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For Holiday Weekend, Put 'PCC' in 'Picnic'

The co-op's Edmonds outpost offers plentiful choices for the perfect picnic basket.

All year long I had planned to review America’s Diner on Highway 99 in celebration of Independence Day weekend. And then two weeks ago, I learned via Yelp reviews that the place has been shuttered. My Edmonds News confirmed the same report. D’oh!

While the deceased diner’s patriotic theme seemed fitting for the upcoming holiday weekend, the forecast of sunshine for two of three days is a) near-shocking news that some semblance of summertime has arrived, and b) not an inspiration to sit indoors eating all-day breakfast. The tentative promise of warm weather, bright skies and Independence Day merriment points to one thing: picnicking. And is the place to put together a picnic.

Whatever your picnic style may be, PCC has the goods for an excellent lunch or dinner basket. I hit the store hard earlier this week to scope out the options. For those seeking casual picnic classics, several varieties of sandwiches are available from the deli counter or its nearby refrigerated case. Selections include a Cuban-style concoction, pretzel-bread creations,  prosciutto on baguette, even warmed hamburgers snuggled inside foil wrappers. I picked up one of my faves, the Tomato-Avocado Sandwich with Spelt Bread ($7.99/lb – my whole sandwich was $3.20). As usual, the slightly sweet bread was dry to the point of cracking upon touch, but the taste—also as usual—was delicious.

Fried chicken is often considered to be a quintessentially “All-American” food, and in true PCC fashion I found the store offered a healthier version of the standard. By looks, the deli’s Oven-Roasted Chicken Drumsticks ($3.99/lb) fooled me into believing they had been fried. By taste, I was disappointed that the chicken had a mealy, flavorless exterior that I wish I’d skipped.

Much more appealing were my selections from the PCC deli counter’s rainbow of salad offerings. I felt obligated to try the picnic-essential Macaroni Salad ($5.99/lb) and California Potato Salad ($4.99/lb), and they did not disappoint. Mac salad was studded with bits of olive, red bell pepper and celery providing an array of textures and flavors. The well-seasoned potato salad featured large chunks of red potatoes and plenty of parsley for a hit of herbaceous flavor.

Both the macaroni and potato salads were tossed with reduced-fat Vegenaise, a condiment I recently became acquainted with upon Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter cookbook suggesting it as an alternative to Hellman’s/Best Foods mayonnaise. Though I can’t envision a world in which I’d quit entirely my Best Foods mayo, I have to admit that Vegenaise is a pretty darn good substitute. Vegans, egg-sensitive folks, or individuals watching their cholesterol intake can enjoy the familiar creaminess and tang of mayo, sans animal-derived ingredients.

I also sprung for a sample of PCC’s pretty Methow Valley Salad ($7.99/lb), a medley of garden goodness including chopped chard, kale, carrot, cucumber and tomato. Adding intrigue to the olive-oil-dressed salad was a healthy scattering of farro, tender cooked wheat grains resembling small pine nuts.

PCC proved also to be a prime place to put together a lovely wine-and-cheese picnic basket, with plenty of options in the vino and formaggio categories. I went local with my selections and tried a light, pleasing Woodinville White by Envious Winemakers ($14) and a delightful Tieton Farms Fresh Chevre produced in Yakima Valley ($5.40/roughly 3 oz). The chevre was mildly tangy pillow, mellow enough in flavor to win over even those skeptical of more "goaty" cheeses. With a La Brea Bakery demi-baguette ($1.29) and some fruit from PCC’s produce department (organic red seedless grapes or organic strawberries $3.99/lb), my little wine picnic was assembled in minutes.

The bakery department at PCC offered plenty of house-made sweet finishes for the perfect picnic, among them a bevy of moist, delectable cookies ($.99 each) in varieties such as chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, ginger-molasses, and oatmeal. I found deep flavor in the dense Chocolate Chip Brownies ($6.99/lb), a must for the cocoa-obsessed.

Whether your holiday weekend picnicking takes you to one of the local parks or just to your backyard, PCC is the perfect pit stop for loading up your basket with fresh, delicious sunny-weather food.

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