It is a law of physics, or human biology, or both, that sun, salt air, and salt water inspire ravenous hunger. That's why no picnic is as welcome as the one you assemble at the beach. Here's a hearty seafood stew to cook on-site on a grill or camp stove. Serve it with crisp vegetables (sugar snap peas, baby-cut carrots), French bread, summer-ripe fruits (Asian pears, strawberries, grapes), and sugar cookies. Accompany with wine (see below) for a truly memorable picnic on the sand.
Beach stew checklist
- For convenience, chop onions and tomatoes at home and carry in separate plastic food bags.
- Pack stew pan with tools and ingredients that don't need to be kept cold.
- Bring along a small cutting board (or flexible plastic cutting mat) to provide a work surface, chopping knife, vegetable peeler, cooking spoon, a stiff brush and bowl for scrubbing shellfish, can and bottle openers, towels, hot pads, and a camp stove or small grill (that can be supported on rocks), if there aren't firepits.
- If water is not available at the picnic site, bring enough to scrub clams and mussels.
Beach picnic wines
For wines to accompany our stew (preceding), we selected vintages from the three coasts―Washington, Northern California, and San Luis Obispo County.
Hogue Pinot Gris (about $10). From one of Washington's top wineries, a peachy, citrusy wine with a good punch that is perfectly refreshing, just as wine served on the beach should be.
Navarro Vineyards Gewürztraminer (about $15). Anderson Valley slants inward from the Northern California coast like a pocket. One of the valley's top varietals is Gewürztraminer, and one of the best is Navarro's. Fruity and dry, it's only available by calling (or visiting) the winery (800/537-9463).
Alban Vineyards Viognier (about $30). From Edna Valley, inland from Morro Bay, a powerhouse white that's just the ticket for a full-flavored stew. ― Karen MacNeil-Fife