Last Look | Splendor in the Grass

There’s no better (or more romantic) way to savor these warm summer evenings than with a picnic. The wine sipping, baguette slicing, and slipping off of shoes is easy. The hard part about picnicking is typically the task of pulling together the perfect spread. If you’re seduced by the idea more than the schlepping, call the nice folks at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, where you can rent a fully loaded picnic basket for $75. Theirs includes three varieties of cheese, two meats, wine or beer, an Easy Tiger baguette or crackers, buttery marcona almonds, and an artisanal chocolate bar. (You can supplement the mix with extra goodies like olives or fruit preserves.) They’ve even covered the serving essentials by including a wooden cheese board, utensils, corkscrew, dishes, jam-jar glasses, and napkins. All you need to do is remember the blanket (and return the nonedibles— remember, you’re renting).

Owners Kendall and John Antonelli opened their Hyde Park cheese shop in early 2010. Since then they’ve expanded across the street, and their curated offerings appear on menus throughout the city. When it comes to packing their own summer baskets, they choose “whatever is tasting the best at the time,” says Kendall, “and cheeses that make sense seasonally, which means avoiding ooey-gooey or stinky cheeses in the Texas heat.” Their favorite picnic spots include “Lady Bird Lake, Springdale Farm on market days, and Sand Beach Park by Seaholm Power Plant,” Kendall says. But when the thermometer rises, “sometimes we just toss down a blanket on our living room floor and crank up the A/C.”

  • Wine: A light Beaujolais-Villages Le Pot pairs well with the entire mix, especially on a sultry summer evening. White (we love the Sancerre), sparkling, and an assortment of beers are also available.
  • Chocolate: Made by northern California’s Dick Taylor with beans from the Dominican Republic, this bold bar is the producers’ favorite. “Don’t save it for dessert,” urges Kendall, “It goes great with cheese, too.”Olives: Vibrant green Castelvetranos from Sicily are more fruity than briny. “They’re a customer favorite,” says Kendall. Add them to your basket for a well-spent fee.
  • Ossau-Iraty: Rich and nutty, this semi-soft fromage from the Onetik Cooperative is one of only two sheep's milk cheeses granted the prestigious AOC status in France. Of ancient origin, it was traditionally made by shepherds in the region.
  • Goat Gouda: Citrusy with a slight scent of caramel, this California cheese from Central Coast Creamery is handcrafted in small batches. It’s firm texture holds up well in the Texas heat. “You don’t want a cheese that turns into messy, stinky pool,” says Kendall.
  • Tartufo Salami: Made in California by Alle-Pia, this delicate pork salami has a subtle mushroom essence. Currently Antonelli’s is their only Texas distributer.
  • Cheddar: Clothbound cheddar made in Vermont by Cabot, this firm cheese is produced from the milk of a single herd of Holstein cows. It is especially tasty with brown ales.
  • Bresaola: These shaved petals of dried beef come from the well-established, highly respected Salumeria Biellese in NYC.


Photography by Kate LeSueur

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