A Glyndebourne picnic isn’t like any old picnic. It’s a picnic of an elevated variety; the king (or, indeed, queen) of picnics, if you will. In fact, the word ‘picnic’ doesn’t quite do justice to the Glyndebourne al fresco dining experience — because it is an experience, in every sense of the word.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If you’re a Glyndebourne aficionado, you’ll be more than familiar with the sacrosanct place the picnic holds in this black tie evening; but if you’ve yet to frequent this historical luxury summer event, allow us to fill you in. Glyndebourne is a celebration of the very finest opera: this season (running until 29 August) includes new performances of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová, Rossini’s Il turco in Italia and Verdi’s Luisa Miller, together with a revival of Mozart’s Così fan tutte and a semi-staged performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. And each performance includes a 90-minute interval: at which point, the guests dash out to the neighbouring gardens and fields to procure themselves the perfect shady picnicking spot.
Trust us when we say: you’ll want to get this picnic right. It’s an inherent part of an evening that should be a staple in any gentleman’s summer calendar — and if the picnic goes wrong, the whole evening will be teetering on a precarious precipice. Limp sandwiches, dried-out couscous and rapidly melting ice cream simply won’t cut it, gents. Instead, you should be aiming to prepare a masterpiece: a masterpiece you can reveal with a tartan-blanketed flourish on a balmy, operatic evening. Time to dust off those wicker picnic baskets…
Champagne is compulsory
Let’s start with the obvious. If you don’t have champagne, you don’t have a Glyndebourne picnic. Glyndebourne is a celebratory evening: and never more so than this year. Be sure to include multiple bottles of the stuff in your picnic hamper — with the requisite cooling mechanisms, of course (no one likes tepid champagne) — and raise a glass to the gradual re-opening of life as we used to know it.
When it comes to which champagne to choose, that’s down to you, of course. But if you’re looking to really push the boat out with the best of the best (a course of action we’d always recommend), Louis Roederer can deliver the goods this summer at their pop-up boutique. Be sure to swing by The Savoy while you’re en route to Sussex, and purchase a bottle or two of the Cristal 2013, or the Cristal Vinoetheque 1999. You won’t regret it — and neither will your Glyndebourne party.
A Prawn Cocktail is the perfect starter
Yes, we know. It’s a little retro; somewhat indicative of the seventies — but, as we established when extolling the virtues of the plain white t-shirt, the retro decade is currently basking in a triumphant style renaissance; so if you open your meal with a prawn cocktail starter, you’ll be right on trend.
Plus, it’s delicious. And easy to eat. And fun to make. It’s a winner, really. Invest in an aesthetically pleasing set of glasses to serve (never underestimate the importance of picnic aesthetics), and you’ll be good to go.
You can’t go wrong with smoked salmon
Smoked salmon is another starter that’s bound to be an unfailing crowd pleaser. How you serve it is your call, really — you could opt for smoked salmon blinis (in which case, be generous with the cream cheese, chives and black pepper), or you could do things a little more simply with a squeeze of lemon and a healthy smattering of pepper.
Once you enter into the bountiful world of smoked salmon, the serving options are many and varied. Whichever you choose, be sure to commit to it (and make sure you can keep your salmon cool; that goes for the prawn cocktail as well) — and if we’ve given you an appetite for salmon in any form, we’ve got just the recipe for you…
Roast beef is an unfailing showstopper
We’re not suggesting you roast the beef at the opera, of course. That would be peculiar behaviour, to say the least (not to mention impossible). But if you want your picnic to be a masterpiece, cold roast beef can halt the proceedings in their tracks in the very best way, as you reveal your picnic centrepiece to gasps, ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ (and maybe a round of applause, if the champagne is already underway).
You’ll want to ensure it’s a fillet (it’s best to pay a visit to the butcher’s for this one), and be sure it’s cooked to a medium rare finish (or rare, if you and your party are so inclined). Don’t forget the horseradish sauce; and if you’re more of a lamb man, we can help you out when it comes to how to butterfly a leg of lamb…
Invest some time in your new potatoes
New potatoes are rarely given the love, time and attention they deserve. They’re generally seen as secondary to the main event (in this case, roast beef); but it’s time for that to change. There’s no room for half-heartedly prepared dishes at a Glyndebourne table: every dish brings something new and delicious to the table (or rug, in this instance). And new potatoes are no different.
While the roast beef can be cold, the new potatoes should be served warm to allow them to reach their full potential. You’ll want to transport them in a thermos for this very reason. Let your inhibitions go where the chives are concerned (you’ll already have your chives for the smoked salmon, so this is a great way to make them worth their while), and don’t hold back on the butter.
Asparagus should be the vegetable of choice
Would it be a summertime picnic if it didn’t include asparagus? The answer: no, it wouldn’t. Asparagus is a seasonal vegetable of the first order, and no summer meal worth its salt would neglect it.
Asparagus can be prepared in any number of delicious and delectable ways. But if you’re hungering after a more innovative, creative recipe than your decades-old cookbooks can offer, we can certainly help you out there: Bettina Campolucci Bordi’s Bang Bang Asparagus should be just the thing.
Make sure you do full justice to the strawberries
Glyndebourne is the perfect opportunity to source the very ripest, freshest strawberries you can find, and let them do their thing. By all means, present with cream or ice cream if that’s your strawberry serving of choice; just make sure you have a way to keep the cream cool. Or, if you’re looking to push the boat out, there are all sorts of dessert options at your fingertips; try your hand at a strawberry meringue, an Eton Mess; or even a trifle. The opera is your strawberry-infused oyster.
Finally: don’t forget to invest in the proper gear
Paper napkins? Prone to fly away in a light breeze. Plastic plates? Bad for the planet. Plastic glasses? Ditto. Plastic knives and forks? Presumably, you can see where we’re going with this.
In case we haven’t already established the fact, a Glyndebourne picnic is no ordinary picnic: so it’s imperative to invest in all the right picnicking gear. Linen napkins, for one. Real glasses, for another; and china plates with real knives and forks, for a third. And those are just the basics: why not indulge your creative streak (or discover a hitherto hidden one) and go all out? Candlesticks have been known to make an appearance in recent years; and an attractive, aesthetically pleasing rug goes a long way. And don’t skimp on the actual basket, either — a handsome basket will be the perfect finishing touch to an evening of luxury, indulgence and celebration.
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