Saturday in the Park with Mike

Summer is in full swing. The heat and sunshine, so foreign to us just weeks ago, are once again familiar companions. With the 4th of July in sight, the season seems to be barreling along. I feel like it’s just getting started!

Every summer Michael and I come up with an ambitious list of all of the activities and adventures we’d like to accomplish during the fairer months of the year. First and foremost on the list is the agreement that we’ll spend as much time out of doors as possible. We also try to maximize nighttime, especially on weeknights, hoping to extend each warm day into its own mini-vacation. Beyond those requirements, we try to put together a combination of new experiences and places with a healthy dose of our favorite haunts and pastimes, while factoring in some inevitable lazy, relaxing days. This year we have no trips planned and we are moving out of our apartment at the start of September, so we are really trying to make the most of the summertime.

One of the best places in our neighborhood to visit in the summer (in any season, really) is Prospect Park. It is a truly beautiful space; a massively sprawling urban oasis. Every time I visit I am reminded how fortunate we are that our city’s planners had the foresight to arrange this bit of green for future Brooklynites to take a break from the city sidewalks and gently remind ourselves of the beauty of nature. Michael and I often take weekend strolls on the same path around the Long Meadow, on occasion run along the winding paved roadway, and have attended several concerts at the Bandshell. But until this past Saturday, we had never really made it down to the Peninsula that extends into the magnificent Prospect Lake. It was there that we had the pleasure of doing something new and taking part in a “popup” dinner, a benefit for the Prospect Park Alliance, the group that works with the city to maintain the park and keep it as gorgeous as it is.

This dinner was unique in that all the guests were asked to wear white and bring their own table settings, decorations, food, drink, and dinner party. From groups of two to full tables of 16, folks came out by the hundreds to fill the Peninsula and enjoy the wonderful summer night. The white outfits made the evening feel almost like a Gatsby-era soiree, against the backdrop of lush green trees and the perfectly still water.

Keeping with that theme, I tried to prepare a meal for the two of us that felt fancy (we were, after all, using cloth napkins) yet laid back: an elevated picnic. To start we had bruschetta, made with Jersey tomatoes fresh from the greenmarket. Say what you will about New Jersey, but my home state really does produce outstanding tomatoes. We followed that with spicy lemon and garlic shrimp made with my favorite spice, red pepper flakes, and a kale salad with carrots, yellow peppers and peanuts with cider vinaigrette. Finally, after a walk down by the water, we ended the meal with personal strawberry rhubarb cobblers. I never grow tired of that good, old-fashioned, ruby red combination.

We shared a meal, surrounded by members of our community doing the same, as we drank wine, listened to Ben Folds perform, and watched our candles burn low. The park, with its fresh smells of grass and slow, cool breezes, enhanced the whole experience and evoked a summer of old.

Luckily, when we do move at the end of the season, we are only moving a few blocks away, so I will still have Prospect Park as my backyard.

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