Sunday, August 12, 2007

A San Francisco Summer Picnic

Seems like I've been saying a lot of goodbyes this month. Last weekend it was a farewell brunch to fellow food blogger Passionate Eater, and this weekend it was a goodbye picnic for my friends Stella and Mariusz, who are packing up and leaving the high cost of living Bay Area for Virginia.

Some friends and I planned a picnic at the Marina Green in San Francisco to give Stella one more view of the city that she's scorning. ;-) So today, we packed our foods and crossed the bridge to stake a spot at the Marina. It was a typical San Francisco summer morning--foggy--so it was a cool start to our picnic. No problem, food like this will warm anyone up. Here's a look at some of the dishes we feasted on (and they may give you inspiration to pack a picnic sometime in the near future before summer's over):
Here's my version of an antipasti misto. We've got mortadella and house-made salumi from Cafe Rouge on the left, smoked cheddar and gouda from Whole Foods, Prosciutto Salami from The Pasta Shop and these great cruncy red flame seedless grapes from the downtown Berkeley farmers market.
There's no grilling allowed at the Marina, so we had to rely on a lot of cold food. So that meant salads, and we had a bunch of them. Above is my chicken curry salad with celery, grapes and walnuts.
Here's this cute potato salad from our friend Dale. He calls it a Japanese potato salad because he says the Japanese puts anything in their potato salad. I don't know if that's true, but Dale definitely tested that definition with this fun-looking salad that included apples, olives and even bacon!
Here's a salad from our friend David, who put together this bow-tie pasta with basil, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and peas--all dressed in a simple vinaigrette. This was light and tasty and very summery.
Since we met a bit early to start our picnic, I thought we needed some brunch food. So I made my hybrid Spanish tortilla-Italian frittata. I called it my "tortata" and you can find the recipe here. Most Spanish coffee bars serve this at room temperature for breakfast, but it's typically just eggs and potato. I got fancy and added the roasted red bellpepper and basil.
This is my new favorite snack to make. It's spicy Blue Lake green beans. (Why the emphasis on Blue Lake? I'll explain later this week when I post the recipe.) I made this salad by just blanching the beans and then adding grated carrots in a peanut butter-based soy dressing with a spoonful of hot chili sauce.
Wait, there's one more salad! Here's a refreshing green salad from Peggy and Oskar. We definitely got our servings of greens.
I cut some mangoes into slices and wanted to dress them up. So I added some chopped fresh basil. The perfume of the basil added a nice touch to the fresh mango and this dish got a lot of comments. I also lightly sprinkled the mangoes with pink sea salt on top.
Stella, despite being the guest of honor, did bring some goodies as well. Stella likes to bake, that's why I'm always trying to get her to post her baking adventures on my blog since I'm not a big baker. Here she made these yummy ginger scones. I loved them because they weren't dense like typical scones but slightly fluffy. Stella said she got the recipe from the Food Network site.
Even though I don't bake, I decided to bring some desserts. So I made easy brownies. But I wanted to experiment. I loved some chocolate bars I tried recently that used fleur de sel (French sea salt) sprinkled on top. The salt opened your taste buds to really enjoy the sweetness of the chocolate. So I thought I'd do the same. However, I felt the fleur de sel melted too quickly during the baking. Next time I might just sprinkle the sea salt on top after the baking is done.
I had to post this funny photo of Stella's 4-year-old son, Lucas, eating one of my brownies. He actually liked it and went to get this second piece. But this particular piece had a big cluster of fleur de sel and I think Lucas just discovered that this brownie is more salty than sweet. He didn't like it that salty.
One of the ideas behind a picnic in San Francisco was to enjoy the beautiful view at the Marina. The sun gradually came out and the day turned out beautiful. And this was our view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our picnic area.
After munching on everything, we all went for a walk along the Marina. There you see Alcatraz Island off to the left. Stella and Mariusz, how can you leave all this?!?! ;-)

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