Life’s a Picnic

Al Fresco Dining Topanga Style can be as civilized as a restaurant patio, your back yard or a bit more on the wild side in our parks and along trails.

Al Fresco dining simply means eating outdoors. It adds a lively and enjoyable dimension to dining, gets you out of the house into fresh air and open spaces that encourage a good appetite and appreciation for nature.

We’re talking picnics and Topanga has many options to buy picnic-ready delights with vegan and other healthy choices, some of which may accommodate last-minute shoppers who don’t plan ahead and others that require some thought beforehand.

What more appropriate place to dine outdoors than nestled under the oaks at the Theatricum Botanicum, for a twilight picnic before a summer play or concert? During its summer season Theatricum has a “Dinner and a Show” package for July and August, and that is another option but you can always bring your own picnic. The theater is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard; (310) 455-TKTK;

Canyon Gourmet—Create your own basket at Canyon Gourmet with an array of gourmet cheeses, wine and beer. Specialty breads are delivered daily on Thursday and Sunday. Available is a great selection of cold cuts, olives, chocolates, raw, sprouted organic snacks, organic gummy bears, an array of chips and trail mix, cold-pressed juices from Clover and picnic baskets to pack them in. Canyon Gourmet is located in the center of town at the south end of Pine Tree Circle.

Canyon Bistro—located at the north end of Pine Tree Circle next to the Library, has a wonderful Salad Nicoise and other picnic-packing delights to go. SUCH AS? This got short shrift.

The Topanga Table—As you travel north on Topanga Canyon Boulevard from the center of town, The Topanga Table has expanded its farm-to-table dining-in menu to include take-out. This could be your one-stop shop to plan your whole picnic with fresh, baked-on-site artisan breads, local cheeses sourced from Drakes Farm, Biltong Cured Beef or a unique assortment of ready-made grilled specialty sandwiches. Their own “Moroccan Style Smoked Chicken” ranks high in the grilled sandwiches category. The Table also has unique fruit and cheese boards to go and creative seasonal salads, all just a call away. In close proximity to Theatricum, maybe this is the place to order your special farm-to-table picnic before the show. Call or visit ahead of time. Located at 19TK N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard; PHONE #; URL.

Topanga Living Café & Market—is also close to the Theatricum and the Topanga Community Center, which has picnic tables under the big oak tree next to the ball field. TLC, as it has come to be called, has an array of organic and vegan selections of wonderful salads and baked goods, vegan cheeses, sheep’s milk yogurt and smoothie delights, unique chocolates, chai and specialty coffee drinks and Kombucha selections. This could be your “go to” vegan and organic picnic basket option! Located at TKTK N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard; PHONE #; URL.

The Angel in Your KitchenPatrice Winter, local baker extraordinaire, has been baking fresh organic breads for the Topanga Farmers Market but recently moved to her own shop on the grounds at Theatricum Botanicum (Fridays 9-1p.m.).

Her latest creation is a Gluten-Free Sourdough using her own starter processed for eight months with locally grown and collected buckwheat! All her breads are wild-fermented, yeast-free and baked fresh daily. Patrice also has croissants stuffed with sweet and savory fillings, cheese and fruit. Grab a fresh baguette and you are off to the show! Call ahead or text to order: (310) 650-6475. Follow theangelinyourkitchen on Instagram and Facebook for more delicious options.

If you want to dine al fresco Topanga-style you can always find an oak tree along many hiking trails in the canyon and surrounding Santa Monica Mountains. There are picnic tables at Trippet Ranch visitor center in Topanga State Park

Bring a blanket, a lantern and a selection of cold cuts or BBQ meats to mix in salads, a sliced veggie platter with a selection of infused hummus, pasta salads, fruit and/or quinoa salads. Paté and cheese plates are a “must have” in a picnic as well as a mix of olives and exotic dips, chips and crackers.

Al fresco in the wild doesn’t come without hazards: bees, flies, mosquitoes and high fire danger, especially since fire season seems to be year-round now. A travel-size citronella candle near your dining area might work for your patio but candles are not recommended for your wildland dining experience where fire is an ever-present danger.

Instead, go “natural” with fresh-picked insect repellant herbs such as; Lavender, Tansy and Pyrethrum to keep little buggers at bay, and have a wildflower centerpiece at that! Place this simple mosquito repellant outdoors five minutes before you dine. Whip it up in minutes and say bye-bye mosquitos!

Mason Jar Repellant

1 Large Mason jar

1-2 Lemon Wedges

1-2 Lime Wedges

A couple sprigs of Rosemary

Water (fill remainder of jar with water)

Active Ingredient: Lemon Eucalyptus oil (7-10 drops)

Floating Tea Candles (if you are in a fire-safe environment)

Lemon Eucalyptus oil is available for a few dollars at Amazon and floating tea candles are about 50 cents each at Michael’s craft store.

KEEPING YOUR COOL—Dining outside on a hot summer’s evening? Keep that glass of Chardonnay cool by putting four or five frozen grapes into your wine glass to keep your wine chilled but not watered down. Other cool wine pairings are Strawberries in your Prosecco; Raspberries in your Rosé; Blackberries in your Riesling; Blueberries in your Sauvignon Blanc; Pineapple in your Pinot Grigio; Cherries in your White Zin

STICKS, POPS AND SKEWERS—Fruit skewers are a great way to serve fruit and add your favorite yogurt for dipping! Watermelon slices on Popsicle sticks avoid sticky hands and paper plates. Cake pops are a fun dessert option. Make Caprese salad sticks by arranging grape tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella balls dribbled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on a stick and serve.

CHILLIN’—To keep your food cold and fresh, rather than ice, pack frozen water bottles around your picnic items. By evening’s end a refreshing drink of water awaits.

S’MORE FUN TIPS—Place hot charcoal briquettes in a foil-lined terra cotta plant pot for tabletop S’mores.

Enjoy your Topanga al fresco dining experience among the oaks, the owls, birds, frogs, fresh air and beautiful sunsets.


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