Because I'm always looking for new settings for eating and drinking, I'm ever at the ready for an impromptu picnic. Throughout the summer, a fold-up beach chair takes up temporary residence in my car's trunk, ready to be deployed at any moment, and each cooler I own is packed with all the picnicking essentials: handiwipes, plastic cutlery and, most important, a corkscrew. All else that's needed is delicious picnic fare. Trader Joe's is good one-stop shop, but if you're looking for a something especially enticing to fill your basket, these spots offer alternative options for tasty foods to-go.
Little Italy's Mona Lisa Delicatessen and Market is a treasure-trove of good things to eat. The sub sandwich made with meaty sopressata, a sort of rustic salami, is particularly good, but almost all varieties of meats and cheeses taste great on Mona Lisa's flavorful, fresh Italian bread. Round out your picnic with a tub of marinated olives, some homemade Italian cookies or candies and a bottle or two of vino. 2061 India St., 619-239-5367.
Usually, people at fancy parties are the lucky ones dining on the gourmet offerings from Waters Fine Foods, but the catering company's tiny to-go shop in Bay Park offers everyone a taste of the good life with daily specials designed for take-away meals and the cooking-challenged. The grilled eggplant sandwich is particularly memorable. Tucked between thick slices of hearty seed-and-nut-laden bread spread with lemon aioli, the eggplant cozies up with roasted red peppers, mozzarella, avocado and arugula, and the whole stack gets a tasty topping of frizzled onions. Sweets like oatmeal currant cookies and coconut-chocolate Magic bars necessitate saving room for dessert. 1105 West Morena Blvd., 619-276-8803.
Zion Korean Market is one of my favorite places to shop in San Diego. I could spend all day browsing the aisles of colorfully packaged snacks and containers of delectable savories. Kimbab, a Korean-style sushi, features rice wrapped around egg omelet, spinach, fish cake and pickled radish. There's no raw fish to consider, so this sushi packs well for the outdoors. The perfect end to the picnic is a toss-up between the pristine produce--from juicy white nectarines and dinosaur-egg plums to pocket-sized watermelons--and the fantastic selection of bakery goodies. Their freshly baked almond tuile cookies have my number, as does the dense and sweet carrot cake. 4611 Mercury St. in Kearney Mesa. 858-268-3300.
Searching for a location to break out your alfresco meal? Picnicking is fun just about anywhere--in backyards, beaches or parks, but here are a couple of open-air destinations that have been tested recently and approved for outdoor eating:
Screen on the Green, the outdoor film series held by the San Diego Museum of Art is an exceptional picnic spot with free entertainment. The movies are shown on a huge inflatable screen overlooking a large grassy patch on the east side of the museum. Get cozy on a blanket or set up beach chairs and enjoy your picnic spread while viewing a classic. Check out www.sdmart.org for the rest of the summer lineup.
Become of one San Diego's boat people and join the ranks of our hearty (or crazy?) community that paddles over to Humphrey's by the Bay to hang out at the edge of the stage and take in a free concert. All you need is something buoyant to float out on--a kayak, canoe or innertube will do, but the most picnic-friendly vessel is a cushy inflatable raft. Get out the wine and snacks and lean back on a loved one as you relax on your floating lounge under the stars. There are lots of points along the bay from which to embark, but my friends and I have discovered a spot near the venue that cuts down on our rowing time so that picnic time arrives a lot sooner. E-mail me for an exact location and visit www.humphreysconcerts.com for the show schedule.
A more traditional picnic location sits a few yards south of the entrance to Paradise Point Resort. Just beyond the public parking lot is an incredibly scenic spot, situated under the arch of the Ingraham Street bridge and across Mission Bay from SeaWorld. Set up camp in the sand along the water and enjoy the relatively peaceful (by P.B. standards) setting. Watch kayaks skim by, and stay until dark for a free fireworks show. I was recently invited out to a grand clambake on the site, but this picnicking locale is equally great for large groups or twosomes.