There was a time when the Spoleto Finale meant more than just sitting on the grassy meadow of Middleton Place and listening to a band. Just six short years ago, Spoleto sponsored a Best Picnic Award. That’s right, the festival gave out a Golden Fork, Silver Spoon, or Bronze Knife to the very best picnic spreads at the event.
Now if there’s one thing people in this state are good at, it’s throwing an on-the-fly feast. I count some of my dearest native S.C. friends as professional tail-gaters — the people who not only remember to pack their grandma’s secret fried chicken recipe for every Gamecock game, but also bring Meemaw's fine China to plate it on. And Spoleto's picnic competition was no different. Suffice it so say, elaborate candelabra were not too grandiose.
Sadly, the fine tradition of giving out picnic awards is no longer an official Festival competition. But why not bring it back grassroots style? Even though we're a week out from Finale weekend, it's never too soon to start planning. And to get you started, here are a few locally-sourced goods to take your average outdoor lunch to its winning potential.
O&O Hooch oandohooch.com
To really embrace the scratchy rock of Finale headliner Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, you’re gonna need to get ripped. Incidentally, I have just the thing: Sullivan’s Island produced O&O Hooch. This fizzy limeade mixer just needs you and handle of vodka to have some fun. Bring your solo cups and a cooler of ice and you’ll have the most popular picnic at the party.
Caviar & Bananas Picnic Baskets caviarandbananas.com
If you’re racing out the door to the Finale, but still want to do it up big, Caviar & Bananas can provide you with a pre-made picnic basket. Their “The Entertainer” ($149.99) is filled with Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut, La Quercia Proscuitto, Callie’s Charleston Biscuit Cheese Crisps, Tates Bake Shop Cookies, Sallie’s Greatest All Natural Handmade Ham, Les Moulins Mahjoud Natural Meski Olives with Lemon and Fennel, Mustard & Co.’s Small Batch Mustard and Christopher Artisan Chocolates Handmade Chocolate Truffles.
goat.sheep.cow cheese plate goatsheepcow.com
You want to make your picnic pals happy? Roll up with a perfectly plated, luxe cheese spread from goat.sheep.cow. The team at the Church Street shop will pair cheese and cured meats for a platter that’s as big or little as you’d like. Just one note: Give them advance warning, the tiny shop gets slammed, especially at peak party season.
King of Pops pops kingofpops.com
Here’s the truth, you’re going to sweat at the Finale. I’ve been at the event during rain and shine and either way I was soaking. With that in mind, grab a King of Pops pack to cool your pards down. Might I suggest the Winter Wonder Variety? That comes with four pear vanilla pops, four pomegranate cider pops, and four white chocolate raspberry pops certain to help you chill.
Martha Lou's fried chicken marthalouskitchen.com
I’m a firm believer that leftover cold fried chicken is better than warm. Plus, it makes for an easy to-go item. Simply call ahead to Martha Lou's and have them fix you up a plate, refrigerate over-night, then head to the show.
Farmers Market fruit salad
All you have to do is walk by and get a whiff of the ripe peaches to know, it's fruit salad season. My current favorite, is to toss together a bowl with Schuler Farms peaches, Owl's Nest blackberries, and cantaloupe (check out Summerville's farmers market for some great melons). Mix it all together and you have the best side our soil can offer.
Iced down local beer
At this point, I don't think any of us need reminding of the various options of beer we have to choose from. We all have our favorites. But do remember these two things: 1) you're going to want to buy more than one bottle. It's a long, hot day out there folks, and you're going to go through that beer fast. And 2) Ashley River Road can be a beast, especially at night with hundreds of exhausted people trying to get home from a concert. Drink responsibly and designate a driver.