"Eating out" this time of year means something different than heading to the corner restaurant. Packing for the big picnic, whether it be at home or up north, has evolved a bit with the proliferation of local foods.
Here to help strategize is Beth Dooley, author of "Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook" and an occasional contributor on Appetites. She speaks with Tom Crann of MPR News' All Things Considered.
TOM CRANN: Many people think about getting the food for picnics, camping, or even going on to the cabin is sort of the same process. How has that changed?
BETH DOOLEY: Years ago, when our family headed north, I'd hit the grocery stores in the Twin Cities to stock up. But now, thanks to the proliferation of local farmers markets, as well as cheesemakers and breweries, I rely on what the farmers are providing to stock our fridge, fill picnic baskets and coolers when we camp out.
This food is fresher, tastes better, and meeting the farmers who provide this food makes for a more interesting trip and a richer experience.
I've learned why cherries and apricots grow well in the orchards near Bayfield, Wis. and why those potatoes are especially good. Or, why it is that the whitefish from the lake is so firm and sweet. I get to hear some of the stories about the heirloom apple varieties that only grow in that region.
CRANN: Doesn't it take more time? Isn't it more of a hassle to seek out and shop for food on vacation?
DOOLEY: Go to the Minnesota Farmers Market Association website, there's a list of markets and schedules and see what's there. The food tastes better and is fresher. More farmers markets are community gatherings where you'll learn about local festivals, hidden beaches, the local secrets.
And when I'm on vacation, I have more time to cook as well as to relax with friends. There's more time for guests and friends to jump in and help cook.
CRANN: How do you pack up local food to take on a canoe trip or hiking, paddling or kayaking for a day?
DOOLEY: You want things that keep well. Local cheeses are great, especially hard cheddars and sheep's cheese; smoked fish and cured meat. Local cherries and plums and melons also travel well.
CRANN: What about camping out?
DOOLEY: Think about packing up some real wild rice. It cooks quickly (about 15 minutes in boiling water) and makes a terrific side dish or pilaf or salad. Farro, a fabulous whole grain, cooks quickly, is hearty and adds protein to your meal, so you don't need meat.
Pack good oil and vinegars in plastic containers. Throw in a few lemons for seasoning. Take along great spices and dried herbs, chile and curry powders, salt, a small pepper grinder, and mixed dried herbs for the wild rice, pasta or faro. If you're fishing, bring seasoned dried bread crumbs to fry up the fillets on the beach.
CRANN: I understand you lead food-themed trips?
DOOLEY: I lead local food trips for Wilderness Inquiry, a Twin Cities-based outdoor adventure travel experts with trips that go all over the world. What I love is that you can head to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior and have a fabulous local food experience akin to traveling through Tuscany -- OK, that may be a stretch, but the point is that our region is rich with variety. These foods give a sense of place, or what the French have dubbed terriore.