A Friendsgiving Picnic

By Melissa Fairchild Clark | Photography by Natalie and Cody Gantz


More archetypal to our past than the touted “American Dream,” before we sang of amber waves of grain, Lewis and Clark journeyed west, setting the stage for so many who would emulate an opportunity so quintessentially American. The pitfall, for those who have made the journey, is that we leave behind the brief and vibrant moment each year when the woods blaze with color, a siren song to a waning summer and waxing winter. The blessing is that we can use the legato cadence of the West’s cooler months to take advantage of dining al fresco, plunking down on our wool blankets rather than curling up under them.

The second blessing of having ventured west is the ability to start anew with your own traditions, no longer having to politely oblige your family, which, while comforting in its consistency, can at the end of the day feel rather cloyed. As such, I’ve decided to take those two blessings, compiled with a third and most important blessing of good friends, and host a Friendsgiving picnic to celebrate the trifecta.

I should mention a fourth blessing—one to the hostess—which is that this entire meal will be assembled and ready to enjoy before the blankets even float to the ground. There is, as someone who has experienced just that, something to be so terribly thankful for in being able to enjoy your own gathering while also holding the satisfaction of having done it all yourself.


Board of local cheeses, fig and port pâté, seasonal fruits, and crackers.


Chef Shane Meistrich





Board of local cheeses, fig and port pâté, seasonal fruits, and crackers. We paired it with the 2012 Isabelle Blush from Retzlaff, an organic winery in Livermore Valley.

Curry roasted vegetable soup. Paired with a white Bordeaux–style sauvignon blanc/ semillon blend from Steven Kent Winery in Livermore Valley.

Kale and delicata squash salad with farro and Parmesan. Paired with Retzlaff’s 2013 Chardonnay.

Roasted turkey breast sando with apple stuffing, tarragon aioli, and cranberry-apple chutney. Paired with Retzlaff Winery’s 2012 Isabelle Blush.

Bourbon poached pear bread pudding with cajeta.



Made from fallen palm leaves that otherwise would have been burned, the dinnerware items used at the picnic were courtesy of VerTerra. The company creates them in a simple, chemical-free process using steam, heat, and pressure. The dishes come in a large array of shapes and sizes, and you can even use them as baking pans. To learn more and to purchase, visit verterra.com.

Game Plan

Earlier in the week
Make cranberry chutney and cajeta.

A Day before
Make pâté, soup, and aioli.

The Day of
Roast turkey, make stuffing, make bread pudding, heat soup, assemble sandwiches.

At the picnic
Assemble salad and cheese plate.

The Recipes

Pâté with Fig Preserves and Port
Curry Roasted Vegetable Soup
Kale, Delicata Salad with Farro and Parmesan
Thanksgiving Sando
Apple Stuffing
Tarragon Aioli
Cranberry Apple Chutney
Bourbon-Poached Pear Bread Pudding with Cajeta