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  • Writer's pictureThe Bone Guys

It’s The Bone Guys’ Picnic-Palooza!

Everything you need and all the places to consider for a pandemic-age Southern California picnic.


Photo Credit Kate Hliznitsova.

We know just how badly you need to get out of the house right now. Because we were once like you. Then we rediscovered the simple joys of getting together with our pandemic partners for picnics that reintroduced us all to the region we love, with the compliments of some perfect snacks.

Which got us to thinking. Maybe all those wonderful readers of The Bone Guys would like to hear our advice on how to put together a perfect picnic of their own. So then we sat down and wrote a little thing we like to call... this story.

May it please you very much.



What to Eat

Prepping for your picnic is one of the best parts. Breaking down the meal or snacks you’ll want when you get there and organizing it into a tidy package of treats. Here are some new recommendations and recently unearthed resources and from the picnic professionals (ahem, us) that what might make for a stimulating spread of your own.


Babushka Grandma’s Deli: Step into this West Hollywood Russian delicatessen and most of the work of putting a picnic together is already done for you. The counters overflow with tantalizing, pre-made Slavic options such as whole smoked chickens, latkes, and grilled branzino, while the cases abound with cold salads, caviar, and more sausage varieties than we could even attempt to identify. The shelves are riddled with Ukrainian and Russian chocolates, drinks, and imported jams and snacks from different European nations. There’s something for everyone inside these clean, organized confines.


Bava Brothers: This newly introduced chile and fennel-lashed sopressata Calabrese was long the handmade family treasure of Steve and Eric Bava’s clan, having made the voyage over to the U.S. in 1921 with their grandfather. Now they have three picnic-friendly products available in a handful of L.A. and O.C. gourmet stores: the sopressata and white wine-soaked cervelatta for your charcuterie board, and a spreadable ‘nduja waiting to be put to use on your bread or crackers. We can’t get enough.


Copenhagen Bakery: The Danish rye bread at this Culver City gem is all you’ll need for sandwiches, smoked meats, spreads, and everyone’s favorite: smørrebrød. Ha. Light and sesame-seeded, the bread is even available to be shipped wherever you are, though a trip to the cute, clean bakery makes an incredible stop for pastries such as kringles, spandauer, and chocolate balls, which probably have a way better name is Danish.


Make it hot: Even if you don’t have something to put it on, you better have hot sauce at your picnic. Even if it’s just to set the mood. We’ve long been obsessed with the small batch chile sauces of El Machete 1924, which can be purchased online as well as at Santa Ana’s Alta Baja Market and the Hollywood Farmers Market. Similarly rich and good-looking, how we like our sauces, are the recipes of Char Man, among them a salsa verde with four types of chile, a proprietary sriracha, and a tropical-juice blended Caribbean hot sauce with labels so cool, the bottles are hard to throw away.


The unforeseen dip: Your picnic partners might expect hummus or guacamole. So they’ll never see you coming when you bust out some delicious, Lebanese-made babganoush that you got from a can, but don’t necessarily have to tell them that it came from a can. Cortas’ babaganoush is way better than you’d expect something pre-made in a can to be, creamy and smoky and hard to stop eating. You can order it online but we suggest hitting up your closest Persian deli and pairing it with—another personal obsession—Irvine-based Sun Gak bakery’s seed-sprinkled, oven-baked crackers.


Haute Mess: If your thoughts drift towards a high-end European picnic with brie-piled baguette sandwiches, you’ll want to visit this new market in the Fairfax district. House-baked baguettes are covered in everything from saucy meatballs and thinly sliced prosciutto, chicken milanesa and capicola to fresh mozzarella and smoked salmon on sandwiches that are named for cocktails. There are also pre-arranged charcuterie and cheese platters, plus to-go baskets bearing such delights as canned artichokes, truffles, vinegars, and local wines. It’s a picnicker’s paradise.


Smoked meats: Los Angeles is a hotbed of great barbecue, despite its reputation as a kale mecca. Okay, we’re also a kale mecca. Anyway, if you’re looking for something meatier, you can’t go wrong with the brisket at Maple Block in Culver City, the pork belly and chamoy-spiced brisket at Beatdown Barbecue in East Los Angeles, the ribs at Ragtop Fern’s in Koreatown, and the brisket, jalapeño-cheddar sausages, and beef ribs at Moo’s Craft Barbecue in East L.A. We also hear great things about the rib tips at new Ribtown BBQ in Jefferson Park but are yet to check it out ourselves.


Dough and Arrow Creme Brulee Cookie

DESSERT

L.A.

Compartes Chocolatier: Okay, hear us out. We’re not into buying $10 chocolate bars, but we have to say this white chocolate studded with tortilla chips and made with real avocado is one of the best things we’ve put in our mouths. And we’ve put a lot of things in our mouths!


Korner Knafeh: To get real with you for a second (turns chair backward, takes a seat disconcertedly close to you), we’d never had the traditional Middle Eastern dessert known as knafeh before trying this weekend pop-up in Northridge, where cars come and go filled with big orders to heat up at home. But the cheesy, sweet, and crisp-topped pastry knocked our socks off with its combination of indulgent flavors and textures. And if there’s a better one out there, we almost don’t want to know. We fear being any happier than when we’re eating this one. While you’re there, try the mighty coffee brewed in a basin of hot sand. Also, we eventually did find those socks.


Porto’s: The various locations of L.A.’s legendary Cuban bakery are godsend to a picnic, abounding with beyond-affordable pastries such as guava-and-cheese-stuffed strudel, dulce de leche besitos, pineapple empanadas, and tres leches cakes. Which is not to knock the utility of their breads or hot treats like chicken croquettes and pork tamales.


O.C.

Dough & Arrow: Five words: Hand-torched crème brulee cookies. These are the star attractions at this Costa Mesa cookie shop, which also sells flavors including “Cereal Killer” with Rice Krispies and Capt’n Crunch, Nutella s’more-inspired Smookies, ube toasted coconut, and butterscotch-and-peanut butter Brookies.


What to Drink

Sure, you can make lemonade or pack your favorite fizzy water with “natural flavorings,” but we mean the hard stuff, the hooch, the firewater, the sauce, the white lightning, the... you get it.


Canteen Spirits: This is a newly introduced 99-calorie, canned Vodka drink sweetened with monk fruit that weighs in at a moderate 5% ABV and comes in flavors like watermelon, lime, cucumber mint, black cherry and grapefruit. What, no monk fruit flavor? Anyhow, it’s kind of like you threw a shot of vodka into a La Croix and shazam, you’re off to the cock fights!


Kings Carey wines: In summer, as in life, we tend to shun the heavy, oaky, sugar-loaded wines of Napa and its imitators. As a result, we’ve become incredible partial to the single vineyard wines of Santa Barbara County-based winemaker James Sparks. Made with as little manipulation as possible, the wines let fruit, terroir, and natural winemaking methods speak for themselves, resulting in the bright, intrinsic flavors of single grape varietals like Semillon, Syrah, picnic-required rosé. Our favorite happens to be the Grenache.


IPA 99: This brand-new beer from San Diego’s Saint Archer is a revelation for IPA fans who want to avoid the heavy, cloying, high-alcohol end of the spectrum, in other words who want to drink a few of them and still maintain consciousness. The brew only has 99 calories and a light profile, coming in at 4% ABV. But it doesn’t sacrifice on hoppy flavor as it contains three varietals full of tropical flavor.


The whiskey: Garrison Brothers, the first legal Texas whiskey distillery, is releasing Honeydew nationwide in August, made by soaking cuts of lightly-used bourbon barrels in 100% Texan wildflower honey, then infusing those into their bourbon for seven months, all resulting in a divine, slightly sweet finish.




All the Right Tools

To ensure convenience and comfort during your picnic, consider the following products from the multitude of options out there.


Baskets: We would never tell you not to bring a traditional woven basket or cute cooler to go a-picnic-ing with, but you can save a lot of fuss by choosing a backpack that comes built-in with all the gear you’ll require. We’re fond of this handsome one with an attached water-and-sandproof blanket (spills happen), as well as two wine glasses, cutlery, corkscrew, plates, napkins, salt-and-pepper shakers, and a wood cheese board, and cheese knife. But in terms of style, it’s hard to beat this bright-orange basket from Terrazo. We’re partial to pinstripes.


The Blanket: We’ve always wanted a Pendleton, but find the shirts a little scratchy. But the Pacific Northwest U.S. heritage brand is even more famous for its blankets, which makes this roll-up virgin wool, nylon-backed blanket a no-brainer that’s sure to turn (masked) heads during your outdoor feasts.


Anker SoundCore Speaker: It’s hard to believe that a $28 speaker is all you need but as over 10,000 five-star reviews can attest, it’s true. One charge nets 24 hours of stereo sound and profound bass on this sucker, with easy Bluetooth connectivity up to 66 feet. Your picnic soundtrack: Up to you. If Slayer is your thing, that’s between you and your neighbors.



Vineyard Photo Credit Tim Mossholder

Where to Go

Ah, yes. The big decision. Where to find the best views? The softest grass? The least ravenous ants? Next we’ve got some ideas for where to picnic in the pandemic age.


Hollywood Bowl: One of our favorite parts of going to the Hollywood Bowl is packing our own picnic and eating it at the adjacent park before the show starts. Even though the concert season has been cancelled, at least you don’t have to sacrifice that aspect. Not only is the green, grassy park spaces still open for potential picnickers to enjoy, but chef Suzanne Goin is offering contactless pick-up of picnic boxes in the Bowl’s A parking lot with options such as fried chicken-and-ribs, Alaskan halibut, steak, and salmon that come with sides. You can even take them to picnic at home. But that’s missing the point.


Drive-In Movies: We always wanted, but never thought we’d see, the return of the drive-in movie. But lo and behold, one silver lining of a devastating pandemic is the reemergence of this former staple. In Riverside, you’ll find Van Buren Drive-In, and in Pomona Valley, its sister the Mission Tiki, which offer double features of current and classic films. Paramount has its own drive-in, as well, as do Riverside and Torrance at Roadium. Mask-mandated viewers are mostly confined to their cars, of course, but it’s all worth it to watch The Goonies on a big screen again.


Wineries: While most eateries are in a state of constant flux as go state shutdown rules, you may consider taking your picnic to a winery, where you can eat outside with a bottle of something new or favored. Temecula may be your closest bet in the Southland, where enchanting outdoor spaces include the 40-acre grounds of Danza del Sol, which also offers seated tastings outdoors. Up in Santa Barbara Wine Country, we’re fans of the beautiful grounds at Presqu’ile, Pence Vineyards, and Bridlewood Estate. Just make sure to clarify each winery’s current hours, reservations, and outside food policies as everything is in kind of a crazy state of flux at the moment. Am I right? Anyway, if they won’t have you, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty of gorgeous wineries in SoCal that likely will.


29 Oaks: A “Covid Boredom-busting” adventure in the form of a two hour horseback ride through Cheseboro Canyon Park awaits, complete with a bottle of wine, snacks, and even an overnight stay if desired.


You’re sailing: If you’ve got a friend with a boat, great. If you’ve got your own boat, better. Otherwise, consider Old Plank Adventures, which will take you onto the open seas for a dining experience off of the coast of Catalina or in the harbor of Marina del Rey on a chartered sailboat.


Fruit Picking: Here’s an idea. Wait, we forgot. No, no, we remember now. Instead of packing a soon-to-be-slimy Tupperware box with fruit for your picnic, how about going to the fruit itself? Irvine’s 80-year-old Tanaka Farms will let you roam after your own strawberries, watermelons, and other in-season produce, even in these socially distanced times, giving you a sweet finish to whatever else you decide to take with you for a nearby picnic.


Parks: Many of our favorite traditional city and state park picnic spots like the Griffith Observatory, the polo fields at Will Rogers, Exposition Park’s rose garden, and Barnsdall Art Park are sadly closed amid the Covid-19 crisis, but outdoor spaces still surround us worth seeking out. Hopefully you have one already that you’re in love with or delight in sussing new ones out.


If not, the lakeside lawns of Echo Park Lake are still accessible, as are the soaring climes of the Baldwin Hills Overlook. The beaches of West LA, El Segundo, Malibu and the South Bay are currently open with social distancing measures and technically, masks required when not swimming, although we don’t see much enforcement. Other favorite local destinations like Descanso Gardens and the Huntington Library are open by appointment only.


But our favorite spots include the kind of quiet, lesser known nooks and crannies that are perfect for taking in views and solitude, like the Point at the Bluffs in Pacific Palisades, Hollydale Park alongside the L.A. River in South Gate, and the lookout over the Stone Canyon Reservoir on Mulholland Drive, just a few among the many “secret spots” we covet for small picnics and hopefully you will too, even if you keep your picnic in the confines of your car.


Wherever you go, remember friends, it’s not usually what you eat but who you’re with that determines a great time.

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