hilltop (Route 9G, Rhinebeck; 845-876-4213).
Awash in history and rustic charm, this stately inn and restaurant has been a regional favorite for decades (11 Kittle Rd., Chappaqua; 914-666-8044; kittlehouse.com). Its kitchen, which is as reliable as a Swiss watch, produces cutting-edge, but never faddish, regional American cuisine. The restaurant does not offer takeout wine but has more than three dozen artisanal beers that you can purchase for your picnic.
Picnic basket menu:
-Watermelon and goat cheese salad
-Heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese with balsamic vinegar reduction
-Maine lobster roll with mango and avocado
-Homemade potato chips with "firecracker" slaw
-Kittle Kat chocolate bars with raspberry coulis
Cost: $55 per person
Nearby picnic spot: 126-acre Gedney Park, about four miles from the restaurant, has picnic areas and grills, plus hiking trails and other features (Route 133, Millwood; 845-238-3909; mynewcastle.org).