October is a special time for San Francisco as Fleet Week is finally here and we get a respite from the summer fog and cold in what we call our “native summer”. This weekend was one of the prettiest weekends I have ever seen for Fleet Week, the sky was so blue and clear, and the air was warm, like San Diego warm.
Besides the parade of ships, ship tours, safety and disaster recovery demonstrations, the Naval band, and the North Beach parade, Fleet Week features a thrilling airshow by a variety of amazing precision flying teams, culminating in the Blue Angels. I have always loved watching the blue and gold planes streak through the skies of San Francisco, flying right over my apartment building, over the Bay, through Downtown, they’re screaming loud but it is so thrilling.
I have watched the airshow from a variety of places over the years, from the Marina Green, the retaining wall at the entrance of the Marina, Aquatic Park, on the Hyde Street hill, and of course, from the water on friends’ boats. A few years back my dearest sisterfriend and I found the perfect spot to watch the airshow from a local park on top of Pacific Heights. Our annual picnic there has become a happy tradition, despite the Parks and Rec Department heavily watering the grass each year the night before.
This year, I brought one of my giant blue camping tarps, which held away the soggy field from our backsides for a little while but it was not impermeable. We were far better off than everyone else who were unprepared for the squish factor!
I was able to try out my new picnic basket, and it performed like a champ. People back in the day really knew how to build a picnic basket and this one is amazing. The hard wood top folds back completely flat, perfect to hold the glasses for our Aperol spritzes. Inside the basket is a suspended divider, which is where I perched the tray of warm crispy oven baked chicken pieces, while the rest of the basket held my chill bag, which kept the zucchini and cucumber tiger salad and grapes nice and cool. The removable divider flips over to become a little tray table for the picnic blanket, how perfect is that? It held everything: the cutlery, plates, my mini cutting board kit from the SF Opera in the Park days, serviettes, champagne glasses, the works. I am so over the moon happy with this basket.
- Crispy oven baked chicken
- Roasted sausages with sourdough bread and all the fixings
- Zucchini and cucumber tiger salad with shiso dressing
- Fresh green salad with yuzu dressing
- Bunches of chilled red grapes
- Veggie sticks and hummus
- Sharp cheddar for snacking
- Assorted chips
- Juice boxes for the kids
- Aperol spritzes for the adults
The chicken I made for the picnic is from a recipe from my dearest friend L’s mom. Since I was a baby, her mom and my mom would take turns making lunches for our families when we got together for sailing trips, Christmas tree hunting, pumpkin patch forays, or various camping trips. L’s mom used to make this amazing baked chicken with an unusual breading of wheat germ and sesame seeds and it was always my favorite. It has been years since I have made it for myself, or anyone else and it is the perfect picnic food. It fit in perfectly with the non-specific Asian zucchini tiger salad recipe I wrote about previously. This year, I added cucumber to the tiger salad in lieu of the fennel and it was fantastic. We ate so much that we didn’t even miss dessert other than the grapes, we completely forgot to make something. Next year, however, we will have brownies or some other evil treat.
We lazed about on our vast blue tarp, which we covered in colorful fabrics and sarongs, and over the course of the next four hours we enjoyed our lunch and the warm air, people watching, and fending off tickle attacks from the boys and various dogs who were highly intent upon sampling our chicken and sausages. The ladies played around with our new nail art stamping plates and nail vinyls, and looked at gorgeous photos from the Homecoming dance the night before. We also did watch the amazing planes and their pilots zoom around, there were lots of time between the various displays to enjoy our lunch and each other. The Breitling team and the Blue Angels were especially thrilling this year!
I hope the “native summer” returns for another weekend as I would like to use my beautiful picnic basket again. It being California, odds are that it will.
Recipes: Crispy Oven Baked Chicken