Here's how to plan the ultimate summertime picnic in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Local picnic guru Lea Tucker draws inspiration from culinarian James Beard, who once mused, “At its most elegant, [a picnic] calls for the accompaniment of the best linens and crystal and china; at its simplest, it needs only a bottle of wine and items purchased from the local delicatessen as one passed through town.”
Tucker, a 16-year-long Aspenite, picnics around the Roaring Fork Valley at least six times a year and favors a casual yet elevated style of picnic. Her French Provençal yellow and blue melamine plates and real cutlery match her cloth napkins and tablecloth, and her picnic blankets range from vintage tablecloths to fabric from the thrift store. When selecting a picnic location, Tucker considers the view, flat ground, a nearby water source and the distance from the car. Optimal local spots include Benedict Music Tent, Rio Grande Park, Glory Hole Park, Mollie Gibson Park (aka Smuggler Park) or a mountaintop picnic on the summit of Aspen Mountain.
As for the food, Tucker goes for the crowd favorite: a cheese board, mostly collected from the farmers market. “A picnic menu must include something savory, something sweet and something to sip,” says the entrepreneur and principal at LLT.LTD. Public Relations. Her staples? Charcuterie (including mortadella), at least three kinds of cheese (hard and soft), fig jam, a dip or spread, cornichons, crudites, pickled vegetables, olives, fresh baguette bread, Marcona almonds, grapes and seasonal fruit. “Think of a Cézanne still life,” says Tucker. For beverages she opts for traditional picnic wines like gewurztraminer and gruner veltliner. Don’t bother mixing drinks on the ground. Tucker packs portable, prebatched cocktails from Carbondale-based Marble Distilling. “The Marble-Rita tastes like a margarita but lighter because it’s made with clean, triple-filtered Marble vodka,” says Tucker. And don’t forget a nonalcoholic option like a high-quality lemonade or sparkling water.
A picnic can be thrown any day of the week in lieu of lunch or dinner. Or a picnic can make out-of-town guests feel extra welcome or celebrating a birthday or baby shower special. “A picnic gets everyone back to nature and away from the hustle of town. Everything tastes better in the scenic outdoors and when you have to work at it a little,” says Tucker. “And when everyone pitches in by bringing or carrying items in backpacks and baskets, everyone has a stake in the fun.” No matter what, a picnic is always worth the effort.
BEST PICNIC LOCATIONS IN ASPEN
Benedict Music Tent
960 N. Third St.
Rio Grande Park
Rio Grande Place & North Mill Street
Glory Hole Park
520 S. Original St., #698
Mollie Gibson Park (Smuggler Park)
Summit of Aspen Mountain
601 E. Dean St.
Photography by: From top: PHOTO BY: CALVIN SHELWELL/UNSPLASH; PHOTO BY: ELLE LOGAN