Dairy Diaries: How to Picnic in L.A.

Your guide for preparing a cheese-filled mobile meal. Plus, six sublime resting spots from the mountains to the beach


Cozy blanket? Check. Wicker basket? Cliché but check. The perfect picnic for cheese lovers? Here’s everything you need to know.

Packing up a picnic doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. A few key ingredients can be put together to make an extraordinary meal. Whether planning a romantic excursion for two or a family version for three or more, think about what is easy to eat and how to travel lightly.

Start with a garden-fresh salad—fruits and vegetables are at their best in the summer and they hold up well even after a long day in the sun. Layer the ingredients in a plastic cup so you get to see all the key elements in a convenient case. Spinach leaves, juicy diced tomatoes, and creamy avocado are nicely paired with tart cranberries and Tillamook Medium Cheddar, a naturally aged cheese without artificial growth hormones* that delivers that genuine “cheddar” flavor. Simply add a lid to pass the salad around the picnic blanket.

Salad on a stick? Skewers aren’t just for barbecuing. Line up a few thoughtful selections and you have a side salad to go. Boiled tortellini goes perfectly with a cherry tomato, fresh basil, and a nice bite of Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese—the natural spice of real jalapeños in the cheese deliver a fiery sensation.

Sandwiches are a picnic staple and by using whole wheat tortillas they are made healthy and portable. Roll up honey ham with thin slices of vine-ripened tomatoes, Tillamook Medium Cheddar, and crisp leaves of romaine lettuce. Secure the sandwiches with a small piece of parchment or craft paper and you have both a healthy lunch and a lovely presentation.

Feeling ambitious? Here’s a not-too-complex recipe for Cranberry Triple Nut Cheese Spread, which can be made the night before and chilled in the refrigerator. It combines creamy Tillamook Sharp White Cheddar, which is naturally aged over 9 months, three kinds of nuts, and dried cranberries to form an alluring cheese ball. Pair with your favorite crackers and you have an impressive on-the-go snack.

Once you have your meal packed—don’t forget your preferred drinks—it’s time to head off and discover the perfect location. Day or night, whether with friends, family, or a special date, these six great places throughout L.A. will beautifully set the scene.

Will Rogers State Historic ParkWill Rogers State Historic Park (1501 Will Rogers State Park Rd., Pacific Palisades)

The Pacific Palisades estate of the late Hollywood movie star is now a 186-acre public park, complete with hiking trails, grills, and a 31-room historical ranch house. Class up your weekends by taking in a polo match—think horses, not pools—played by the Will Rogers Polo Club from April to October. (Your sophisticated cheese ball will fit right in.)

Polliwog Park (Corner of Redondo Ave. and Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach)

The largest park in the South Bay, Polliwog is unique because of its pond and natural wildlife refuge. Enhance your picnic experience by reserving tables or gazebos in advance, and expect to share one of the park’s sought after grills. Music lovers will enjoy a series of concerts from July through the first weekend in September featuring a variety of artists including Elvis, Beatles, and Journey tribute bands.

Exposition Park Rose Garden (701 State Dr., Los Angeles)

In the heart of downtown L.A., the Exposition Rose Garden is snug between USC and the Coliseum. The roses are a stunning background for your picnic. If you are up for afternoon fun with the kids (and since you packed lightly), the Natural History Museum, California Science Center, and California African American Museum are right next door.

Echo Park Lake (751 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles)

Since its massive restoration in 2013, the park is once again a perfect picnic destination—especially for those who love the water. Visit the blooming lotus plants along the lake, and then rent a pedal boat or gondola to burn off that lunch.

Barnsdall Art Park (4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles)

Hidden between Los Feliz and Little Armenia is this exquisite 11-acre park. Take in the views from Olive Hill, or check out the recently renovated Hollyhock House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Bring your picnic and a loved one on Friday nights to sample wines at a tasting series. Or make it a family affair starting in September when the park will host outdoor movie nights celebrating beloved school flicks like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Election, and School of Rock.

Lake Balboa/Anthony C. Beilenson Park (6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys)

Lake Balboa offers picnic tables and grills, and in the spring there are thousands of cherry blossoms blooming. While it’s easy to relax here, there are also plenty of activities including tennis, archery, golf, and a five-mile running path. The park is huge, so you won’t feel cramped, and the swarm of ducks and swans in the lake offer a real charm—but keep the cheese and crackers for yourself.

* The FDA has stated that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows.

Will Rogers State Historic Park photograph courtesy Wikimedia
Picnic photographs courtesy Jenn Fujikawa