Above: Picnic NM packs its platters with local ingredients. Photograph courtesy of Lauren Stutzman.
If you want to wow the gang at your next picnic, skip the packaged potato salad. Instead, turn to Lauren Stutzman, who runs Santa Fe–based Picnic NM, where she preps elaborate platters of charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, and spreads. Then follow these tips.
1. Go for beauty. Stutzman got her start at Cheesemongers of Santa Fe, where she was inspired to create edible works of art when she saw the plates that co-workers Lilith Spencer and Oisín Young produced. “I already knew more than the average bear about cheese, but I got to learn about cheese from all over the world.” Now, she says, “I look at a piece of cheese and I know how I am going to break it down. That gives me an idea of how everything on the plate needs to flow.”
2. Eat local. Most of Stutzman’s ingredients come from regional farmers, butchers, and cheesemakers. A self-proclaimed locavore, she is devoted to knowing each farmer and supporting regional producers. Graze on a Picnic NM platter and you’re supporting the community.
3. Embrace the season. Stutzman sources according to what’s ripe, because “if you get a plate in the summer, you kind of want it to look like summer.” She loves incorporating fresh flowers, both edible and not, into her designs and works with local florists like Renegade Floral, Floriography, and Mini Falls Farm.
4. Celebrate yourself. The platters are perfect for picnics, but also special occasions, family gatherings, and personal victories. You can order up to 48 hours before your event, but extra notice is best. “People are really starting to get the idea of how important self-care is,” Stutzman says. “If you have done something and you are wanting to celebrate and love yourself, yeah, get a cheese box.”
CHEESE TO KNOW
If you want to dive into local artisanal cheese, La Montañita Co-op is a good place to shop. Stutzman recommends a marinated chèvre from Camino de Paz, a small operation based in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, that offers scrumptious chile, peppercorn, and herb varieties.
Also at La Montañita, find De Smet Dairy and Creamery chile cheese curds, made on a third-generation dairy farm in Bosque Farms, near Albuquerque.