Picnicking at the Top of the Texas Hill Country
“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul.” – Peggy Toney Horton
Another wonderful Labor Day holiday has come and gone. The sun is out, and the temps are nearing comfortable once again. Soon, we’ll find ourselves outside enjoying nature as much as possible. Though we’ll spend plenty of time golfing and hunting, one of our favorite things is lazing an afternoon away over a classic picnic. The world moves fast and before you know it the holidays will be upon us, so slow down and treat yourself to an indulgent afternoon of doing nothing except feeding your soul with nature, good food and wine. The best place for this respite? On a picnic blanket under the pecan canopy in Risien Park with the softly flowing water of the San Saba River in the background. Here’s how we indulge in a good, old-fashioned picnic once fall comes to the Top of the Texas Hill Country.
Building the Perfect Picnic
Start with the essentials: a blanket, a couple of throw pillows, maybe even a portable hammock to string up to the pecan trees and a picnic basket. Your basket should have silverware, plates, wine glasses and a corkscrew. To keep foods like meats, cheese, eggs and drinks cold, use an insulated picnic pack or bring along a small Yeti cooler (available at Harry’s Boots). Now onto the fun part: filling your basket with San Saba’s goodies. Here are our favorite things to pick up around town.
There are few essential entertainment components of every picnic. First, you’ll need a good book. Cards and domino sets are great games to spark a little friendly competition after a few chapters. If you have travel horseshoes or a kite, bring those along as well for kiddos or a larger group. Other great activities are drawing or painting and strumming a guitar if you play. Bring along a portable speaker to play some picnic-worthy tunes (like Spotify’s Picnic in the Park playlist).
Now, it’s time to fill your basket with San Saba goodies – there are plenty to be had around town. First, pick up some specialty bread from San Saba’s new bakery, Bread to Dough. Choose from freshly baked sourdough, brioche, ciabatta loaves or baguettes which all make perfect picnic loaf. You’ll want to be sure to grab a couple of “cupcakes of the day” as well.
Then head over to Oliver & Co. – a bright, airy cafe where you’ll get the bulk of your foodstuffs. Pick up a small charcuterie board which comes with two kinds of cheese, two Italian meat selections, seasonal fruit, honey roasted pecans, mustard seed, honey, and bread (serves 1-2 picnickers). Pick up an order of the housemade pimento cheese and – whatever you do – don’t miss the fruited chicken salad (on spinach or with avocado). We aren’t sure exactly how she does it, but Jenn’s chicken salad is some of the best we’ve ever had. The salad is great to eat on its own or to stuff into your delicious, fresh-baked Bread to Dough loaf. Grab a couple of waters or iced teas and head to Alamo Pecan & Coffee to pick up sweet and savory pecans. Our favorite is the classic flavor of buttery, salty roast pecans. The chocolate amaretto dipped pecans are also sinfully addictive for anyone with a sweet tooth. (Also, don’t miss their daily fudge selection to go with those cupcakes for dessert).
Just a few more stops to pick up the most important part of the picnic – adult beverages. Beer lovers should swing by Bar D Brewhouse and pick up a growler of craft beer. There are typically between six and nine selections ranging from ambers to red ales to IPAs. Wine lovers can enjoy a couple of bottles from San Saba’s two award-winning wineries. Grab a bottle of vino from Old Man Scary Cellars – we suggest the 2015 Valvento, a semi-sweet Texas red blend or the big, bold 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon). Then head over to Wedding Oak Winery just a couple of doors away and pick up a bottle of their Rosé De Dolcetto 2015, a dry rose made from dolcetto grapes.
The Best Picnic Spot at the Top of the Texas Hill Country
Hop in the car and head over to Risien Park. The 80-acre park was a gift from E. Guy Risien and awaits wanderers through an old railroad trestle which leads to a magnificent pecan grove bordered on one side by the San Saba River. The park is quiet, secluded, and shaded – a serene place to unwind amidst idyllic footbridges and rolling hills. Just pick the spot that speaks to you and throw your blanket down. Now all that’s left to do is to enjoy your afternoon of leisure. Bon appetit, y’all!