The View From Halcyon Farm: Prepping for a Picnic

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The Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs is next Saturday, September 27. It’s a Maryland tradition to tailgate at the races, so we thought we’d show you how Halcyon preps for a picnic.

First, think about the menu, taking care to be food safe and making sure that nothing’s too fussy and pretentious. Food that guests can eat with their fingers works best. And keep in mind that people will be grazing all day, so have plenty of food. This is an occasion for good, simple, fun food and plenty of it.


Let’s start with appetizers. We like to bring a selection of cheeses, crackers and grapes, or some pimento cheese. Yes, pimento cheese. It’s a classic. (There’s a reason it’s affectionately called “the caviar of the South.”) Garden & Gun’s recipe is very good and you can make it as spicy or mild as you like by adjusting the Tabasco. Plain crackers are best for this. Your friends will love you if you make deviled eggs. Everyone loves them, they’re easy to make, and they’re always a huge hit.

We love fried chicken.  Our go-to spot for the best fried chicken in town? Royal Farms. Order ahead of time, so it’s sure to be ready when you pick it up. Plan on two pieces per person – it’s a long day. Don’t bother with the fries or anything else. Our secret for really crispy chicken? Put it in the oven, interleaved with paper towels, at 175° for about a half an hour. You won’t believe the difference.

You’ll need some vegetables to balance things, so either a selection of crudité or maybe some blanched asparagus wrapped with prosciutto. For the dips, slice off the top of red, yellow and green peppers, clean them out and put the dips in them. Buy the dips or make them – whichever is easiest for you. Don’t bother with a salad unless it’s a potato salad, but you need to be careful about that – the mayonnaise can turn if left in the sun too long.

Now you will need something sweet. Strawberries are always fun, and you can always find them at the store. Cookies are good, and hometown Otterbein chocolate chip cookies almost look homemade. Whip up a box of brownies (we like Ghiradhelli) with a bit of crème de menthe splashed into the batter. They are excellent for a picnic. And since it’s early fall, a bowl of beautiful crisp apples will look wonderful.

Of course, you will need drinks! Mix up a batch of Southsides, using either Mr. Lee’s or Lindsay’s mix (available at Graul’s), and have plenty of ice on hand. Champagne or a sparkling rosè is good, too. Be sure to bring plenty of ice and some bottled water and sodas, especially if it’s warm and sunny. It’s always fun to have silver julep cups on hand, but if they’re heirlooms, be sure to keep an eye on them. Set up the bar in the back of the car, so the hatch shades it.


Naturally, you’ll want the table looking its best, so make sure you have beautiful linens. Halcyon House Antiques just got the most fabulous napkins and tablecloths in fox-hunting and jockey silks prints. They will be perfect.



We use our melamine plates, which come in a range of patterns and colors. They are identical to the beautiful Provençal pottery, but are lightweight and won’t break. We pair these plates with our resin- or bamboo-handled cutlery for a great look.

That leaves the best for last – flowers! You will want these to be show-stoppers. Since we haven’t had a frost yet, dahlias are still blooming like crazy! If you don’t have a garden, or a friend with a garden, go to the farmers’ market and get some freshly cut flowers. If you have an extra champagne bucket or a vintage silver trophy around, polish it up and use it for the arrangement.


Here’s a tip: bring along a gallon jug of water and wrap the flowers in some damp newspaper for the trip over. Once you arrive, fill the bucket with water and arrange the flowers. If you’re clever, you’ll remember to add a pair of secateurs to trim the stems. When you leave just dump the water and re-wrap the flowers and use them again when you get home.

If you decide to use chrysanthemums, please take the paper off the pot and wrap some gingham or burlap around it, and tie it with some raffia or grosgrain ribbon.

And while candelabras look great, they’re really too much in the middle of the afternoon. Besides, you’d never want to have unlit candles on a table.

Be sure to stop by the Halcyon House Antiques pop-up shop at Shawan Downs, and check our blog for some of the great pieces we will have on hand. Think equestrian!


Read The View from Halcyon Farm Saturdays in Baltimore Fishbowl Weekend.  The View from Halcyon Farm is a sponsored post from Halcyon House Antiques, a fine home boutique in Lutherville. To learn more about Halcyon House Antiques, read our story here, or visit the Halcyon House website. 

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