Tips Tricks – Picnic Perfect
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tips & tricks


Tips from the pros for packing and eating al fresco.


As you head out to Lake Tahoe, your local park, an Artown event, or one of the other wonderful happenings in Reno-Tahoe, you’ll want to take a picnic with you. Here are some great suggestions, packing tips, and resources for where to find items or have someone else pack a basket for you.

It’s all in the prep

Keep it simple. Our experts agree that a successful picnic doesn’t have to include intricate dishes or on-site preparation. Tim Magee, chef at Calafuria in Reno, says he always does as much work ahead of time as possible.

“You don’t want to chop things up in the woods or do dishes on the beach,” he says.

He has a few more insights:

Take foods that don’t suffer without refrigeration.

For safety reasons, avoid mayonnaise or anything with raw eggs, such as Caesar salad dressing.

Leave the utensils at home. Opt for finger foods and items that come in their own natural containers.

Take wet wipes or moistened towels for easy cleanup.

Nibbles and bites

Outdoor dining menu options are as vast as the settings in which you can eat them, especially in this area. Andria Gutierrez, spokesperson for West Shore Market in Tahoe City, Calif., encourages folks to include an assortment of fun foods for all ages. A few ideas include:

Sandwiches filled with locally sourced ingredients

French bread, dried salami, dried cheese, pickles, and preserves

Fresh fruit platter

Hummus and vegetables (Try pickled vegetables for a kick!)

Premade pizza and Italian-style pasta salad

An assortment of treats, including truffles, sponge cake, cookies, biscuits, and jam

Wash it down

Don’t forget about drinks. Gutierrez suggests preparing a punch at home that you can store in a sealed pitcher.

“Bring some alcohol, ice, and soda water along with the punch,” she adds. “The adults can enjoy their beverages with a little extra kick.”

Speaking of adult libations, an ice-cold craft beer just might be the quencher. How about some vino? Peyton Hodel, marketing assistant at Napa-Sonoma Grocery Co. in Reno, recommends cool, crisp, and white varieties such as Dr. Loosen Riesling, John Anthony sauvignon blanc, Mija sangria, and Ferrari-Carano dry sangiovese rosé

“Don’t forget a wine opener!” Hodel adds. “It would be such a disappointment to have great wine and no way to drink it. We also love the unbreakable wine glasses because broken glass should not be a concern.”

Checkered cloth, wicker basket

Now that you have the perfect spread, be sure to pack it right. If you need to keep things cool, use reusable freezer packs. And always keep foods safe in sturdy packaging.

Dorinda Vance, chief chocolate officer at Dorinda’s Chocolates in Reno, Truckee, Northstar, and Squaw Valley emphasizes thought in storage when selecting food items.

“The sun and water can be food’s worst enemies,” Vance says. “Things like chocolate can be ruined, so be mindful of the elements and the goodies you plan to enjoy.”

Reno-based freelance writer Heidi Bethel looks forward to some outdoor dining adventures this summer.


Visit these great places for picnicking essentials. They may even pack the basket for you!

Liberty Food & Wine Exchange

100 N. Sierra St., Reno • 775-336-1091 •

Napa-Sonoma Grocery Co.

550 W. Plumb Lane, Reno • 775-826-0595

7671 S. Virginia St., Reno • 775-440-1214

Nothing To It! Culinary Center

225 Crummer Lane, Reno • 775-826-2628 •

West Shore Market

1780 W. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City • 530-584-2475 •

Piñon Bottle Co.

At this bottle shop and beer bar, you can select from hundreds of bottles and cans for your next picnic, or fill a growler at one of its 36 rotating taps.

777 S. Center St., Ste. 101, Reno • 775-376-1211

Looking for some more picnic ideas for your next outdoor event? Check out Anne Byrn’s What Can I Bring? Cookbook (Workman Publishing Co.; paperback $10 – $12 online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble). Written with potlucks, picnics, and parties in mind, she shares more than 200 recipes designed to travel, including finger foods, salads, desserts, and a full chapter of loaves and other gifts from the kitchen. Each recipe comes with Tote Notes about how best to transport the item.


Italian Pasta Salad

(courtesy of Tim Magee, chef, Calafuria in Reno. Serves 4 to 6)

1 box fusilli or penne pasta

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano

20 to 30 basil leaves, chopped

4 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon apple-cider vinegar

Thyme, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil pasta following directions on box. Spread on sheet pan, add a little olive oil, and let cool as quickly as possible. When cool, mix all ingredients, and you are ready to go. Add cooked, diced chicken if desired.


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Discover new products, thriving traditions, or exciting food events, festivals, restaurants, and markets – all of the things that are helping to make us a true culinary destination.