Elegant outdoor meals were likely first eaten during the Middle Ages, when the European leisure class began organizing hunting parties as a form of entertainment. Historians also believe that the word “picnic” originates from the seventeenth-century French term “pique-nique”, which described wealthy gourmands who brought their own wine along with them when dining out.In those early years, outdoor feasts were largely reserved for the wealthy, but with the growth of the middle class, the picnic gained a more universal appeal. In the Victorian Era, the public was enamored with the pursuits of the moneyed aristocracy, and the popularity of the picnic exploded.Even then though, the picnic was a much larger and more elaborate meal than the one we know today. “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”, the seminal book on Victorian British cookery and housekeeping, provided detailed instructions on picnicking.
The book insisted that a picnic for about 40 people should include cold roast beef, four meat pies, four roast chickens, two roast ducks, four dozen cheesecakes and one large cold plum pudding, just to name a few items. The menu also included three dozen bottles of beer along with claret, sherry and brandy. Just imagine the number of picnic baskets they would have needed for all that food!Because they’re lightweight and sturdy, woven baskets have always been favored to transport picnics, but centuries ago they were often as large as trunks because so many courses were offered. As picnic meals have evolved over the years, so have picnic baskets.Today, most picnic basket are designed to feed just a handful of people, but a wide range of styles are available. Some modern picnic baskets are made of modern materials like polyester with waterproof insulated interiors, while others may look more familiar, made from woven natural materials, but are small and simple with washable fabric liners. Attractive and elaborate picnic kits are even available, with dishes, flatware, glasses and napkins included, along with straps to hold all these items in place with plenty of room remaining for your outdoor feast.
It looks like it’s safe to say that Spring is finally here and Summer is just around the corner! That means it’s officially grilling season and we are thrilled!
We’re big fans of charcoal grilling for the best smoky, outdoor flavor, but we know that it can be a pain in the butt to get your charcoal lit without dousing it with lighter fluid and ruining that woodsy flavor.
To solve this challenge, we looked to one of our favorite magazines. According to a grilling gadgets article from Cooks Illustrated,
“Chimney starters eliminate the need for lighter fluid, which some of our more sensitive tasters swear they can taste residually on the grilled food… A chimney starter is cylindrical with an attached heatsafe handle. It resembles a huge beer mug. Inside the cylinder, just a few inches up from the bottom, a perforated metal plate separates the large upper chamber from the small lower chamber. Different models of chimney starters show very little variation. Some have wooden handles, some have plastic handles, but all do just about the same thing…
Expect to pay between $15 and $30 for a chimney starter—a very modest investment for such a useful tool.”
To use a charcoal chimney, simply stuff ripped, crumpled newspaper or brown paper bags into the bottom chamber, and fill the upper chamber with charcoal. When you light the paper, the design of the chimney will pull the flames up through the charcoal and in about 15 minutes it’ll be ready to use. It really is that simple!
Whisk’s favorite chimney starter from Fox Run is only $18!
Break out the balloons and streamers, cocktail lovers! Whisk now has cocktail shrubs!
You probably know that we’re very proud of our wide selection of cocktail bitters here at Whisk, but we’re even more excited to announce that we just started carrying a new line of artisanal cocktail shrubs. Our selection now includes bitters and shrubs from Colorado-based Strongwater Spirits & Botanicals, and we’re so excited for you to try them that we even offer a five flavor shrub sampler pack so you can sample them all!
Strongwater’s sampler pack includes a 1 oz. bottle of each of their Blueberry & Mint, Cherry & Thyme, Ginger & Pear, Peach & Rose, and Persimmon & Lavender shrub flavors.
But wait! What the heck are cocktail shrubs you ask?
Shrubs are a colonial style cocktail mixer made from vinegar sweetened with honey and infused with fruit and herbs or other botanicals. They’re very similar to bitters, but in place of alcohol, vinegar is used as the infusing agent. Originally invented as a way of preserving fruit in the off season, Colonial Americans discovered that they could use the leftover vinegar to mix into and flavor their alcohol. With the advent of home refrigeration the use of shrubs all but disappeared, but in the past few years they’ve had their renaissance. All of Strongwater’s shrubs are made from raw organic apple cider vinegar infused with locally sourced and organic ingredients.
Shrubs are traditionally paired with your favorite liquor, but just like bitters they can also be mixed into sparkling water or taken daily as a health tonic. They’re so flavorful and versatile that you don’t even have to stop at cocktails or beverages! Go ahead and get creative. You can use them anywhere you’d vinegar; splash a little in a salad dressing for a burst of flavor, or even sprinkle a few dashes in the marinade at your next barbecue!
If you love bitters and cocktails, we’re sure that you’ll love our new shrubs too. We really hope you’ll try them for yourself.