How to enjoy a perfect, peaceful picnic

Relax this summer at your neighborhood park
Picnic perfect

Photograph by Nathan Bolster

Nothing says Atlanta like an outdoor picnic. Back in the day, concertgoers pulled out silver candelabras at Chastain Park. Now we prefer a more relaxed but no less stylish vibe. For advice on pulling this off, we asked home decor shop owners Steve and Jill McKenzie to show us how they entertain outdoors in their neighborhood park.

Location: Duck Pond Park
Peachtree Heights East’s seven-and-a-half-acre park has been a neighborhood treasure for nearly a century. Located barely a block off Peachtree Street, it’s home to 40 species of birds. A recent $700,000 renovation added stone walls, winding paths, and an observation deck.

A vintage rattan table is lightweight but adds elegance. It’s also a sturdy perch for some fresh flowers. Steve grabbed these ranunculus at Trader Joe’s.

Classy glass
Ball jars offer fun (and secure) storage. Layered salad greens, including purple pickled onions, make a striking presentation. Ready to serve? Just shake and pour. Steve also packed individually jarred rice puddings.

Sitting pretty
Set the stage with a colorful rug, more durable and dramatic than a blanket. This patchwork Kilim is from Verde Home ($1,200). Bring along some kantha quilts (from $75) and lots of pillows for lounging (from $84).

Forget fragile
Melamine plates by Le Cadeaux (from $13) look like real Italian pottery. The McKenzies also used acrylic Arabesque glassware by Baci (from $9.50, pictured on table) to serve cocktails made with small-batch pecan Cathead Vodka.

All products except rug from Steve McKenzie’s.

For your picnic basket

Mason jar salads
1 red onion sliced thin
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water
Black peppercorns
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 cups lettuce of some mix
1 ½ 0z cannellini beans drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbs mayonnaise
½ tsp salt
Ground pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp chili powder

First pickle the onions. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. Add the onions and about five black peppercorns to the boiling mixture. Boil for 3 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. When cooled, remove peppercorns and place in the refrigerator.

Prepare your dressing. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Whisk thoroughly to fully combine ingredients.

Take four mason jars and assemble in layers in this order: Dressing in the bottom, quinoa, lettuce, cannellini beans, pickled onions, tomatoes, and chopped cucumber.

Shake before serving and pour onto plate to eat.

Rice pudding with coconut milk
2 cups water
1 cup short grain rice like arborio
2 cups coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
3 tsp sweetened condensed milk
½ cup of miniature dark chocolate chips

Bring the water to boil in an ovenproof saucepan. Add the rice and cook per the rice instructions—approximately 20 minutes. If you do not want the rice cooked fully, shorten the time by about 5 minutes. In a large bowl mix together the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and cinnamon stick. When the rice is cooked pour in the liquid mixture and cook at 375 degrees in the oven covered for about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Do not worry that the mixture is still a liquid. This will absorb into the rice while cooling. Distribute to small glass jars about the size of a serving with lids. Let cool to room temperature. Garnish with miniature dark chocolate chips and a dusting of ground cinnamon. Close lids and refrigerate over night.

Spicy pecan spritz
1 oz Cathead Pecan Vodka
½ oz spicy simple syrup
6 oz Pellegrino water

Pour ingredients over ice in a highball glass and garnish with spearmint.

Spicy simple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup raw sugar
½ tsp of ground cayenne pepper
1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil turn back heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through coffee filter to remove the cayenne. Serve.

This article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.