Putting Together the Perfect Picnic

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Grace Olson

Gathering Area Favorites for One Fun Feast!

Valley Picnic & Event Co. / Janelle Rose Photography

Think back to your childhood. Amongst the good, the bad and the blah are little pockets of treasured memories. Often, as I’m finding as an adult, they’re ingrained in our minds because something about them was different from our normal, everyday experience.

Essentially, anything out of the ordinary felt like a special adventure.

Picnics are one such activity.

Valley Picnic & Event Co. / Janelle Rose Photography

They can be curated and planned in advance, or simply thrown together on a road trip, park visit or nature walk. But regardless of circumstance, they all hold a whimsical quality we should hold on to.

“We know picnics are not just about the food… sharing a meal promotes happiness and helps us manage the stresses of daily life,” Jenna Young, Creative Director of Valley Picnic & Event Co. LLC, says. “Picnics are special because they allow us to come together, disconnect from the busy world that we live in, and unwind together in a beautiful environment. Picnics create an opportunity to make meaningful memories with family and friends.”

Young’s business Valley Picnic & Event Co. offers a packaged picnic experience… they scout the perfect location, bring the food and beverages, and set up a beautifully styled floor picnic for guests. Plus, they clean up!

However, if you’re interested in a more “get up and go” experience, the Fox Cities’ tried and true businesses have you covered. Whether in your backyard or on the beach, gather some of the area’s most delicious and fun components to put together the perfect picnic:

The Basket + Blanket (Red Door Mercantile in Neenah)

Beautiful and eco-friendly, Red Door Mercantile’s pick for a picnic basket was an easy choice: simply because it serves its purpose perfectly.

“It has spots for all of the picnic essentials—plates, glasses, silverware and even a wine bottle or coffee thermos,” owner Tina Palmer says. “It has room for your picnic menu and the blanket as well.

“This picnic blanket is large enough to fit two people comfortably… it’s lightweight so it’s easy to carry if you are walking to more of a remote location. It’s also machine washable and cleans up beautifully. In addition it’s bright and cheery-perfect for the fun of a picnic!

“Having the beautiful basket, essentials and the soft colorful blanket bring the picnic to a different level. It becomes an adventure in and of itself. It’s also more romantic and memorable.”

Picnic basket: $185. Blanket: $48.

Sodas + Side Salad (The Free Market in Appleton)

Kevin Hamm, co-owner of The Free Market, chose “the best and most popular drinks” to include in the perfect picnic. It just so happens they have a healthy twist the store is known for, plus some are local to the great state of Wisconsin too.

“The Wisco Pop sodas are great because they are locally made and with very simple organic ingredients and nothing artificial,” he says. “OLIPOP (is) a great option for a replacement for sodas. They are super low in sugar and are high in fiber and still taste great. The Poppis are one of our more popular drinks… they contain your daily amount of apple cider vinegar (which you can’t even tell you’re drinking!) and also contain probiotics that help with gut health, immunity and also are very low in sugar.

“We do have a ton more drink options in our grab-n-go cooler right up front that are great replacements for anyone looking to avoid sugar or someone looking for dairy free or vegan options but still have great taste.”

The Free Market’s Broccoli Salad is made-from-scratch and perfect as a picnic side.

Wisco Pop sodas: $9.99 (4-pack). OLIPOP: $2.89. Poppi: $2.79. Broccoli Salad: $9.99 (per pound).

Bread + Snack (Great Harvest in Neenah)

“Healthy, hearty and tastes great” is all we need to know about the Great Harvest in Neenah’s signature bread: Honey Whole Wheat. It’s no surprise manager Hannah chose it to be a part of a perfect picnic lunch.

“It is made with 100% whole wheat flour that we mill in our own store,” she explains. “This bread has only 5 ingredients: honey, yeast, salt, water and flour. We use honey as a natural preservative, so there’s nothing icky in there.

“Our Cranberry Chocolate Chip Trek Bar is really more like a protein bar. It is full of peanut butter, honey, seeds and this particular flavor has craisins and chocolate chips. I suggest this as a snack or even a quick meal replacement because it is very filling and gives you a great boost of energy if you want to take a bike ride, go for a run, a walk or hike. Not overly sweet and still healthy!”

Honey Whole Wheat Bread (loaf): $6.50. Trek Bar: $2.25 or $8.50 (4-pack).

Sliced summer sausage salami isolated on white background, top view

Sandwich Meat + Cheese (Niemuth’s Southside Market in Appleton)

For craveworthy sandwiches with bursts of flavor, Richard Niemuth, owner of Niemuth’s Southside Market in Appleton, opts for housemade favorites that elevate picnic style lunches.

“We make our own hickory smoked boneless ham for sandwiches as well as summer sausage and the occasional pastrami and smoked beef,” he says. “We also bring in prosciutto, capicola, Genoa salami and Vienna all-beef wieners.

I like the Union Star Pepper Jack muenster cheese for both sandwiches and charcuterie boards. We also have a creamy Widmer brick and baby Swiss that will put your sandwich over the top.”

Other local cheeses available at Niemuth’s include Red Barn Cupola and Aged Gouda; Red Barn’s Heritage White Cheddar and Edun raw milk cheese and Sartori’s Bellavitano in several flavors.

Red Barn Cupola and Aged Gouda (3 oz. wedge): $10. Sartori’s Bellavitano (5.3 oz. wedge): $4.99.

Sandwich “Extras” + Snacks (The Olive Cellar in Appleton)

When it comes to picnics, everyone knows there’s a grazing aspect that must be respected. That means charcuterie boards and snacks are a must.

Gordon Cole, owner of The Olive Cellar, has us covered in the form of jams, olives and toasts. The group is ideal for a picnic as nothing needs to be refrigerated prior to opening.
Hot Pepper Bacon Jam.

“Use it with cream cheese and spread over crackers,” he suggests. “Asturi Snack Size Italian Brushetta Toasts… use by themselves or with the accompanying toppings.”

Cole also includes Gia Russo Artichoke Bruschetta Topping and Augusta’s Antipasto, “an Italian family recipe loaded with vegetables, tuna and a variety of olives in a savory sauce” on his picnic must list.

Vermouth Bleu Cheese Stuffed Olives are “good for snacking or in salads and cocktails” while Cole recommends combining high quality olive oil and 12-year aged balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce or Italian salad dressing.

Terrapin Ridge Hot Pepper Jam: $9.35. Asturi Snack Size Italian Brushetta Toasts: $4.25. Gia Russo Artichoke Bruschetta Topping: $5.95. Vermouth Bleu Cheese Stuffed Olives: $8.25. Tuscan Herb Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar: $17 (combination pack).

Beer + Chocolate (Niemuth’s Southside Market in Appleton)

Sean Wipfli, Front End Manager, admits that his experience with “picnics” comes down to family reunions and BBQ with friends and family, and that’s how he based his choices from Niemuth’s Southside Market.

“(At) any of those gatherings; if you brought the best Old Fashioned/Bloody Mary/Whiskey for us snobs (and) chocolate without any icky stuff in it that melts in your mouth like candied butter… those are the kinds of things folks remember like Grandma’s Potato Salad or your Auntie’s Blackberry Cobbler.”

Among the list of must-bring items include Bloody Mary products to “100% step up your game,” as well as vibrant Bourbon selections and a JW Dant Bottled in Bond (Sean says to throw away the Kesslers!).

The “Best Mix A Six in the Valley gets you your choice of a half dozen of the best ‘daily-priced’ beers… crisp malty craft lagers, many styles of the best budget IPAs, delicious dark beers like stouts and porters, and spectacular super-crushable sours!”

Mix a Six Beer: $10.99. Bloody Mary items: Under $10. Bourbon: Under $60. Chocolate: Varies.

Red, White + Sparkling Wine (Xe54 Wine Bar in Neenah)

Candice Faust, wine director of Xe54 Wine Bar, gives us three wine options to liven up our picnics: sparkling, white and red, all perfect for the occasion for different reasons, and from varying countries.

Bervini Prosecco (Italy) is a “dry sparkling wine with crisp acidity, low sugar and a delicate mousse” that Faust recommends pairing with charcuterie, ceviche, cured meats, or as a patio pounder!”

For a “fun picnic with your pup,” Faust suggests Yvon Mau French Dog Colombard/Chardonnay Blend (France), a 50/50 blend of Colombard and Chardonnay.

“(It’s) a perfect aperitif or to pair with pasta salads, white meat sandwiches and dips,” Faust says.
 Itxas Harri Beltza (Spain) is a 50% tempranillo, 50% garnacha blend is a “lower alcohol, refreshing fruit-forward, bright red wine great with grilled vegetables, tapas, seafood, or charcuterie.”

Bervini Prosecco: $17 to $23. Yvon Mau French Dog Colombard/Chardonnay Blend: $14-$18. Itxas Harri Beltza: $15-$20.

Dessert (Manderfields Home Bakery in Appleton)

Who doesn’t love pie?! When it’s mini, it just adds to the charm—and convenience, perfect for an on-the-go picnic.

“These fresh and fruity 4″ treats are individually packaged in convenient snap tight containers,” owner Doug Manderfield, Owner, Marketing and Public Relations, explains. “They feature our light home-made pie crust and plenty of tasty fruit fillings like apple, blueberry or cherry. There’s no need to slice… now that’s nice!”

If you’re more of a cake fan, Manderfields’ Gourmet Cupcakes offer a large selection of flavors that vary each week, like Ho-Ho, Lemon Poppy Seed, Reese’s Peanut Butter, Red Velvet, Almond Joy and Carrot.

“This wonderful package of moist and flavorful cupcakes is easy to transport and serve,” Manderfield says.

Mini Pies: $2.50. Gourmet Cupcakes (6-pack): $12.50.

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