Last weekend's JazzFest marked the unofficial launch of the Hollywood Bowl summer season (it officially begins this Friday). Along with that much-needed dose of Dianne Reeves comes a reminder that it is once again time to polish off summer's most basic skill: How to pack a picnic.
Sure, you can pony up for a fancy boxed picnic from the Bowl's onsite caterer, Patina Group, or grab something from one of the many restaurants offering To-Go boxes around town. But picnics are a lot cheaper, and arguably much tastier, too. Turn the page for our Top 10 Hollywood Bowl Picnic Essentials.
10. Local Condiments
Picnics are the ideal time for tasting all of those local condiments -- relishes, jams, miscellaneous "spreads" -- that have been piling up in the pantry. Old school is the way to go here: Crackers, cream cheese (goat cheese is good, too), and a couple of interesting tangy spreads will fuel that Dolly Parton (July 23) crowd for hours.
There's just something about sparkling wine at a picnic that feels so very French Riviera. Or Italian, if you're going to go Glera at Wine Expo in Santa Monica. And while you're on the West side, you can pop in Rustic Canyon for a few Prosecco cocktail refresher lessons (or get a few of their recipes here).
8. Farmers Market Anything
You literally can pack your picnic at the farmers market in the summer. Toss in a few tomatoes, a Laker Baker potato salad, some crunchy cole slaw, and maybe some roasted veggies and you've got an outdoor feast.
7. Good Chocolate
Dark, fudgy brownies, double-chocolate cookies, a chocolate bar... we've seen people bring whole chocolate cakes to the Bowl. All the more for sharing.
6. Good Wine
Our Hollywood Bowl rule of thumb is to start with an easy-drinking, inexpensive wine like Prosecco, then move on to something in your cellar that is hitting its prime (like this 2003 Peju Reserve Cabernet). The sort of bottle you haven't had a good enough excuse to pull out until that Gladys Knight concert (July 27) rolls around.
5. Affordable Wine
Actually, we only abide by rule #6 on solo Hollywood Bowl trips. Call us stingy, or maybe simply really low on good bottles in our wine fridge, but when we meet a group of friends for the Grease Sing-a-Long (June 24), we will be bringing one of those new bag or box wine bargains. Actually, we're avoiding all sing-a-longs this year, so we'll be popping that unoaked Unchained Chardonnay ($22 for one 4 bottle-box) or The Climber Chardonnay ($17 for a 2 bottle-pouch) back home.
4. Local Cheese
There's a pretty good chance any locally-made cheese you pick up will better than unidentifiable vacu-sealed grocery store versions. Among our current favorites is the goat cheese from Drake Family Farms, which is available at several local farmers markets and retail shops.
3. A Corkscrew, An Extra Plate
Both are items we often forget, both are essential for old-school (as in cork) wines and making cheese plates and whatever else is on your To-Share picnic list.
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2. Semi-Local Olive Oil and Vinegar
Good for pouring on all of those roasted Farmers Market veggies and salads. Pour them into small jars so you don't have to take an entire bottle of that Global Gardens vinegar and California olive oil.
1. Good Crusty Bread, Preferably Homemade
Because no matter what else you bring, or forget to bring, homemade crusty bread always makes it taste better. Bring along that pocket-sized copy of The River Cottage Bread Handbook and you'll have an instant conversation (yeast?) starter.