The long-overdue return of summer brings along tons of exciting things: the resurgence of patio dining, the excuse to indulge in state fair funnel cake and of course, picnics under the stars. In Chicago, that means a trip up the Metra to the outdoor concert venue we all know as Ravinia.
Ravinia’s BYOB, BYOFood and BYOBlanket policy separates it from other local venues and skyrockets it to quintessential Chicago summer status. While you’ll need to remember a great blanket, disposable dinnerware and a cooler, we’re more interested in what goes inside your Ravinia picnic basket.
We love the ideas that our friend Eric Steigelman from Bonfire Wines shared on WGN, so we decided to add three more recommendations for a picnic you won’t forget:
For your drink fix: Stiegel Radler + Letherbee Gin
A bottle (or two) of wine might be a Ravinia standby, but how about a drink that hits you over the head with summer vibes? The Stiegel Grapefruit Radler has been around for years, but a recent revival in all-things vintage and canned has put this grapefruit beer back on the Windy City map. Pair it with a shot from the equally delicious and sleek Letherbee gin flask for the perfect picnic drink.
For your carb fix: Literally anything from Cellar Door Provisions (toppings: optional)
Open for a few months now, Cellar Door Provisions is one of those rare shops that became a neighborhood favorite and a destination almost immediately. Their freshly baked breads, pastries and small dishes are all outstanding, but we’d recommend picking up a sliced loaf of their Sourdough bread and Honey and Black Pepper Croissants to provide some picnic sustenance.
To spice up their already-delicious sourdough, grab an avocado and do no more or less than the following: 1) Peel and mash, 2) Sprinkle in salt and pepper; 3) Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice; 4) Put in cute, sustainable container with a lid; 5) Throw in picnic basket, and 6) Spread mixture over bread at Ravinia for the best and most simple avocado toast in existence.
And for a sweeter topping, Rare Bird Preserves are always a great bet. Housed in Oak Park and sold across the city at Whole Foods, Mariano’s and the Logan Square Farmer Market, Rare Bird’s natural-fruit spreads range in flavor from Peach Lavender and Lemon Blueberry to the ever-decadent Chocolate Raspberry. Whatever the case, spreading one of these across a Cellar Door Croissant is a recipe for pure deliciousness.
For your “ain’t nobody got time for that” fix: Pastoral’s Picnic Menu
It’s 3 p.m., you’re sitting at the office wondering whether to walk to the bathroom for the fifth time or start on your dreaded expense reports, when suddenly, you remember – you and your friends have Ravinia tickets for the following night. You had big plans to bring some homemade hummus from a recipe you found on some “lifestyle blog” but with no time to spare, your best choice seems to be a catering tray from the Ogilvie Food Court.
This, my friends, is where Pastoral swoops in with the ultimate lifesaver: made-to-order Picnic Baskets. With Pastoral’s online ordering feature, you can order and pick up a custom cheese-and-charcuterie basket in 24 hours. And with baskets like the Carnivores’ Feast (with spiced, cured and aged Coppa) and Taste of the Midwest (Marieke Smoked Cumin Gouda, anyone?), you seriously can’t go wrong.