Cheeses Make the Perfect Picnic Centerpiece


Fresh flavors are a great place to start when selecting picnic picks.

Nothing says summertime like a cheerful, delicious picnic spread unfurled on a blanket in a park, on a beach, or in a garden. Ideally, the sun is shining, you’re surrounded by your favorite people, and you can relax and snack your heart out.

What cheeses are best for a picnic? At the end of the day, there aren’t any rules, except that anything you love to eat, and drink, will taste even better al fresco.

“Picnics allow for a laid-back social setting for family and friends,” says Roseanne Crave, marketing and sales manager, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo, WI. “Cheese only enhances the experience.”

Patrick Considine, national sales director at LaClare Creamery, Malone, WI, tunes into the feeling of spring and summer when he selects picnic cheeses.

“We like to celebrate the season by embracing the fresh flavors it brings,” Considine explains. “For a spring picnic, we recommend snackable cheeses that evoke the awakening of nature. The earthy undertones of our flavorful Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese are a prime example of a ‘fresh from the garden’ taste experience, but there are all kinds of spring and summer flavors that showcase the freshness of the season in our lineup.”

Think Light and Fresh

Speaking of freshness — fresh flavors are a great place to start when selecting picnic picks. Look for bright, tangy cheeses that echo the season. You’ll want to include an ice pack in your picnic basket, as these cheeses are super perishable, especially on steamy days.

Crave suggests a classic: fresh mozzarella. “Crave Brothers offers various sizes that can be utilized as a snacking cheese, as an ingredient in pasta salads, caprese salads, and on burgers,” she says. “Since this cheese is light and refreshing it is a great partner for a picnic or outdoor get-together in the summer months.”

Other light and refreshing wins include Marin French Breakfast Cheese, which is supple and snackable, and Perrystead Dairy’s Intergalactic, which bursts with notes of fresh milk and a yeasty, baked-bread richness.

Zingy, flavorful Meredith Dairy Marinated Sheep & Goat Cheese is another great picnic crowd-pleaser. Throw the jar in your basket along with some toothpicks and a crusty baguette. Made in a farmstead creamery in Australia, the soft, spreadable hunks of cheese are marinated in a garlicy, herby olive oil that can double as a dip for your bread. (Bring some extra dish towels, too, as it might get a little messy. I promise it’s worth it.)

“If you’re looking for inspiration when choosing a cheese for your picnic, take cues from the rest of your picnic menu and opt for a variety that will complement the flavors already in your picnic basket.”

Patrick Considine, LaClare Creamery, Malone, WI

Any kind of chevre is at home at a picnic, from lemony, creamy Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery to the French classic, Bucheron (named for its resemblance to a snow-covered log) to Californian Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, bisected with ash and beautifully creamy. Pair these with whatever summer fruits are gorgeous at the farmers market.

Spreadable cheeses are also a lot of fun at a picnic. “Creamy cheeses like chèvre that can be easily spread onto a bagel, cracker, or sandwich are a failsafe choice,” says Considine. Bring flatbreads and crispy crackers, then open a tub of stringy, gooey Stracciatella — pretty much the interior of Burrata — and your picnic companions will deem you a genius. Or open a container of the best fluffy, fresh ricotta you can find and drizzle it with honey. Dip your heart out.

Hard Cheeses for the Win, Too

Hard cheeses have the benefit of making it easy to slice off a chunk and dig in. (This is a great time to bring out your favorite pocketknife.) They’re also a little heartier in summertime heat, and the best ones pack a powerful punch of flavor.

For a summer picnic, the key is to make sure that your cheeses can stand up to the heat. “We recommend starting with a compact cooler to help preserve freshness and ensure that each cheese retains its optimal texture and flavor,” Considine advises. “On an especially hot day, you may want to select a hard cheese that can hold its shape a bit better compared to a soft cheese. Among our favorite hard goat cheeses are the mild, fruity Chandoka, smooth, creamy Smoked Cheddar, or buttery, piquant Pepper Jack.”

Cheddar is a smart picnic pick because it’s so widely lovable and approachable. Whether you opt for raw milk, two-year aged cheddar from Vermont’s Grafton Village Cheese Company or Montgomery’s Cheddar from Somerset, England, wrapped in linen and rubbed with lard before being matured for over a year, you cannot go wrong. Bring out your favorite pickles and olives to bring out the cheddar’s savory depth.

There are so many fabulous hard cheeses to add to your picnic basket, we can only cover the tip of the iceberg here.

Comte or Gruyere add a nutty, brown buttery element that gets a summery pick-up when paired with a jar of blackberry jam. Manchego or Pecorino deliver that extra satisfying richness that sheep’s milk brings, a perfect foil for sweet and tangy quince paste. An aged Gouda like Beemster or Roomano is a sure hit with its caramel sweetness and crunchy crystals. Break this out at the end of your festivities with a bar of dark chocolate.

Keep it Playful

A picnic is not a time to take yourself overly seriously. Experiment with flavors, textures and pairings.
Have fun with flavors. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese’s Marco Polo nods to the explorer credited with bringing pepper to Europe with a zesty smattering of peppercorns. Vampire Slayer, a Cheddar hand-mixed with garlic, ginger, onion, and paprika by Calkins Creamery in Honesdale, PA, is wildly snackable. Truffle cheeses like Moliterno al Tartufo, a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese with a ribbon of black truffles running through, or a buttery, earthy Truffle Brie are guaranteed to disappear quickly.

Marin French Cheese Co.’s Petite Jalapeño Brie is also hard not to love — the jalapeño kick is an excellent foil for the butter brie’s lushness.

Smoked cheeses are also a fun picnic addition — they pack a campfire depth that is just right for picnic season. River’s Edge Up in Smoke is a true standout, a button of goat’s cheese smoked over alder and hickory chips and wrapped in smoked maple leaves that have been spritzed with bourbon. Smoked Gouda and mozzarella are even better accompanied with a smoky stick of salami.

And don’t forget about the kids. “I always like to include a simple grab-and-go type of item for the kids as they are typically running around playing,” says Crave. “For this reason, Crave Brothers Farmers Rope String Cheese is always a must-have!”

Try a Theme

“If you’re looking for inspiration when choosing a cheese for your picnic, take cues from the rest of your picnic menu and opt for a variety that will complement the flavors already in your picnic basket,” Considine suggests.

Whatever flavor profile you’re searching for, from sweet and fruity to spicy and smoky, there’s a goat cheese you’ll love.


You could celebrate a region, like a tapas-inspired picnic with Spanish favorites: Manchego, Marcona almonds, membrillo and pan con tomate. Or perhaps you might pay homage to the goat, with a feast of goat’s milk cheeses and goat salami.

You’re only limited by your imagination. Maybe you want to host a beach party picnic, with towels, umbrellas and fruity drinks, or a high tea picnic with little sandwiches and pitchers of iced tea in dainty teacups. Go crazy!

Branch Out With Other Dishes

“I find picnics to be a social event, so serving dishes that everyone can enjoy is important,” says Crave. “For this reason, I love to incorporate cheese into things like salads, especially cold pasta salad!”

One of my go-to picnic dishes is a simple, Greek-inspired pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, fresh herbs, and plenty of creamy, tangy feta.

“Nothing says picnic season quite like a Fresh Mozzarella Caprese salad,” says Crave.

All you need is fat slices of ripe tomato, fragrant basil, and the best fresh mozzarella you can find. You can pack a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic separately in your picnic basket, and have friends do their own drizzling.

Drinks and Pairings

Picnics are a wonderful time to try out that fun pairing idea, whether it’s kettle corn or vintage candy. I love crudité because it provides a nice contrast with cheese’s richness and makes another great vehicle for dipping. Fresh fruits like grapes, berries, and apple wedges are always welcome, whether they’re artfully arranged around a cheese board or just in one big container as a festive fruit salad.

Charcuterie is a great addition, too. Layer slices of cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pepperoni, and let your guests put together their own plates. Don’t forget the element of crunch in the form of nuts, crispy crackers and your favorite potato chips.

And don’t forget an easy, breezy beverage. Rose is a picnic classic for good reason, embodying vibes of sunshine and fun. I also love an effervescent, crisp, and budget-friendly Txakoli, which is super crisp and drinkable. Or whip up a batch cocktail, like a sangria or a spritz — and don’t forget a nonalcoholic version and stay hydrated.

You’re officially ready to picnic like a pro. Enjoy a hunk of cheese and a glass of rose for me!

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