It’s officially summer! What better way to celebrate than by spending a Sunday afternoon on Governor’s Island at the 4th annual Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic?Now, when my friends and I undertake an activity, we do it up right and I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I used this as an opportunity to go to town with a ridiculously over the top picnic spread. This has to be one of my favorite Manhattan events for a few reasons. The champagne flows like water, the ferry and the match are totally FREE (an unheard of word in NYC), and it’s the perfect excuse to don a pretty dress and a giant hat and spend your entire Sunday outside with a drink in your hand.
The day began at 7 a.m. with some mimosas and last minute food preparations. By 10 a.m., we were on our way to the island to secure our spot at the front of the line to get into the polo grounds. Now, we take our polo very seriously, after learning the ropes last year, we came armed with a rolling cooler, ice cold drinks, and enough food to feed an army (a very fancy army, but an army none the less.) I even out ran (yes ran, like I said, I take this very seriously) the crowd of people to get one of the coveted tables and a front row seat for the match. (Hence the up close and personal picture above).
Now, I might not be the only person who brings a three course meal complete with serving platters and a homemade two tier cracker display on a picnic, but I’m the only person I know who does that…and I must admit, my tablescape turned some heads from onlookers. It warmed the tentacles of my party planning heart and I was brimming with pride. (Hey, at least I can admit it right?) But what I enjoyed even more than getting my ego stroked was feeding all my hungry friends and knocking back glasses of Veueve all afternoon. We started with an over flowing cheese and fruit platter and the most insanely delicious 7 layer dip I’ve ever had. Now traditionally, 7 layer dip is a Mexican dish, layered with beef, beans, tomatoes, sour cream, jalapenos, cheese, and guacamole. But my friend Christine found this amazing recipe for a Mediterraean style dip, which swaps out the Mexican ingredients for hummus, olives, roasted red peppers, artichokes, green onions, greek yogurt, and feta. Honestly, it puts its Mexican counter part to shame, and is much, much healthier. Christine came up from Philly the day before polo and we spent the whole afternoon menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking up a storm. You see Christine and I both LOVE LOVE LOVE to cook and entertain, but we have very different styles of cooking. She is a recipe girl through and through, where as I either like to invent a dish from scratch or use the recipe as a jumping off point and create my own concoction. But for this meal, we went with Christine’s philosophy and chose the recipe route for almost all of our dishes. Despite our differing culinary styles, we make an exceptional team. Her knife skills are killer and she can bang out a recipe faster than Rachel Ray. But the best part about cooking with her is that I have a buddy in the kitchen to chat with, laugh with, and of course drink wine with. (By the way, I’m hoping all this flattery guilts her into moving to New York.)
So onto the picnic’s main course. Like I said, we went pretty recipe heavy…my mom’s BBQ chicken, my favorite mesclun salad with cranberries, walnuts, and blue cheese, Jen’s corn salsa, Katie’s macaroni salad, and for dessert, Ina Garten’s brownies. The food was so good, I almost forgot we had a polo game to watch! Maybe the best part about this whole activity (aside from the magnums of champagne being consumed like bottles of water) is that polo is a really fun and exciting game to watch. It moves fast and is basically just like field hockey, you hit a ball with a wooden stick until it goes in a goal, except you’re on a horse. Which makes it even cooler! It was the absolute perfect weekend. Cooking with Christine, drinking champagne, watching polo and feeding all our well dressed friends!
7 Layer Dip
Christine pulled this recipe up on her fancy iPad from a Whole Food recipes app and now I can’t find it online. So basically layer hummus, then chopped roasted red peppers, then artichokes, greek yogurt with some lemon juice, sliced green onions, then olvies, and finally top with feta.
My Mom’s BBQ Chicken
Okay so basically, this is just drumsticks and thighs, marinated in your favorite BBQ sauce and grilled. The reason it’s my mom’s is because I always remember her making this for picnics. She’d make it early in the day, wrap it in aluminum foil and then we’d eat it room temperature at our picnic. And it’s perfection, it’s hearty, it’s delicious, it’s my mommy’s chicken.
My Favorite Salad
Take a mesclun salad mix, add dried cranberries, walnuts, and blue cheese. Mix equal parts white balsamic and olive oil, emulsify and drizzle over the top. (Yes I brought homemade dressing to a picnic…deal with it)
Katie’s Macaroni Salad
It’s so simple, but that’s what makes it so perfect
1 lb. elbow macaroni
4 celery stalks diced
1/2 red onion finely diced
Mayo – to taste
Salt and Pepper
Mix and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting
Jen’s Corn Salsa
I had this for the first time at my friend Jen’s graduation party and I ate an embarrassing amount that day. Ever since then I have been making this for every picnic, BBQ, or just because I’m craving it.
2 cans of corn
1 can of kidney beans – rinsed
1 orange, 1 red, 1 green pepper – diced
1/2 red onion – diced
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Tiger Sauce (if you can find it, but the dish is awesome without it too)
Combine the corn, beans, peppers, onions. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, and Tiger Sauce. Toss with the salad.
You haven’t lived until you tried these. Matt’s dad worships them, my diabetic friend will prepare for days to eat them, my mom who “hates sweets” could polish off a tray. They’re insanely rich, they’re ridiculously decadent, I mean come on – the recipe calls for a pound of butter! And I don’t want to talk about the fact that I came home from the gym last night and ate one.