If you are a Ravinia Festival regular (and even if you’re not), you have probably seen some fantastic picnics while taking a stroll around the grounds. However, only once in a while can you actually remember any of them after the performance. Jon and Sharon Bayer of Lake Bluff know how to put together a memorable picnic with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, flickering ice cube lights, and a premier spot on the lawn.
The Bayers have been loyal Ravinia patrons since 1993 and attend about 40 concerts every summer. Although they enjoy the variety of music offered here, Jon and Sharon are especially excited about Buddy Guy, Lang Lang, Sheryl Crow, the Mozart Operas, the Joffrey Ballet, Itzhak Perlman, and Lyle Lovett. They have been apart of the Annual Fund for four years and love being able to arrive early to claim their usual spot on the lawn. I had the opportunity to get some tips from Jon before the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss concert to find out how they put together an amazing spread with such little effort.
•Keep folding chairs and a small table in the car for easy access and store coolers by the door in the garage
•Buy a luggage cart and stack the heaviest things at the bottom to balance the weight
•Bring reusable plastic plates and glasses so nothing will break (plus they are heavy enough to prevents things from blowing away)
•Make your own Ravinia Festival tablecloths with fabric from the store and sew strips of elastic to the bottom of the four corners so it can be attached to the table in order to secure it against the wind
•Freeze margarita mix ahead of time in doubled plastic bags because it will keep your food cold and be a refreshing drink during the show
•Don’t forget an iPod for pre-show musical entertainment
Although Jon and Sharon’s flower arrangements look professionally done, they are actually from their home garden. Jon insists that an unbreakable vase is must and it has to be heavy when filled with water so it won’t spill or fall over. He typically fills a large silver vase with peonies, lilies, common foxgloves, and lovely belladonnas.
Sometimes he prints out menus for guests when they dine on the lawn. Below are some recipes of the Bayer’s favorite foods to bring to Ravinia Festival. Jon remarked that, “The best thing about coming to Ravinia is just getting outside, enjoying the weather and music, eating alfresco, and visiting with friends and family.”
Menu & Recipes from the Bayers
*Chips with guacamole
*Fresh veggies with roasted garlic hummus
*Salad of: fresh green spinach, sliced strawberries, blueberries, blue cheese pistachios. Dress with Ken’s Raspberry walnut Lite Vinaigrette
*Grilled Chicken Breasts basted with Bronco Bob’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
*Wild rice with nuts
*Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie
9 inch ginger-graham cracker pie shell (see recipe below)
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yokes (whites not used)
½ cup Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice
Combine milk, egg yolks and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating. Before serving; top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream (or Cool Whip) and garnish with thin slice of lime.
Key Lime Pie ginger-graham cracker pie shell
1 cup flaked coconut
½ cup gingersnap crumbs
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ stick butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons flour.
At least 3 ½ hours before serving, make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Firmly press mixture evenly over bottom and ¾ inch up sides of eight individual tart pans or one 9-inch springform pan or pie plate. Bake 5 minutes; chill.
Wild Rice with nuts
½ cup (1/4 pound) raw wild rice
½ cup brown rice (you can use all wild rice but I like combining it with other rice’s for interest)
5 ½ cups defatted chicken stock or water or bullion
1 cup shelled pecan halves (or your favorite nuts)
1 cup yellow raisins (I always soak the raisins in warm water to plump them before using)
Grated rind of 1 large orange
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
4 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
¼ cup olive oil ( I often don’t use the oil, start with none, taste it and add 1 tablespoonful at a time)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put rice in a strainer and run under cold water, rinse thoroughly. Place rice in medium-size heavy saucepan. Add stock or water and bring to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes check for doneness; rice should not be too soft. Place a thin towel inside a colander and turn rice into the colander and drain. Transfer drained rice to a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients to rice and toss gently. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let mixture stand for 2 hours to allow flavor to develop. Serve at room temperature. Six portions.