The Hunt and the Gathering

One centuries-old tradition inspires another, complete with a hearty picnic to warm guests on a chilly fall day.

Text by Anna Rossi | Photographs by Nicole Wolf

Every year just before Thanksgiving, as winter begins to roll in on the heels of fall, my husband and I pack our provisions, bundle up the kids and hike into the fields to watch a New England fox hunt organized by the Myopia Hunt Club. In a traditional drag hunt, a pack of foxhounds follows the scent of anisette across miles of open land in a route determined by the Master of Foxhounds. Throughout the event, the Huntsman calls the hounds with his horn and directs the Field, the collection of participating riders. The resulting promenade, which includes riders of all ages, is impressive to watch.

In November, the hunt takes place at Appleton Farms and we climb up Pigeon Hill for a vast territorial view. At the top, we lay out our spread: a thick roast beef picnic loaf for the hardy, sticky mulled cider duffins that tether the children, nibbles and savories to share and ample piping hot coffee and spirits to toast. What started a few years ago with just our immediate family has evolved into a gathering of neighbors and friends, new and old.

A lonesome call of the horn in the distance, the barking of the hounds, the pounding of the hooves echoing over the hills, and the sound of the wine cork popping and children giggling represent the rich flavors of the morning. Sportsmanship, land stewardship, etiquette and cheer are passed down as we salute generations riding by. Hounds circle and good wishes are exchanged. The hunt and the gathering leave their imprint.

Tips for a Successful Picnic


1. The only thing precious at a picnic is the children. Food and dishware should be considered with packing and travel in mind. Avoid things that are fussy or breakable.

2. Add height and levels to your spread. Tiered serving platters add visual interest. Take advantage of existing steps or fences when choosing your location.

3. Bring in vintage silver, family goblets and bold flavors to elevate the outdoor entertaining experience. Taking things out of context and calling on them to be functional creates an allure that is delightful.

4. Bring extra. Sharing food and drink is the easiest way to make new friends and multiply the cheer. The aroma of hot coffee from on top of a lonesome hill has the power to pull in a crowd.

5. Build a menu that suits the season. Chilly weather calls for roast beef, winter greens, cured meats, root vegetables, cider and pumpkins. Deconstruct traditional flavors to make dishes that pack well and can be eaten easily without extra cutlery.

6. Befriend your local wine shop and tie it all together with perfect pairings of food and drink. Experts like Eileen Elliott at Social Wines in Boston add a depth and appreciation to the cheer by explaining the provenance and intention behind what you are serving.

Al Fresco Menu (follow links to recipes):

Traditional Irish Coffee
Roast Beef Picnic Loaf with Horseradish and Fried Onions
Chard and Smoky Mozz Quiche
Butternut Squash Cakettes with Pearl Sugar
Mulled Cider Duffins
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