A-Tisket, A-Tasket: Our cafes, delis and even grocers have taken it upon themselves to craft to-go baskets packed with picnic essentials. The options are endless: Stick to outdoor classics for a blanket-on-the-sand lunch or go gourmet with wine uncorked during a cruise on the harbor. As the weather gets warmer and the waves beckon, pick your favorite local eats and pack them in a basket for an unforgettable summer picnic at the beach.
Whether you’re entertaining a fussy eater or just want to enjoy a home-cooked kind of meal, Gelson’s impresses with its gourmet picnic plates that are wrapped and ready to be whisked away to any destination. Including selections like chicken piccata, grilled spicy salmon, seared ahi tuna and peppered beef tenderloin, each picnic meal can be arranged to serve one person, with fresh fruit, salad, vegetables, a dinner roll and the chef’s selection of a starch (either pasta, rice or potatoes). If your party includes picnic traditionalists as well, Gelson’s market deli crafts gourmet lunch bags for two packed with sandwiches like the roast beef and brie focaccia. (949-644-8660; gelsons.com)
The charming cheese shop in Corona del Mar can accommodate almost any request, and those who ask can enjoy their picnics from a French market basket or wine crate stocked with plates, bamboo utensils, flowers and whatever fixings they desire. Though the menu suggests groups of six or more, the staff will happily indulge your request for a smaller group. Summer sandwich options include the Vin Goat club with turkey, bacon jam and bandage-wrapped cheddar cheese; the smoky roast beef with house-made onion confit; and the rosemary, ham and brie. But, given enough time, chefs can also craft special orders to create a bespoke spread. (949-673-2200; vingoat.com)
The only thing better than enjoying a meal overlooking the ocean is enjoying a meal while sailing through it. The Cannery accommodates with its Savor the Seas menu, designed for dining while taking a spin around the harbor in a Duffy boat. Small plates such as the ahi tuna tartare tacos and the sushi platters showcase the quality seafood offered at the restaurant and are great for small groups; meanwhile, large platters of fruit, veggies, cheeses and yakitori meats can serve approximately 25 guests. Dishes are plated just as they would be in the restaurant (but in convenient lidded containers), and the restaurant delivers directly to your Duffy—no docking necessary. Wine and beer are also offered to go. Sushi roll and sashimi orders should be made at least 24 hours in advance, but all other plates can be ready within 45 minutes, so even last-minute sailing excursions are welcome. (949-566-0060; cannerynewport.com)
Boasting a guest dock designated specifically for its Duffy-riding guests, Bluewater Grill clearly understands the allure of a fine meal to enjoy on the go—and how serious locals are about their picnics. To prove that point, the waterfront restaurant offers an extensive menu of dishes designed for consuming while cruising the harbor. Larger parties can take their pick from sandwich, seafood and cheese platters, while more intimate groups can choose from a two-course menu (options include clam chowder, side salads, various sandwiches, panko prawns and more) to be delivered dockside. You can choose to dock and dine, or—if you want to cruise the harbor while enjoying a light bite—Bluewater Grill can have appetizers and cold beverages ready on your vessel when you arrive to pick it up. (949-675-3474; bluewatergrill.com)
As Babette’s begins its first summer in Newport, the eatery is ready to impress hungry beachgoers with its new picnic basket sampler for two. Though the basket is stocked with everything you could need for a light beach meal from beginning to end, reach first for the two Champagne splits to get the meal started on a celebratory note.The pre-packed picnic comes with plenty of snacks and small plates to share with a partner, such as hummus with grilled pita bread, gourmet nuts, artichoke chips, house-marinated olives, and a lacinato kale salad. Sea salt chocolate chip cookies are carefully tucked inside as well for a sweet end to the meal. With all the preparations taken care of, simply grab a large beach towel and make your way to nearby Crystal Cove for a stunning spot to enjoy your spread. (949-715-9915; babettesoc.com)