Summer is, by far, the best season of the year. It’s just easier to be alive when it’s warm outside—trees and flowers are in bloom, work closes early on Fridays, and you can roll out of bed and throw on a dress without having to fight against chilly winds to keep existing. So when I got my hands on a copy of The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket, I knew it was exactly what I needed to kick this summer into high gear. Eating is already amazing; wouldn’t it be even better if you took it outside?
Picnicking in New York City can be complicated though. The lack of green spaces presents a challenge to anyone hoping to dine al dente. And no, Central Park doesn’t count—despite how the movies always seem to show endless, romantic stretches of open space, every inch of grass is crowded with tourists and families attempting to stake their claims like the Land Run just came back in style. So I set my sights a little closer to home—on top of my home, in fact. My third-floor Queens walkup has access to an excellent roof, where a nearby tree’s branches cast shade and relatively little street noise makes it (well, as little as can be expected when our major roadway is called the Boulevard of Death). So I tested my idea by inviting over a few friends to test out my theory.
Result: total success. Throwing a rooftop picnic removes most of the stress and unpredictability of an outdoor event while still maintaining that connection to nature and the sun that the season demands. Here’s Silver Spork News’ tips on how to make the most of an outdoor soiree in your own backyard.
Find Your Picnic Blanket: Even if you’re not sitting on the grass, the outside world is a dirty place. Kick off the season in earnest by picking a particularly detested blanket or sheet and make it your special picnic accoutrement from this moment forward. For me, this is a set of particularly detested orange IKEA sheets that made me feel like I was being strangled by my own bed (for the four hours I ended up using them, anyway). Covering them with roof grime and spilled lemonade felt like a fitting punishment.
Take on the Tough to Transport: In a city where everyone travels by train, the trickiest thing to transport is liquids (a gallon of lemonade is heavier than you think when you’re carrying it on your shoulder). Relieve guests who are making long journeys from the BYOB burden by offering a couple of tasty beverage options (we recommend one alcoholic, one non-alcoholic).
Cut the Waste: While it’s tempting to simplify the cleanup process by using disposable plates, cups, and cutlery, you’ve got no excuse for hurting the planet when you’re this close to your sink or dishwasher. Earth will thank you (until it fries us all to a crisp when the ozone layer dissolves).
Test the Climb: The only problem of throwing a rooftop party is the logistical puzzle of getting all the food and people onto said roof. Put some time into figuring out the best way to take your goods to their final destination before you have to negotiate a steaming-hot seven-layer bean dip up a steep ladder (answer: put it in a cardboard box first). For liquids, the best strategy is to transport separate ingredients up to the roof and mix drinks on-site in a bowl or glasses, or to put individual servings into mason jars with lids (The Picnic has a particularly great section about 99 different uses for mason jars).Encourage your guests to bring their dishes in tupperware or other secure containers that can be hauled to the roof in a backpack or tote bag. It won’t be the easiest meal you’ve ever plated, but you’ll sure feel like you deserve it.
Embrace the Conveniences: Picnic purists may tell you that you’re not really having a true picnicking experience if you aren’t venturing into the wild, wielding nothing but a basket and your wits. I reject this notion; a picnic is about the fusion of friends and food and fresh air, an appreciation of the fact that the earth has given us mercy for one more year before descending into an inevitable endless Game of Thrones-style winter. So enjoy the fact that the bathroom is clean and never filled with threatening strangers, the fridge is full of ice, and if storm clouds threaten to rain out the party, the safety of indoors isn’t far away.
If you’re looking for your own picnic inspiration, we recommend The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket. It’s full of kickass recipes, tips, and illustrations that will inspire even the frumpiest curmudgeon into breaking out the wicker basket.
Post and Photos by Bailey James.