The first Sunday in June kicks off one of my most favorite summertime activities known as Pops In The Park where the Charlotte Symphony performs a series of free concerts every Sunday for five weeks. When I lived here before, Pops was a smaller affair taking place on a section of lawn on the grounds of the SouthPark Mall. Over the years, the concerts have grown to encompass a permanent summer home called Symphony Park and the crowds have grown into the thousands. The estimated attendance for last night's performance was between 8,000 - 10,000!
The years that I lived away were always particularly hard during the month of June. In my mind, I could recall the fun times that the Captain and I shared sitting on a blanket surrounded by good food, wine, and good friends listening to the mellow sounds of the music. Back then, I would spend days conjuring up a menu and countless hours preparing everything from scratch....dips, appetizers, desserts. Last night would be my first attendance at Pops in nearly seven years and I can't tell you how beside myself I was with anticipation! It was also another one of those bittersweet affairs that brought about a flood of emotions as I glimpsed someone walking in the crowd who vaguely resembled the Captain, and for almost a split second I was caught in a time warp. But we all know that time machines don't exist and we must plug along in this vast amount of time and space that we have and create new and fun memories.
My mentality toward preparing picnic fare for Pops has changed during my absence. What used to take days and hours to plan and prepare for took all of about one hour from start to finish this year. Having made my living in the food industry for several years, I now completely value the concept of stress-free entertaining. A quick trip to the grocery and a few flips of the wrist produced the makings for a gorgeous and delicious antipasta platter to be shared with old and new friends alike.
The great thing about antipasta platters is that you can put whatever your heart desires on it, place it any way you want it, and it always turns out to be a true work of art. Here we have sopressata, a cured Italian meat, several types of cheeses ~ feta, manchego, rosemary goat cheese, cream cheese topped with a hot pepper peach preserves, and provolone are some of my favorites. Throw on a few marinated vegetables such as roasted red peppers, olives, heart of palm, capers and artichoke hearts, and call it done! I served this up with sliced sourdough bread, red grape clusters, and a nice chilled bottle of wine.
My friends Angela, Mark, George and I are looking forward to the rest of the Pops concert performances, so stayed tuned to see what next week's menu will be!