Question: What’s better than a delicious picnic on a Santa Fe summer day? Nothing, right? The first and most important aspect to any picnic is always food, but the days of stale potato chips and Grandma’s mushy chicken salad are over. Below you’ll find fresh ways to revamp summer recipes, the best places to gather your supplies, and even a few options in case you’re short on time or the overall desire to cook.
Refresh Old Recipes
First of all, put down the mayo. In fact, just go ahead and place it back in the fridge—mayonnaise doesn’t sit very well above room temperature anyway, and it lacks the flavor and brightness found in other condiments.
For instance, a quick and easy way to update that chicken salad recipe that your mom got from her mom is to choose your favorite barbecue sauce or mustard, or make a fresh salsa to substitute for mayo. All three can make delicious bases, though they lack some of the body that their egg yolk-based counterpart provides. If that bothers you, here’s another easy fix: Add avocado to the salsa, mustard or BBQ sauce, mix until there are no chunks left and then add the other ingredients.
Be sure to pay attention to and gain inspiration from the summer’s offerings of fresh veggies. Avocado is a great way to elevate many sandwiches, especially pulled pork, as is thinly sliced apple. Asparagus, brussels sprouts, peas and lemon zest will brighten your favorite pasta salad. Feel free to add some chopped green chile or chile powder to any picnic recipe to spice up the end result and remember that corn tortillas are a thousand times better than bread.
Make New Classics
If the childhood memories your family recipes conjure are just too much for you, try this: Combine shredded chicken, black beans, corn, piñon nuts, fresh salsa/guac and shredded local cheese, and then finish it off with lime juice to make an irresistible “Southwest” chicken salad.
Want to take your palate out of this region? Consider a Caprese chicken salad: Dice cooked chicken, tomatoes (use cherry tomatoes for a little sweetness) and mozzarella (balls work best), then toss the mixture with olive oil and top it with cut basil. It’s easy, quick (if you prepare the chicken beforehand) and absolutely beyond delicious, especially on toasted Italian bread.
Chicken is used as our central protein because most people want picnic food to be lighter than a sit-down meal, but some of these ideas work well in similar recipes too (like substituting barbeque sauce or mustard for mayo in tuna salad). And you can always use turkey rather than chicken or season dishes differently to add a twist to summer lunches.
The first stop for picnic necessities is Kaune’s Neighborhood Market (511 Old Santa Fe Trail, 982-2629). They have cheeses, a meat counter, produce, powdered local chiles and a wonderful selection of beer and wine. Remember: A picnic is just a wine tasting with food involved.
In need of something a little harder? Stop at Susan’s Fine Wine and Spirits (1005 S St. Francis Drive, Ste. 105, 984-1582) for a wide selection or Santa Fe Spirits (308 Read St., 780-5606) for spirits (from barrel-aged apple brandy to silver whiskey) that are locally crafted and distilled.
Want to try something new? Gifts ‘N Gourmet (55 Old Santa Fe Trail, 982-5953) has cookbooks that range from Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite recipes to Café Pasqual’s best-sellers and every local flavor in between. This is also an awesome spot for kitchenware, pre-made salsas and local piñon coffee crunch bars for a little boost.
If you need blankets to sit on or reusable utensils, plates or cloth napkins (after all, the 2014 picnic is a sustainable venture), visit Barkin’ Boutique (510 N Guadalupe St., 986-0699). One hundred percent of proceeds support the Española Valley Humane Society) or Double Take (320 Aztec St., 989-8886).
And, in case you’re already on the road and realize you forgot water (to stave off the effects of day drinking, of course), swing into Owl Liquors (913 Hickox St., 982-1751) for alcoholic and non-alcoholic local and imported beverages.
"The days of stale potato chips and Grandma’s mushy chicken salad
If you prefer your picnics catered, let these food trucks and takeout places freshen up your summer menu:
Jarochos Taquería (2820 Cerrillos Road, 204-5756) a food truck stationed by Jackalope, is so delicious and affordable that it may become the new destination for your tamal addiction (yes we know, and it’s okay).
The Beestro (101 W Marcy St., 629-8786) specializes in sandwiches and soups made fresh daily. Their menu is inspired by recipes from all over the world but made with local ingredients, plus they sell local honey!
Bang Bite Food Trailer (502 Old Santa Fe Trail, 469-2345) has gourmet burgers and sandwiches by a chef with over 20 years of fine-dining experience. This place is a staple for any meat-lover on the go.
And if you’re still at Kaune’s, the Neighborhood Chop (their salad counter) has a variety of made-to-order salads big enough to appetize everyone at your outdoor feast.