Diner en Blanc: what to pack in your picnic basket?

You may not know the location of Diner en Blanc yet, but you’ve got your snazzy white outfit and “tablescape” planned for Friday night’s big outdoor feast, to be held somewhere in West Palm Beach.

But here’s the question: What kind of food does one pack for an event that’s part pop-up dinner, part synchronized picnic?

Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during the 2015 Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

We attended last year’s secret, massive affair and have few tips to share on the topic.

READ: Nine things to know about Diner en Blanc

First, keep in mind this is an outdoor event, which means it’s vulnerable to the elements. Second, keep in mind you may have to lug your supplies for many yards.

With those two things in mind, here are five ideas on what to tuck into those picnic totes:

1. Cold or room temperature and crispy is fine: think crisp veggies, good crackers, breadsticks, even room-temp fried chicken. Hot and crispy, not so much. Your crispy duck might not survive the schlep, neither will your warm, toasty garlic bread.

2. You can’t go wrong with fancy charcuterie.

A charcuterie and cheese board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)
A charcuterie board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s how: Pack great cheeses – oozy ones, sharp ones, aged ones, even beautifully stinky ones. Tuck in some fine Spanish ham, Italian salumi, hot mustard, elegant jams or honey. Add baggies of fresh fruit and nuts. After you set up your table, you can arrange them on a nice platter with those crispy crackers or hearty bread.

3. Whip up some sophisticated chilled soup, like Chef Michelle Bernstein’s White Gazpacho.

Michelle Bernstein's White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)
White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Here’s how to make it: In a high-speed blender, add 1 ½ cup Marcona almonds, ½ teaspoon fresh garlic, ½ tablespoon peeled shallot, 2 cups of peeled and chopped English cucumbers, 2 cups seedless green grapes, 1 tablespoon fresh dish and 1 ½ cups cold veggie broth. Puree until very smooth. With blender running, add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry sherry wine. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup quality extra-virgin olive oil. Blend for at least 4 to 5 minutes, until velvety smooth. Chill until ready to sip. Garnish with sliced grapes, crushed almonds and dill. (Recipe serves 4.)

4. Rice salads (or other grain salads) served room temperature can be luxurious.

Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)
Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s a variation: Make a pot of your favorite rice. Separately, sauté onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until just tender, adding a sprinkling of curry powder or ground turmeric and ginger. Add the rice to the sauté by the spoonful, tossing to coat the rice in the aromatics. Add a handful of frozen peas and stir. Shut off heat and allow mixture to sit until the peas are tender. When cool, add your choice of raw, chopped veggies, like diced zucchini, seeded tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs. You’ll have a mix of textures and flavors in one hearty bowl.  If you prefer a hot meal, pack soups, stews or chili in Thermoses.

5. The takeout option: Order dinner from your favorite West Palm restaurant and pick it up before you get to the meet-up location. Once the location is announced Friday afternoon, you may have a better idea of nearby restaurants. You’ll only have to bring your dinnerware and table setting.

Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

It may sound like a mission – and it can be, depending on how you take on the night. But relax. It’s a party. It’s a picnic. Pack what you love to eat in your fancy duds. If that means Fritos in a martini glass, rock on!

World’s largest food film festival is coming to Swank Farm

Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file)
Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file)

Call it cinema vérité, farm style: a menu of movies and plates to match, all served and seen at Swank Farm.

The Loxahatchee Groves boutique farm will host Devour!, the world’s largest food film festival, on Sunday, May 22.

Farmers Darrin and Jodi Swank will transform their grand, open-sided barn into a rural screening room where one can enjoy film shorts and one 50-minute documentary between bites of pricey, big-city cooking.

For details see our full story at MyPalmBeachPost.com.

Which Palm Beach County food stars are headed to SoBe food fest?

Food Network star Guy Fieri revs up the crowd at the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Fest. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for SBWFF)
Food Network’s Guy Fieri revs up the crowd at the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Fest. (Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for SBWFF)

When this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicks off next week, it will count more than a dozen chefs from Palm Beach County.

Traveling to this year’s SoBe fest from the 561 are:

Chefs Lindsay Autry (The Regional), Clay Conley (Buccan, Grato), Eric Baker (Max’s Harvest), Sean Brasel (Meat Market), Angelo Elia (Casa D’Angelo, D’Angelo Pizza), Joey Giannuzzi (Farmer’s Table), Chuck Gittleman (Kapow! Noodle Bar), Rocco Mangel (Rocco’s Tacos), Daniel Naumko (Sybarite Pig), Sherry Yard (Tanzy), George Patti (MEAT Eatery), Miguel Santiago (Hilton West Palm Beach), and from Stuart, chef Eric Grutka (Ian’s Tropical Grill). Culinary captain for the Palm Beach contingent at the Grand Tasting events during the weekend is chef Michael Saperstein (Rebel House, Charm City Burgers).

Sobe's Grand Tasting Village people. (Photo: J. Gwendolynne Berry/ Palm Beach Post)
Sobe’s Grand Tasting Village-rs. ( J. Gwendolynne Berry/ Palm Beach Post)

The festival, which runs Feb. 24-28, celebrates its 15th year as it expands northward into Broward County. The fest’s Broward events, dubbed “Taste Fort Lauderdale Series,” include five culinary celeb dinners, one brunch, one late-night party and an outdoor tasting event hosted by Food Network Chef Robert Irvine.

“Although we bring chefs in from all over the globe each year, we made a mistake of not looking next door and discovering and promoting such great talent 20 minutes north of us,” says Lee Brian Schrager, festival founder and director.

He says the festival has found “a whole new audience” in Broward.

Schrager is co-author of an upcoming book that reveals many of his guilty-pleasure breakfast dishes. We chat with him and share recipes from the soon to be published book, “America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast” in Food & Dining.

South Beach Wine & Food Fest information and tickets: SoBeFest.com