The Waterside Bistro‘s chef patron Matt Buzzo knows how to do alfresco feasting – he caters for hordes of hungry and discerning visitors at his waterside terrace in Totnes every day.
We got him to share his insider’s knowledge ….
1. Pick your location
Maybe it’s a beach with glorious views and just the right soft sand and easy access for a great picnic. Or a favourite pub or restaurant that really knows how to cater an alfresco lunch. It could be in your own garden – just take a little time to set the scene with a brightly laid table, festoon lights and perhaps a fire pit to prolong your time outside.
2. Gather round
Get your favourite people together, those you know will enjoy the slight chaos and unpredictability of outdoor feasting. But at the same time cater for their individual needs. If you know someone isn’t going to enjoy sitting on a rug with a plate balanced on their knees then take along a folding table and chairs. If you’re hosting kids, bring games as leaving the table is even more irresistible in the great outdoors.
3. Fast food
The food’s the tricky bit as you won’t be serving from stove to table so everything has to be easy to transport. For me, sharing platters work best; forego the formality and let everyone dive in. Also, asking guests to bring a dish to share is a well-established tradition for open-air gatherings so don’t be afraid to make requests.
Something I like to do – both at the Bistro and when I’m hosting an outdoor party – is include plenty of local ingredients in the menu as this gives a connection to the setting. If you’re barbecuing at the beach, seek out freshly landed fish, or add a little local flavour to a countryside picnic with seasonal fruit and veg, a regional cheese or another delicacy.
4. Drinks please
Don’t skip the thought you would usually put in to pairing your food and drink, but you do need to consider what’ll work well away from a fridge and how to keep it cool if necessary. Plan ahead by freezing bottles of water. These will help keep food and drinks cold in a coolbox and can be used for chilled drinking water when they begin to thaw. Store ice cubes in a flask to keep them frozen for as long as possible. And don’t forget the bottle opener!
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