As tempting as it is to experience a city summer through tinted windows and air conditioning, venturing into Nashville’s urban jungle—into the grit and the heat—can be an unexpectedly relaxing outing. So, whether it’s a date, time with friends or an excuse to drag your family somewhere together, grab blanket and cooler and pick from the following menus and destinations for a creative urban picnic.
Where to goShelby Street Pedestrian Bridge
Those who have never taken the pre-Titans-game walk over the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge have missed what is arguably the best view in Nashville. From the middle of the river, the backside of Second Avenue looks like the oldest, most charming thing in this town. The stadium looks bright—almost alien—beneath the gaze of the Batman building. Park yourself on one of the bridge’s benches or go below to Riverfront Park and settle on the waterside grass.
Bicentennial Mall is one of those grand civic projects that winds up horribly underused. It is, of course, a great place for a picnic—especially with its proximity to the portable edibles of the Farmers Market. But if you want something a little different, do some bushwhacking. The steep, grassy hill in front of the Capitol provides another one of Nashville’s best views. From the top you can look out over the Farmers Market, Bicentennial Mall and the grand old houses of Germantown, or you can muse over the aesthetics of the new condos on Eighth Avenue North, point out the water tower of Marathon Village and gaze across the river to the East Side. Plus, it’s surprisingly breezy up there—an advantage not to be overlooked in the summer months.
There was nothing better in college than those warm days when you would blow off class to lie in the sun, throw a Frisbee, inhabit a couple clichés. Though there’s a wall, the gates to Vanderbilt are always open, and summer is a perfect time to chill in the quad—fewer students on campus means you feel less creepy (downside: no pointing and laughing at the girls shuffling by on their walks of shame). Plus, is there a bigger turn-on than reliving your carefree student days, even if on someone else’s campus? Your date will be drunk and topless before you know it.
What to bring
You can always pick up sandwiches or open a jar of salsa, but it’s not difficult to be truly impressive. Cooking is charming, and making food for a picnic—light, fresh summer noshes—is easier than Jessica Simpson. Try these simple, sophisticated recipes and complete your picnic basket with chips, cheese and bread.
Black Bean & Corn Salsa
1 Roma tomato 1/4 small red onion 1 c. corn (fresh or frozen—grilled is ideal, if you feel ambitious) 1/2 can black beans, strained Small handful finely chopped fresh cilantro 1 avocado, cut into small chunks Juice of half a lemon 1/4 c. medium green salsa Mix ingredients in a traveling container. Serve with tortilla chips.
Dijon Dill Salmon Salad
1 medium-sized cooked salmon fillet, poached or roasted 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 1 tsp. mayonnaise 1/8 small red onion Juice of half a lemon Salt and pepper to taste Break down salmon with a fork, add other ingredients and serve on crusty whole-grain bread or over greens. So much better than opening a can of tuna, and a great use for leftovers.
Spicy Asian Cole Slaw
1/2 head finely chopped cabbage (or buy it by the bag)
1/2 red pepper, finely cut in slivers 1/4 c. chopped green onions 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar 1 tsp. fish sauce Juice of one lime 1 tsp. sugar 1/4 c. soy sauce 1 tbsp. ginger Sriracha chili sauce to taste Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 c. sunflower seeds Mix all ingredients together in a traveling bowl. Toss in sunflower seeds right before serving for a salty crunch.
Don’t forget the thermosBeer Margaritas
Perfect with anything spicy, beer margaritas are a magical summer cocktail. Don’t let the name freak you out: if you like your margaritas cold, tart and crisp, then the carbonation of the beer adds just the right pop. Plus, anything this easy to make by the pitcher is dangerous—in a good way.
1/2 container of frozen, concentrated limeade 1 c. tequila 2-12 oz. light beers Stir together and serve over ice.
White Wine Sangria
A little lighter, and less energy-zapping, than its darker cousin, white wine sangria is a great picnic companion.
1 bottle white wine 1 c. brandy 2 c. chopped fruit (strawberries, peaches, apples and raspberries recommended) Combine and let steep, serve over ice.
Skinny Summer Punch
A college classic for ladies watching their weight, this recipe translates seamlessly to the beach or the park.
1 c. vodka 2 c. Crystal Light pink lemonade 1 c. diet lemon-lime soda Combine, serve over ice and watch yourself!