Fond Memories of Dining Outdoors

I  have some great memories of participating  in picnics over the years, though few have been of the classic bring a basket of food and throw your blanket on the grass variety. Many have been more like informal cookouts, including one with a group of friends on the rocky shores of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when I was in my mid-20s. It was one of those perfect summer evenings, made all the more special by the natural beauty that surrounded us.

Also during my younger years, borrowing an idea from one of my older brothers, a group of friends and I would stage private dinners — outdoors when possible — to celebrate special occasions for other friends. We would simply set up a table and chairs in a local park — and in one instance, in the middle of a local outdoor shopping center — and create our own little alfresco dining experience, each of us playing different roles for the evening, including chauffeur, waiter, maitre d and chef. The dinners were always well received and a good time was had by all.

The concept proved so successful, in fact, that a group of family members and I recently reprised it for my wife’s parents, who we treated to a sunset dinner overlooking Lake Michigan. 

In recent years, we have also had numerous informal family picnics on the beach, most of them impromptu, sometimes taking the easy way out and simply ordering pizza to be delivered, other times cooking on a grill. 

While the food is certainly an important component to any alfresco outing, looking back at picnics past, 

I honestly can’t remember the specifics of any of the meals. The memorable part is invariably the family and friends that were gathered for, or contributed to, the occasion, and to a lesser degree, where the gathering was held.

In our "Picnic Perfection" feature on page 33, writer Lisa Sloan has compiled  a great hands-on guide to some of the best places to hold a picnic in the western suburbs. There are no shortage of beautiful spots to share an alfresco meal, and more importantly, create memories with people who are special to you. 

And if creating your own meal-to-go and "roughing" it in the great outdoors is not your style, you can still enjoy a different type of alfresco dining at one of the many restaurants that now offer outdoor eating areas. A good example is Fourteensixteen in La Grange, profiled on page 56, which offers a distinctive rooftop deck.

Whether you opt to picnic in the park or dine out on a patio, we hope you are able to get out and truly savor the Chicago area’s all too fleeting warmer weather. 

Have a wonderful summer and, as always, thanks for being a reader!