Picnicking In The First State

What to pack and where to go for this summertime tradition

 

Want to eat al fresco but don’t want to spend time waiting for that elusive patio table at an area eatery? Why not pack a picnic loaded with local foodstuffs. Area caterers and restaurants are ready to serve you a gourmet picnic, from charcuterie to BBQ, from Prosciutto di Parma to chicken club salad, from mini-cannoli to mac and cheese bites.

And once you’ve packed your picnic, the final decision you’ll make is where to go to dig in. More on that down the page. First, some suggestions for your picnic menu:

Long-time Janssen’s Market owner Eileen Janssen works several hours each day at her market in Greenville. Her daughter now runs the day to day operations. Photo by Butch Comegys

GO CHARCUTERIE: JANSSEN’S MARKET

Janssen’s Market in Greenville is one of Delaware’s favorite places for charcuterie and high-quality cheeses. If you’re not sure where to start, the super-friendly staff will help guide you in all of your picnic-packing decisions.

Says Deli Manager Danielle Hicks: “If customers aren’t sure what they want, we’re here to help select the best quality meats and cheeses.”

Janssen’s has a wide variety of imported meats and pâtés. Most popular are the Italian meats like Prosciutto di Parma and Bresaola, a beef prosciutto. “We also carry a selection of German and Italian salamis and, of course, a traditional duck pâté that is perfect to spread on top of a toasted baguette,” says Hicks.

As for cheese, Hicks’ personal recommendations include the Prima Donna, an aged gouda, that tastes like parmesan and gouda; a triple-creme brie, that is the more creamy, buttery version of a traditional brie; the Cambozola, a cross between camembert brie and Gorgonzola, which is a perfect blue cheese for novices; and a seven-year cheddar, one of Hicks’ favorites.

“The seven-year cheddar is aged for so long that it has crystals in it,” she says. “The crystals give this flavorful, rich cheddar a slight crunch when eaten.” And if you’d like a more traditional spread, check out the extensive prepared food section adjacent to J’s Cafe. You can choose from more than 20 fresh-made salads and traditional delicatessen meats and cheeses.

Janssen’s Market, 3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-9941 or catering@janssensmarket.com, janssensfinefoods.com.

BON APPETIT: CHEESE CHALET

Be classy with a picnic made exclusively with fine cheeses from Cheese Chalet. Located in the Shops at Limestone Hills near Hockessin, Cheese Chalet has been in business for more than 40 years.

Owners Henry and Carol Huffman offer a selection of cheeses from countries around the world, including Spain, Holland, Italy, Denmark, England and France. In addition, they have a large selection of gourmet take-out options, such as house-made cheese spreads like horseradish mustard, cheddar spread with walnuts, bacon and scallion and olive spread; and daily take-out lunches and dinners that rotate monthly. Last month, daily meals included turkey phyllo pie, mango-glazed salmon and grilled lemon chicken served with a peanut satay sauce.

Cheese Chalet, 5337A Limestone Road, Wilmington, 239-5548 or cheesechalet.de.

CLASSIC AND UPSCALE: MONTRACHET FINE FOODS

Let Montrachet Fine Foods do all the work for your picnic. “We’re open 364 days a year, so when you stop by be sure to check out the many salads and spreads that are always available in the refrigerator case,” says Susan Teiser, chef and owner of Montrachet Fine Foods and Centreville Café.

The most popular picnic-ready salads are the chicken club salad with bacon, and curried chicken salad with apples and grapes. Or try the bacon and egg potato salad or broccoli salad tossed with a tangy, creamy honey vinaigrette.

“And what picnic wouldn’t be complete without coleslaw?” says Teiser. “Chef Kathy Donovan hand cuts the cabbage, which makes a huge difference in quality and taste.”

Other offerings include house-made dips and spreads like cheddar bacon spread, spicy crab dip, caponata and salsa, and a small selection of imported cheeses. Montrachet also carries La Panzanella crackers—gluten-free oat thins that complement any picnic salad or cheeseboard.

Montrachet Fine Foods and Centreville Café, 5800 Kennett Pike, Centreville, 425-5808 or centrevillecafe.com/montrachet.

MANGIA! TOSCANA TO-GO

Have you discovered Toscana To-Go, the sibling restaurant attached to Piccolina Toscana? If not, you’re missing out on a whole bunch of delicious, made-to-order hot dishes like rosemary veal Bolognese and di Parma pizzette, a smaller pizza with prosciutto with goat cheese, rosemary, arugula and mozzarella, and the eight-foot display case of prepared salads, appetizers and entrées cooked from scratch.

Make it an all-Italian evening and grab a large deli container of the Insalata Caprese (fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil) and a Tacchino sandwich made with roasted turkey breast, crispy pancetta, provolone, oven-roasted tomato and spicy mayo. And don’t forget to save room for dessert. Sweets include house-made mini-cannolis, crème brûlée, or a hand-sized cookie or biscotti.

Toscana To-Go, 1412 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 654-8001 or piccolinatoscana.com/toscana-to-go.

GOOD OL’ AMERICAN BBQ: LOCALE BBQ POST

After a successful pop-up at the new DE.CO in downtown Wilmington and its TV debut on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri, Locale BBQ Post seems to be everywhere. But in reality, the cozy eatery is located on Lincoln Street near Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Locale has become “Guy Fieri famous” for its chicken salad sandwich and, of course, its barbecue, which varies between Carolina and Kansas City style. For a very hungry couple or average size family, Locale prepares four featured BBQ meat platters, including the rib sampler; pulled meat sampler, chicken sampler and the hungry man platter, which includes a quarter brisket, a quarter pork butt, a quarter chicken, a quarter bratwurst and four sides. Customers have the choice of sides like the mac and cheese bites, jalapeño cream corn, hush puppies, green beans, cornbread and collard greens, to name a few.

And if that’s too much BBQ to handle, all meat is available à la carte, but make sure to arrive early because once supplies run out, they’re gone.

Locale BBQ Post, 1014 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 510-4929 or localebbqpost.com.

WHERE TO SPREAD YOUR SPREAD

Picnicking in northern Delaware is as easy as finding your nearest state or local park. Whether you prefer a table or your own old-fashioned checkered tablecloth (beware the ants), here’s a roundup of the best New Castle County has to offer:

BELLEVUE STATE PARK, WILMINGTON

Bellevue State Park off Marsh Road and I-95 is well-known for its historic estate, equestrian facilities, its fishpond and its summer concert series, held Sundays and Thursday at 6:30 pm.

Have some time to kill before the concert? Arrive early to walk the 1-1/8 mile crushed stone fitness track before digging into your picnic and enjoying the sounds of summer. Bellevue has plenty of grills, picnic areas and pavilions surrounding the fishing pond, which is stocked with bass, catfish and sunfish.

Entrance fees are in effect from now until November. Alcohol is permitted in bottles and cans.

Bellevue State Park, 800 Carr Rd., Wilmington, 761-6963 or destateparks. com/History/Bellevue.

WILMINGTON STATE PARKS, ROCKFORD PARK, WILMINGTON

Picnic in front of the historic 100-yearold Rockford Tower as you admire the beautiful city vista. The park is full of open green space, including an off-leash dog park. There is one picnic area in the park that can be reserved, but on weeknight evenings there should be tables available on a first-come-first-served basis.

And for those interested in touring the tower, it’s open to the public on Sundays in the summer and Monday evenings during the summer concerts. Concerts are held now through Aug. 12, with live music provided by local and regional acts like Jea Street Jr. (soul/r&b), and Betty & The Bullet (bluegrass).

There are no entrance fees to access the park. Alcohol is not permitted, so bring a seasonal mocktail like a blueberry lemonade spritzer.

Rockford Park, 1021 W. 18th St., Wilmington, 577-1164 or destateparks.com/FieldsStreams/Wilmington.

Brandywine Creek State Park has picnic tables and many family activities. Photo James Geisler/Shutterstock.com

BRANDYWINE CREEK STATE PARK, WILMINGTON

Brandywine Creek State Park began as a dairy farm owned by the du Pont family and eventually became a state park in 1965. Today, the park consists of three nature preserves, including Tulip Tree Woods (a majestic stand of 190-year-old tulip poplars) the Flint Woods Nature Preserve, and Freshwater Marsh, the first nature preserve in Delaware.

The park also hosts many family activities and events, such as starry night hikes and its kid-friendly summer series “Cool Evening Picnic and Nature Programs.” This program is held Wednesday evenings at 7 from now through Aug. 22 and includes hands-on activities like make-your-own ice cream and campfire desserts.

Entrance fees are in effect from now until November. Alcohol is permitted in bottles and cans in the picnic pavilion area only. The main pavilion is to the right after the main entrance near the disc golf course.

Brandywine Creek State Park, 41 Adams Dam Rd., Wilmington, 577-3534 or destateparks.com/FieldsStreams/BrandywineCreek.

WHITE CLAY CREEK STATE PARK, CARPENTER RECREATION AREA, NEWARK

There are so many amenities at White Clay Creek you could spend an entire day here eating, relaxing, playing sports like disc golf, volleyball or horseshoes. During the summer, the park also hosts special evening events, including its “Yoga in the Park” series, held Tuesdays and Thursdays starting July 23; summer concert series on Wednesdays now through Aug. 14, and its “Park After Dark: Full Moon Friday Hikes,” which has two remaining dates—July 12 and Aug. 16. Entrance fees are in effect from now until November. Alcohol is permitted in bottles and cans in the Carpenter Recreation picnic pavilion area only.

White Clay Creek State Park, 880 New London Rd., Newark, 368-6900 or destateparks.com/FieldsStreams/WhiteClayCreek.

MT. CUBA CENTER, HOCKESSIN

Every Friday from now through Labor Day, the Mt. Cuba Gardens will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. for Picnic Night. Refreshments, including wine, beer and snacks, are available for purchase, or guests may bring their own picnic. mtcubacenter.org/ coming-this-summer-picnic-fridays.

And not to be confused with Picnic Night, on select Fridays Twilight on the Terrace brings even more family-friendly fun to the center. These special evenings feature additional entertainment, including local musicians, breweries and food trucks and classic lawn games like cornhole and croquet. Both events require the purchase of general admission tickets. Upcoming dates: July 19, Aug.16 and Sept. 6.

Mt. Cuba Center, 3120 Barley Mill Rd., Hockessin, 239-4244 or mtcubacenter.org.

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