Picnic at the Hollywood Bowl

Bowl-PhotoI'm not the outdoorsy type. Picnics with uninvited guests, like ants, are not my idea of a good time. Sitting on the hard ground or wet grass is never much fun. So, my favorite place for a picnic is a box at The Hollywood Bowl on a warm summer night, with a meal that is perfectly prepared by my wife, Peggy.

When we arrive, the first thing we do is set the table. No sheet on the ground for us. A box at the Bowl comes with tables and chairs, so we spread linens that have been cut to table size and then lay the plates and silver. Flowers appear in small vases and the wine glasses sparkle. (Sadly, the Bowl stopped allowing candles, which was the perfect finishing touch.)

Once the table is set, the food starts to appear. Bread and cheese and cured meats or my favorite, Peggy's chilled heirloom tomato gazpacho soup, generally start. From there it might be roast chicken or cold sliced steak or grilled shrimp with mint and feta orzo. Desserts are home made or brought from our favorite bakery, Valerie Confections. And throughout it all there is the wine - crisp bubbly Prosecco, then unoaked Chardonnay, and maybe an Italian red and a sweet sparkling one for dessert. Truly the perfect picnic in the perfect setting.

But, still, it doesn't end there, because when we have a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl, even after the food is gone, the night is really just beginning as the concert is about to start – leaving a bit more time to savor the warm summer breeze and, of course, what's left of the wine.

Peggy's Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
(with a nod to Suzanne Goin)

Serves 4

2 1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (We prefer the variety that is red on the bottom and yellow on the top--Old German)
2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and cut in half
4 sprigs cilantro, plus 8 cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds then cool in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. Remove the cores and skins, then chop the tomatoes coarsely, saving all the juice. Reserve the ice water.

2. You will need to make the soup in 2 batches. Place half of each of the first seven ingredients (tomatoes with their juice, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro sprigs, garlic, vinegar and olive oil) in a blender with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Process at the lowest speed until broken down then turn the speed up to high, and purèe until the soup is completely smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a little of the reserved ice water.

3. Repeat with the rest of the soup ingredients. Combine with the first batch of soup.

4. Strain the soup and taste for seasoning.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 or more hours. It should be served very cold.

6. Pour the gazpacho into 4 soup bowls, garnish with cherry tomatoes and cilantro leaves.


Bob Wyman practices entertainment law as a partner in the firm of Wyman & Isaacs, LLP, but spends much of his time eating and drinking in L.A.