Summer is officially here, and for those of us who live on or near the coast, this means many beach days ahead. I am really looking forward to soaking up the sunshine with friends and family, "toes-in-sand, drink-in-hand", style. I am the first one to agree that most days all you need is a beach blanket, a hat, a bag of chips, and sunscreen to enjoy your time at the beach. But there are definitely those moments that call for a little extra effort and intention to put together a beautiful spread with your friends and loved ones. The kind of a gathering that makes you linger past the sunset. The kind that makes you forget your smart phones for a couple of hours. This is why, when Hana-Lee of Wander & Wine invited me to a beach picnic with a couple of local female entrepreneurs, I immediately jumped in on the opportunity. I knew it was one of those times! Ours was a brunch affair, complete with fresh seafood dishes, wine, and a pie I am still thinking about daily—a month later!! So, I filled up my car to the brim with napkins, larger linens, one-of-a-kind textiles, and some of my favorite vintage treasures and joined my new pals at a secluded beach on Fernald Lane in Santa Barbara. Here is my recap of the experience, including recipe ideas from Cali Girl Cooking, The Oyster Tin, and Le Petit Chef. A very special thank you to Megan Sorel for capturing the scene.
To anchor our picnic space, I used a very large linen table cloth with alternating white and heather gray panels that I custom made for a friend's baby shower last year. I had no idea I would use it many, many times since the occasion. The large size cloth worked really well to create a base layer big enough to house our makeshift table (two wooden pallets side by side) and kept the sand out of the food. A long and narrow French vintage linen cloth with dark blue stripes was used as a table runner. Linen napkins in Pink Clay and Aqua alternated between the 6 place settings. When it came to plates, glasses, silverware, and serving pieces, we went for the eclectic mix of new and vintage items to create the casual, mis-matched, but purposefully collected look. I contributed gold-tone forks and knives, as well as stemless vintage glasses in blue and clear glass. IKEA and World Market treasures filled in the gaps (as they always do).
For the table decor, I used larger pieces of driftwood and eucalyptus branches, nothing else. They looked like they were picked up from the very beach around us, and thus created the immediate connection to the surroundings. Once the "table" was set, we added layers of pillows and blankets to create a casual seating arrangement. A few small seagrass baskets added an extra layer of natural texture.
FOOD + WINE
The menu was nothing short of a seasonal feast with three types of sea food and a strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. We enjoyed raw and barbecue oysters sourced and prepared by The Oyster Tin, Poached Lobster Salad with Peaches, Shaved Fennel and White Corn by Le Petit Shef, Crab Toasts with Heirloom Tomato and Charred Scallion Aioli (also by Le Petit Chef). The wine pairing by Hana-Lee was spot-on: crisp Chenin Blanc, dry Riesling, and bubbly with dessert. To read through her process of choosing each wine, read more here.
For our final course, Robin (CaliGirl Cooking) served up some truly amazing summer goodness in the shape of a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust. It went really well (and really fast) with the sparkling wine from Riverbench Winery. I call myself a "pie-shy" person. Not shy when it comes to the eating, just intimidated by the making. I know they say "easy as pie" for some reason, but it never comes easy to me. So, I am putting it out there for all the universe to witness me say: I am going to make THIS pie this summer for sure, and you can, too. Thank goodness Robin shared the recipe and her secret ingredient for the perfect flaky crust here.
While this type of a beach picnic is not anything that most of us can throw together every weekend, the experience is definitely worth putting the extra effort. Perhaps for a special celebration? And if anything on the table caught your eye, be sure to check out my shop to see if you can find the items there. Or, here is my edited list of the go-to pieces for an elevated beach picnic experience.
FROM THE SHOP: