Get Out and Enjoy a Romantic Evening Picnic

At least once a week, my fiancée and I head to the Botanic Gardens for a dinner free from distraction, and it’s a pastime I recommend everyone reading this embrace. It’s fun, it’s super romantic, and the best part about it is that it’s incredibly easy.

I’ve mentioned in the past – on numerous occasions – how much I enjoy dining outside, as well as how much I enjoy picnics. All you need is a cooler (or a fancy picnic hamper), a few tasty dishes, and a bottle of something equally delicious. In addition, I recommend taking the time to look at least a little bit nicer than you normally do, but I also recommend dressing in a way that suits the occasion. By that I mean leave both the tie and the tennis shoes at home. This is your chance to dress like a stylish gardener, or an exiled novelist, or whatever your own fantasies may entail. It’s like going out to dinner – only more celebratory. Here’s what I recommend, both in terms of wearing and eating.

1. Food

Really, as long as you can make your dish of choice portable, anything goes. Just avoid ‘heavy’ foods, since they’re largely at odds with the setting. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Baguette, cheese, olives, charcuterie (never forget to bring your baguette)
  • Caprese salad (we grow our own tomatoes and basil, and only use a bit of good oil and some salt)
  • Cold Soup – gazpacho or leek
  • Chilled soba noodles with steamed vegetables (use a vegetable peeler to slice zucchini and carrot into ribbons, steam very briefly, then stir into soba noodles with a peanut vinaigrette) or stir-fried mushrooms
  • Seared tuna bites (Sear, slice, wrap in individual packets of butter lettuce if you choose, top with thin-sliced jalapeno and a ponzo sauce)
  • Pre-grilled chicken skewers (chicken and green onion)
  • Tiramisu or creme brulée in individual ramekins – this gets you points, and both are very easy to make.

2. Drink

Recently, I had the very good idea of pre-mixing a pitcher of Mojito ‘concentrate’ (2 cups rum, 1 cup sugar, as much mint as you can find; blended) and bringing a bottle of sparkling water along with me. If you have access to a cheap rose you’ll love it, especially as the evenings become cooler. I tend not to bring ‘nicer’ bottles with me on picnics, just because everything tastes better when you’re outside anyway, and you also limit the chances of being disappointed if your plastic cup spills in the grass. Speaking of, a plastic cup is great to have, since it won’t shatter if you drop it. Plus, it’s not hard to can find clear plastic cups that are an elegant alternative to a wine glass (I always favor stemless) – just look for something that doesn’t have a pronounced lip. Oh, and if you’re bringing wine, don’t forget a corkscrew – and remember that something bubbly is always fun.

3. Where to Go

I’m a big fan of botanical gardens. We’re members at the one in Denver, and we tend to visit them when we travel. Of course, the nearest nice park (or beach) is also a great choice (just be surreptitious with your alcohol), and if you can drive 15 minutes out of the city to a pretty spot that’s also great. Just be sure that you’re not going to get stuck in traffic for more than 20 minutes – nothing kills romance and spontaneity like staring at the back of the same minivan for hours. If you do have a botanic garden near you – go! Especially if you’ve never been before. Strolling through beautiful gardens is a fantastic activity by itself.

4. What to Wear

As I said, if you’re picnicking with your significant other, this is a chance to look nice in a way you don’t look nice while at the office. It’s not really the time for ‘weekend’ clothes, and while you can certainly wear an odd jacket and trousers I recommend you give in to the weather and wear something more at home in the sun. I tend to favor floral prints, lightweight outerwear to fight the evening chill (which is a reality now that we’ve passed Labor Day), and loose or cropped pants that are comfortable for lounging, strolling, as well as sitting around when the sun starts to go down.

Here’s some of my recent picnic-wear:


5. Why You Should Picnic in the First Place

Because it’s fun. No, seriously: taking the time – during the week, no less – to consciously disconnect yourself from all the stress and distractions you probably don’t even know you have while you’re at home (phones, shows, computers, errands, etc.) results in a sense of profound relief, both mental and physical. The kind of relief that results in you feeling the stress leave your shoulders. Not only is the cooking and meal preparation cathartic (at least, it should be), but choosing an outfit based on no one’s expectations on your own is way more entertaining than choosing what you’ll wear to work or even to a restaurant. The older I get, the more I’ve come to cherish slow moments, especially with loved ones. A picnic – and the slight sense of celebration that goes with it – is a fantastic and intimate way to liven up your weekly grind and, I hope, start a new tradition.


Feeling down? Have a Deliciously Unhealthy Late Night Snack

Sometimes you have to take a break from worrying about whether your suits will fit you tomorrow. You come home late after a bad day, you go on a first date that ends badly, or you just want to pig out. Well, I’ve got you covered, and the best way to deal with all the bad things in life is to eat delicious food.

Having a few late night snacks options always at the ready will always serve you well.  If your friends decide to crash on your couch after a night out, you’ll need to feed them before they tear your fridge apart.  If you meet your soulmate, and walk long into the night, talking about the future – all the walking will get you hungry for, and let’s be real here, snacks.  If you miraculously do not strike out, you will be hungry after all the festivities, and you’ll need some… snacks.  If you are married, with kids, a late night snack with your significant other is going to be one of the very few adult moments you will share.

Statistically, though, let’s face it, if you are single, your date is going to be terrible, and you are going to spend your night alone, with only Netflix binges to keep you company.  Styleforum is not here to kick you while you are down, though – we’re  here to uplift you with delicious calories.  Here are the definitive 5 Best Late Night Snacks you can make to soothe your soul.

  1. Bacon wrapped hotdog
    These are sold outside stadiums all across America.  And they are delicious.  You know it, I know it.  The tasting menu that you thought your date would like has nothing on these late at night after a few beers on a cold winter’s eve…. alone.
  2. Spaghetti carbonara
    One of the easiest dishes to make, and it fits your timing perfectly.  Put on the water, and by the time you’ve washed off the disappointment, the water will be boiling (remember to have salted it well), and you can fry up the spec in time for the pasta to finish cooking.  Remember to get the pasta off the heat before you add the cheese and egg mixture, or else your sauce will separate disappointingly as well.
  3. Nutella and banana grilled sandwich
    Find solace in the nostalgia of a childhood snack.  Of course, your mom is no longer there to tell you that you are a special person and that everything will be okay.  Unless your mom IS there to tell you that you are a special person and that everything will be okay, in which case, it’s no wonder your date didn’t work out.
  4. Steak and Eggs
    The Notorious B.I.G. famously rapped for a t-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape to fill his belly.  Delicious.  The only difference between his snack and yours is that his were a prelude to more exciting evening activities, while yours mark the beginning of an evening of old television shows.
  5. Garlic Bread
    Let’s face it.  The only reason that you don’t eat garlic bread when there is garlic bread to be eaten is in order to not turn off your date.  Well, turns out, you didn’t need garlic bread to do that, so the joke’s on you.  But now you can eat all the delicious, buttery, garlicky bread you want, so you win.

    Bonus: Avocado Toast

    Delicious, and instagram friendly.   Instagram is your desperate attempt to tell the world that you are okay with being alone, with just being you)