Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pack a perfect picnic basket . . .

Pack a Perfect Picnic

Anybody can pack a picnic basket and fill it up with their favorite treats, but don't you want to be just a little more creative?!

If you can plan the perfect outing to Ravinia or Audio Picnic, then you can put something in that basket beyond the usual suspects:

Chicago Outdoor Film Fest kicks off on July 15 with classics ranging from "All About Eve" to "The Blues Brothers." Order a pre-made picnic basket for two from Vong’s Thai Kitchen that includes shredded salad, shrimp summer rolls, chicken pad Thai and chocolate beignets. $22.95.

New summertime series Audio Picnic happens at Millennium Park, featuring electronic music artists, deejays and hip-hop impresarios. Party happens every Monday 6-9pm through August 18, and it's free. Indulge yourself, and your friends, with Lavenilla (a sensuous infusion of French lavender and Madagascar vanilla, bathed in white chocolate) or the Cran-Orange Passion (with dried New England cranberries and California orange oil, covered in dark chocolate and dotted with sea salt) from Terry’s Toffee. Both are $8.99 per one-fourth pound. Or, if you have a larger craving (or a larger crowd), head to Sweet Thang and pick up some delicious homestyle pastries. Fabulous picnic picks include fresh fruit tarts ($17 for 9”), orange chocolate mousse ($12 for 6”) or the flourless chocolate cake ($15 for 6” cake).

Impress your friends who are joining you for live music at Ravinia with the skills you acquired at The Chopping Block. Both locations will offer lessons for delicious gourmet bites like a Gazpacho salad, Nicoise salad sandwich, blueberry crisp, and an asparagus, mushroom and watercress salad with Dijon vinaigrette. These how-to classes will take place in Lincoln Square (4747 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-6700) on July 17 at 7pm and Merchandise Mart (312-644-6360) on July 19 at 10am. $40.

Oak Park Festival Theatre is running Shakespeare's romantic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" through July 19 in the beautiful Austin Gardens. Make your meal super special with recommendations from August A Grocery Store, where the chef prepares dishes with seasonal ingredients that are perfect for people on the pulse. Meals vary $10-$12.—Additional reporting by Suzy McMillen