Picnic Date- Help me keep the food warm.
September 24, 2015 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I am going on a first date on Friday evening. She suggested we meet up locally after work and that she would bring her dog for a walk. Since the after work time frame is right in the middle of dinnertime, I suggested we make a mini picnic out of it and I'll bring some food that we could have at the park. How do I keep this stuff warm...

My first thought is too bring sandwiches (prosciutto or chicken parmigiana in Italian bread), but that doesn't seem too dinner-ish, so I am thinking about making a pasta dish either to accompany or replace the sandwiches.

Assuming that I can make the food generally right before I leave to go meet her, so it is starting out fairly hot, what is the best way to maintain temperature?

Here are the solution constraints:
1.) Must be disposable. We are going for a walk with the puppy to a coffee shop after eating, so I can't schlep around coolers and thermos, etc.

2.) Must be effective for approximately 45-60 minutes. It will take me about 25 minutes just to walk uptown to our meeting place.

3.) Must be something I can buy locally; a space age material or bag that has to be ordered from the internet isn't going to get here in time.

4.) Outside temperature is forecast to be in the low 70's degF.
posted by incolorinred to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
I think bread, meat, cheese and fruit is fine. It's a picnic, not a 5 course dinner. Eating warm food with a fork and knife on a plate in a park with a puppy = disaster. You want to lessen the stress of preparation and eating, so you can both relax and have fun.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2015 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Put whatever you make on a paper/ disposable plate. Wrap the plate in aluminum foil. Around that wrap a few layers of newspaper. Put the whole thing in a plastic or paper bag. You can thank my mom for this tip.

Most pasta dishes will be perfectly fine if not piping hot, or even fine if cold. They also won't get soggy if they're wrapped up tightly. If there are veggies or anything that should be crisp you might want to under cook them slightly as they may cook a little bit more after they're wrapped and insulated.
posted by bondcliff at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2015

A few layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil will keep hot sandwiches hot for quite a while. I'd do 2-3 layers of heavy-duty foil, then into a thick paper bag. Stuff some extra paper bags or paper in around it for extra insulation. As for pasta, I don't know it it'd stay that hot in any disposable container, though pasta at any temp is still pretty good. You might do OK with a Chinese-takeout-style box if you really pack it in tightly. Maybe you could go with a cold pasta salad instead?
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2015

You can get hot/cold insulated bags at most supermarkets. They're not disposable, but they're pretty easy to carry.
posted by xingcat at 8:34 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to have picnics with friends all the time in high school and one of my friends would always bring curry in a thermos. Her curries were great, but I personally find eating lukewarm dinner foods at a picnic really unappealing, so I could never bring myself to eat anything she brought. If I suggested a picnic and someone only brought pasta, I would not be eating anything at the picnic. My vote would be for bringing finger foods. I'd be fine with sandwiches, but if you want something fancier: a cheese platter with multiple cheese, antipasti, prosciutto, dried fruits, dips, crackers. And wine if that's allowed where you will be picnicking!
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:37 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I nth avoiding hot foods. It'll be a huge pain and in any case the weather in the location listed on your profile won't make hot food a pleasant luxury. If it were me, I'd get a nice crusty baguette and make two oily sandwiches (pâté, muffaletta, grinder, pan bagnat, whatever) tonight and let them sit foil-wrapped in the fridge, and then bring those and some really nice hand-edible fruit. Wine if you can, maybe sparkling water if you can't. Don't forget the napkins!
posted by hollyholly at 8:44 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Quiche works well for picnics, it's nice warm as opposed to hot. So own the picnic aspect. Nice bread, cheese, prosciutto or salami, some mixed antipasti, if you must have something warm quiche, some nice fruit!
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

A first date on a picnic? You want to go with cold foods. As in foods meant to be served cold (and they should still be cold, not warm potato salad or anything), not something that has cooled from being hot.

People have different attitudes toward food safety, you don't want to have her wondering "Should I eat this?"

first date... bring her dog for a walk...I suggested we make a mini picnic out of it and I'll bring some food

Don't get to fancy with the foods you are bringing. Elaborate picnics are for later dates. Perhaps your date is an exception but many women would find it uncomfortable to be presented with a very elaborate presentation when they suggested a very casual and low key first date of dogwalking and coffee shop.
posted by yohko at 9:14 AM on September 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think bread, meat, cheese and fruit is fine.

And some really good chocolates or cookies or cupcakes for dessert. Not chocolate-covered strawberries; that's an old "romance is in the AIR!!!" trope.
posted by kinetic at 10:02 AM on September 24, 2015

Nth-ing cold foods. If you're worried about her having expectations of hot foots (I doubt it), just give her a heads up about what you're bringing. Ask for dietary restrictions/preferences or something, if you haven't already. I have similar feelings as kinddieserzeit about lukewarm foods.
posted by bread-eater at 10:28 AM on September 24, 2015

Mod note: Folks, the "don't do hot food" suggestion is pretty well covered at this point, let's steer back around to the question of how to keep hot food hot?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2015

You can do the opposite of blocks of ice. When you're ready to leave, pour boiling water into a couple of 20-oz drink bottles, cap them, and lay them in the bottom of your bag. (note: hot water + cheap plastic = non-potable, so don't make tea!)

Disposable but sturdy bag.
Line with insulator: several thicknesses of newspaper (disposable) OR the towel or cloth that you'll be sitting on (if not everything needs to be disposable).
Lay the hot water bottles on the insulator in the bottom of the bag.
Put the containers of hot food on top. (ideally you're talking about something dense and liquid/saucey, any objects surrounded by air (eg whole brussels sprouts) will get cold fast!)
Wrap the insulator over the top of the food containers.
posted by aimedwander at 11:29 AM on September 24, 2015

Response by poster: Update: Thanks for everyone's great responses! I went on the date tonight; In the end I went with a blend of the advice: A sandwich that would taste good warm as opposed to piping hot. I fried up chicken cutlet, melted shavings of parmigiano reggiano on top, put them in fresh Italian bread with lettuce and tomato- then for one sandwich, I made a Cajun seasoned mayo, and the other got a layer of prosciutto under the chicken. Wrapped everything in multiple saran wrap layers on a plate and then went with a paper bag inside of an outer plastic bag. It kept everything at a pretty pleasant temperature by the time we sat down to eat. Rounded out the meal with sparkling water, apple slices, and a block of parmigiano. The sandwiches were well received and it seemed like she appreciated all of the effort. I think a second date will be in the works.
posted by incolorinred at 7:24 PM on September 25, 2015

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