The Edge Outer Banks 2004.2005
The Edge Outer Banks 2002-2003
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A Toast to Tina

Al Fresco Dining, Outer Banks Style
Picnic Fare for Unlikely Places
Text by Ann Runnels
Picnic Photos by Gayle Tiller | Food Photos by Greg Bailey
The word "picnic" can sometimes cause our brain and taste buds to conjure up not-so-pleasant memories of eating soggy egg-salad sandwiches and greasy fried chicken, and slurping warm iced tea while trying in vain to find any comfortable spot on an ugly, scratchy blanket. As a child, my family’s idea of a picnic was for my mother to cook hot dogs on a disposable grill perched upon the highest sand dune available for to catch as much blowing sand as possible. We called them sand-dogs and I swear that I can still taste the grit every time I eat a hot dog.

Picnics should inspire us to be creative, to use whatever feelings possess us at the time. Unexpected locations and times, occasions with a theme, your imagination and the element of surprise should always contribute to the plan. Or better yet, use the "fun factor" – no agenda, spur of the moment, open the refrigerator, pack it up and go!

While living in southern Florida, my boyfriend and I often had the same complaint. We were working so much we never had enough time to get to the beach and appreciate it. One early evening I solved this problem by filling a bus tub with salted water and setting it on my porch. The bottom was sprinkled with sand and seashells, while rose petals, lemon slices and a small beach ball floated across the top. We sat down in beach chairs (complete with towels and flip-flops) and put our feet in the tub. There were sand buckets filled with iced beers and a tray of seafood yummies served in seashells. It wasn’t the real thing, but with a little imagination it sure felt like it for a while.

I lived and worked in New York City and continue to visit usually twice a year. New York is fantastic but the hectic pace and noise can even get to us seasoned veteran visitors. On 51st off 3rd Avenue is a very small park with a lovely waterfall, and this is where I always have a personal picnic. I know most people choose Central Park, but this spot is a little corner of the real world amidst all the chaos of New York. Of course New York is heaven on earth when it comes to finding items to fill a picnic basket but I usually take the simple approach, choosing some of my favorite items to truly enjoy in my special spot. A croissant, a handful of raspberries and blueberries, a piece of goat cheese and a chilled sparkling water usually do the trick and I’m ready to re-enter the world of New York City.

You won’t have to search long for appropriate picnic locations on the Outer Banks, or for some great ingredients to employ in creating portable meals. Although we chose the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument, the beach in Kitty Hawk and a quiet pier on the sound in Sanderling for our picnic photographs, you might also consider the Hatteras Inlet (Ocracoke) Ferry, the very end of an old fishing pier, a spot in Nags Head Woods, or the porch of your house.

This year's recipes use some of our local bounty – shrimp, tuna and fresh produce – and highlight salads that are excellent served on a bed of mixed greens, as sandwiches on a croissant or French bread, or on their own, with crackers or crostini.

(TOP) Lynette Brown Sumner of The Left Bank is ready for a little ’50s-style soundfront dining north of Duck. Mmm…could the checkered picnic blanket in any way reflect her past?
(MIDDLE) Not your ordinary bachelor on the beach, Ocean Boulevard’s Chris Straub braces against a little Kitty Hawk breeze in preparation for an oceanfront picnic.

» Visit the EPICURE for these recipes.

Epicure: Cajun Tuna Salad Epicure: Tenderloin Beefeaters' Salad Epicure: Summer Watermelon Salad Epicure: Pesto Shrimp Salad Epicure: Mustard Chicken Salad

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