Picnicking is one of summer’s definitive pleasures. There’s something uniquely satisfying about dining outside, especially when the sun is going down. For my picnics I make a point of bringing easy, non-fussy foods, but I never forego my beloved cheese, even when it’s 90° out. I generally prefer firm to fudgy cheeses when dining al fresco since they’re more portable and less messy, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing variety.
I like to build my picnic around a savory salad that features a classic cheese, such as orzo with artichoke hearts, roasted cherry tomatoes, and feta; or arugula with mint, sugar snap peas, and freshly grated parmesan. Then I’ll throw in three cheeses that cover the following bases:
A large chunk (or pre-sliced portions, if you’d like) of a firm cow’s milk cheese such as a basic cheddar. I prefer rustic, milder varieties in the summertime; Tillamook Medium is a good easy-to-find option. Everyone likes cheddar, so it’s great to have on hand.
Fresh goat cheese might sound messy, but why not forego the log and the cheese spreader and make a tasty dip? It’s easy to prepare and requires only a few ingredients: a good fresh goat cheese (like Ms. Natural from Cypress Grove Chevre), 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of lemon zest and a pinch of lemon thyme. Dip in some pre-toasted baguette slices and enjoy.
The Wild Card
A cheese that complements the other two with only one prerequisite – it can’t be messy. A new favorite of mine that fits the bill is Tamburello, a rindless small-format sheep’s milk cheese recommended to me by my friend Greg Blais, Head Cheesemonger at Eataly NYC. One of the collection of cheeses from world-renowned affineur Luigi Guffanti 1876, it comes in a semi-firm form that can easily be cut into bite size pieces. Its delicately sheepy flavor pairs wonderfully with the first peaches of the season and black walnuts, another summer favorite.
After choosing my cheeses, I’ll add some good crusty bread and fresh fruit, such as berries or stone fruit (great seasonal selections) to my picnic basket. And last but not least, I’ll choose a standout beverage. I personally prefer beer to wine while dining outside; my new favorite is the Samuel Adams Nitro White Ale, a super creamy light ale brewed with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. If you’re a wine fan, go for a refreshing rosé, such as the 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Rosé from Oregon.
Now all you have to do is adds friends or family and get outside!