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Sep 20, 2002 10:09 AM

What to bring to a Potluck picnic?

  • s

I love to eat, but am not great in the kitchen. What take out or easy to make food can I bring to a potluck picnic that no one else will bring. I am tired of making a potato salad and competing with three other potato salads! Thanks.

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  1. I don't cook much either (and I'm still worrying about what to make for the chowhound picnic, knowing what experts there are here).

    One option is to hit a store like Whole Foods or Lucca (22nd & Guerrero) and pick up sliced Italian cured meats like coppa or prosciutto, fresh cheeses, tins of smoked oysters, crusty bread, etc.

    This time of year, I like to make watermelon sliced with mint syrup (immerse the mint in sugar water, pour over the melon, and refrigerate for half an hour). It's foolproof.

    Any kind of in-season vegetable makes a great salad. Blanched green beans tossed with corn sliced off the cob and sliced cherry tomatoes, dressed in rice vinegar.

    Take a look at for ideas. Enter a few ingredients in the search field and see what it proposes. Or make Rice Krispie treats.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      not long ago there was a really long thread on this subject on the general board that you might want to check out, but you wouldn't be thinking of something to bring to the chowpicnic would you? there are so many choices, appetizers, salads, entrees, bread/sandwiches/pizza and desserts, that you definitely wouldn't be stuck with potato salad!

      check out the original post below and hope to meet you there!


      1. re: Windy
        Caitlin McGrath

        Speaking of watermelon: this salad is easy, incredibly refreshing and delicious, and no one else will bring it.


      2. s
        Stanley Stephan

        Do you shop well?

        I'm a really inept cook, but I am a whiz at finding the best pie, cake, bread, etc that can be bought. This has helped immensely in pot lucks (and Thanksgiving. The only thing I personally cook is the turkey and potatoes).

        Tartine makes an outstanding upside down peach cake.

        I've brought a whole Quiche from Mama's to numerous pot lucks which is always one of the first dishes to be eaten up. If you ask Mama's for a vegetarian one, you may score extra points from the vegetarians in the group.

        Bring the watermelon - but a really unusual one. The SF Ferry Plaza Market is selling moon and stars watermelons (see post below)

        A selection of artisan cheeses (you know your group. Not popular with everyone).

        In pot lucks, I always sign up early so I can cop out and bring the drinks. A selection of boutique beers? Or Yum on market has one of the best and most interesting selection of soda's in the city.

        A brisket from Memphis Minnies?

        You probably have some of your own favorite food sources.

        If you MUST cook it yourself, go retro - do a Bacardi Rum cake. This involves a packaged cake mix and rum (or liquor of your choice). I've been reviving it lately and the 'older' folk like it because it's a trip down memory lane. It's still a crowd pleaser in general because it is tasty. If you go this route, I can give you the recipe.

        Also, you might get a bigger response on the general board.

        Here's my previous post on the Moon and Stars watermelon - one of the prettiest and most tasty I've ever had.

        P.S. From ny own experience, don't bring fried chicken.



        4 Replies
        1. re: Stanley Stephan

          How about sharing that rum cake recipe? Please?

          1. re: Sharuf
            Stanley Stephan

            The link is below. If you don't have a bundt cake pan, most large supermarkets sell the cheap disposable aluminum ones in the same place the aluminum roasting pans are.

            If you don't want to deal with the cake pan, you can try the chocolate version, but I never have tried it.


            This was the era of boozy cakes. You can substitute any liquor like brandy, amaretto, kahluah, etc. I think the rum version is the best though. It is wonderfully moist and smells wonderful. Give the rum time to soak in. It freezes well and keeps well (all that alcohol, you know). And best of all, it is sooo easy to make.

            Another boozy variation from that period was the Harvey Wallbanger cake. The picture below is of the Harvey Wallbanger cake, but the Bacardi cake looks identical.




            1. re: Stanley Stephan
              Rochelle McCune

              Yummm, it reminds me of Praline Cake.

              I haven't seen it out here, but in the South (New Orleans) there's a booze called "Praline Liquor" made from pecans that is used in cakes, candies and coffee. Since I just happen to have a bottle, maybe I'll have to make this here cake and see how it turns out.

              1. re: Stanley Stephan
                Caitlin McGrath

                This brings back memories for me; the cake mix rum bundt cake was a specialty of my aunt's for many years.

          2. I have a patented chipotle cole slaw that I make for picnics. I shred a whole bunch of cabbage, red cabbage, red onion, red bell pepper, radish, and carrot. (I usually use a knife, rather than a grater; it's more labor-intensive but I think it comes out better.) The sauce is simple: mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and a little pureed canned chipotles en adobo (the sauce is a mix 'n taste kind of deal). Very tasty, not too difficult, and a little different.

            Or I'll make spreads to go with sliced baguette: blue cheese (blue cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, shallot, fresh rosemary) or sun-dried tomato (sdt, chevre, cream cheese, garlic, whatever) or any of a dozen other combinations.

            1. I often bring my own version of hummus, along with carrot and jicama dippers and tiny tomatoes (which look very classy!). Jicama makes the world's best veggie dippers, IMO. Also either sesame crackers or those packaged crackers made from skinny sourdough baguette.

              Or, if I'm feeling more affluent and come across several ripe avocados, I'll make my own perfected guacamole and bring along the aforementioned veggies, along with a bag of tortilla chips.

              1. Just went to one this Saturday. Picked up a bunch of different heirloom tomatoes and mixed cherry tomatoes, red onion, basil and feta at TJ. Made a good balsamic dressing. Put it together about an hour before the gathering. Made an effort with presentation - a large (20" diameter) shallow white pasta type bowl and garnished with whole small basil leaves. It made a big hit!