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10.16.2003

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life's a picnic how to host an indoor picnic 
by Patricia Virella
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food
Remember those occasional elementary-school picnics you had as a kid? Although the opportunity to get out of the classroom was a blast, the food was always less than memorable. A ham and gooey cheese sandwich accompanied by the warmest juice box ever -- fortunately, we're all grown up now, and as adults, our picnic food options are significantly more enticing.

Picnic fare can range from a basic sandwich to an elaborate pasta salad. When you're dining at the park or beach, it's wise to stay away from mayonnaise, as the results can be rancid sandwiches and a sour stomach. Now that the party has moved indoors, however, you can have any cuisine you prefer. Still, roast leg of lamb is hardly in keeping with the picnic mood: opt for picnic standards, but with a special twist. One of my favorite sandwiches is a hollowed-out round loaf filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, basil and other goodies. Thanks to the challenges of transporting such a concoction, this would normally be an adventurous picnic lunch, but when I'm picnicking at home, the rules change. Other indoor picnic-friendly foods include burritos stuffed with rice, beans and your favorite fixings -- or go Middle Eastern and serve falafels or gyros. If you're trying to keep it healthy, offer a veggie wrap with avocado puree.

In addition to your culinary skills getting a better workout, picnicking indoors permits you to indulge in a nice refreshment to accompany your meal. In many states, after all, it's illegal to have liquor outdoors in non-sanctioned public places; at home you can partake of whatever fine beverage suits your fancy. Spiked lemonade would be especially nice if you coupled it with a clambake or a sandwich.

As for dessert, the sky's the limit. Get a little glamorous by offering chocolate dipped strawberries as a dessert coupled with champagne. For something more down-home, serve classics like brownies or cupcakes. Regardless of what dessert you choose to satisfy your sweet tooth, the key is to prep it ahead of time. Make a heap of bite-sized treats a couple days in advance and you'll be able to avoid any last-minute kitchen stress.

In the end, just remember that inside picnics can be just as fun and sometimes much better than outside picnics. No bugs, flies or ants -- and no worries that a sudden rainstorm might spoil the mood. Have a blast and enjoy your good inside "weather"!

o

Patricia Virella was born in Spanish Harlem, and grew up entirely in NYC. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is the owner of Comida, Catering by Patricia, and a freelance food/entertaining writer. When she's not throwing fabulous dinner parties on a shoestring budget, she enjoys spending time with her 6 and 9 year old nephews, as well as painting.

check out these related articles:
grill sides | soup up your salad | salad days

more articles by Patricia Virella:
fab finales | i don't eat that!
hosting picky eaters | dinner for two, chez vous | entertaining on a budget 

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