I'm pleased as punch that I can finally leave the house without a second glance at my box of winter accessories. Sayonara scarf. Ta Ta turtle fur. This gal is putting her puffy coats in storage and bringing out my parks and recreation wardrobe. That's the fun and stylish outerwear I don before hopping on my bicycle or walking to Lake Harriet (my purple jacket is supafly, honest).
But while my spring wardrobe may be awesome, sometimes I don't have time to make equally fab provisions before I go for a spin. And, of course, I demand deliciousness for a trek into natureland. So what does this food lover do? I stop in at some fabulous Southwest shops and walk away with gourmet goodies in my backpack. Here are my top picks to please even an epicurean picnicker.
THE ITALIAN WORD FOR PICNIC IS...
Broders' Cucina Italiana has the fixings for a bellissimo alfresco experience whether you plan on light fare like salads — the cucumber, fennel and orange salad I had was delightful — or something stick-to-your-ribs like the stromboli ($6.95). Plus, I find the prices to be quite reasonable. There are fig cookies for $.80, Bruschetta del Giorno for $2.25 each and salads, cheeses and olives to share. Stuff a red checked table cloth in your bag so you can lay the Broders' goodies down on the grass, Italian-style (and yes, they call it a picnic too, although i wish it was scampagnata).
CARNIVORE'S FIELD DAY
There's no getting around the fact that the roast beef sandwich ($9.50) at Clancey's Meat and Fish is a gem, with its pinky meat, horseradish, peppers, mustard, mayo, Rustica baguette, onions and lettuce. In fact all the sandwiches are worth a pedal, run, hike or drive (if you must) over to Linden Hills and can probably serve two people, so long as you aren't starving. They've got a rotating selection of other fun goodies to nosh on too, like kim chi, pickled cauliflower (see, they have veggies), smoked trout, or my fave, housemade pate — on the day I stopped in, they had it country style with either mustard seeds or bacon and chives.
SWEET, SWEET SANDWICH?
The clamor about John Kraus's Patisserie 46 is well-earned, but why would I add it to a list of good picnic food purveyors? That's because grabbing their sammy of the day ($6.50 or so), tartine ($7) or quiche ($7) could make for a very charming outing. The day I visited, the beef on weck (roast beef on a kummelweck roll) and a caprese baguette were on the board, along with a marvelous sounding cheese plate. Front of the house manager/partner Dawn Kraus assured me that she and her staff would be more than happy to pack the take-out for the trail. Be sure to have them add a few of sweet treasures to your bundle (I had a $1 ugly but good meringue and a chocolate truffle cookie) to partner with your savories.
I devoured a selection of morsels from these three fine shops while seated on a hill in Beard's Plaisance. With a view of Lake Harriet, trees and the sun, I revelled in my choice of chow and scenery and encourage you to do the same. Happy spring!
Broders' Cucina Italiana - 2308 W. 50th St./612.925.3113
Clancey's Meat and Fish - 4307 Upton Ave. S./612.926.0222
Patisserie 46 - 4552 Grand Ave S./612.354.3257