P icnics provide an awesome combination of spontaneous fun, sophistication, relaxation, and food. But planning one to impress your sweetheart can be a weighty effort.

You don’t want to poison her with warm chicken salad, and you don’t want to cozy up atop an ant nest. How do you keep the vibe casual, look totally competent and inspire some nookie? This week, I’ve got a picnic planning suggestions for snack shopping and set-up locations that’ll lift the weight off your shoulders. Don’t forget to pack a blanket so your efforts impress and you earn a second date.

Shopping

The key to food that’s worth packing: it’s delicious, it won’t make a mess and it won’t turn into bacteria bombs (or piles of dust) in pack while you’re en route. The first approach to this is to load up on hearty ingredients that combine to form a rustic, Med-inspired meal on the spot — bread, chunks of cheese, olives, salami and a maybe fruit or a pastry for dessert.

Skip the trip to Safeway and opt instead for a higher-class grocer where you’ll find quality produce, a selection of sturdy and flavorful meats and cheeses and gourmet add-ons like local chocolate or gourmet sodas. Try Ideal Market (1275 Alpine Ave.; wholefoodsmarket.com); it’s easy to stay focused in the small store and it’s right across the street from Breadworks Bakery (2644 Broadway St.; breadworks.net) where you can score an olive-infused loaf of bread and — if they have it — a slice of to-die-for oatmeal cake.

The second approach to packing food is to bring along packaged, shelf-stable stuff. I don’t mean you can go to the 7-11 and grab a bag of Doritos and some Ding Dongs. Class it up with a trip to Cost Plus World Market (1685 28th St.; worldmarket.com) where you can pick from their wide assortment on imported goodies.

Load up on European cookies, funky Chinese sweets, and savory staples like paté or pickled asparagus. Grab a few standard crowd-pleasing foods, get a little adventurous with one or two selections, and grab a fun plate or set of cloth napkins to set the stage for your alfresco meal.

Picnic spots

Boulder’s bursting with picnic-worthy spots — there’s a spot on the hillside above NIST, secluded settees along the creek path, expansive parks around every corner. But a well-chosen location will elevate your picnic above a casual encounter. These two suggestions will make your event an adventure:

Head up Mapleton, through Gold Hill, and turn left down the skinny dirt road that leads to the Mt. Alto Picnic Area (Country Rd. 93; fs.usda.gov). You can drive the whole way, so it’s a good place to escape at night to glimpse the jaw-dropping city and star-gazing views from the tables on the open hilltop.

If you’re up for a short hike, try the overlook at the easternmost point of the loop trail at Betasso Preserve (337 Betasso Rd.; co.boulder.co.us ). It’s a 15-minute drive from downtown to the parking lot, then turn right down the doubletrack. It’s less than half a mile to a bench and open knoll overlooking downtown. Bring a flashlight or headlamp, the moon doesn’t rise this weekend until well after 2 a.m., so you’ll be totally in the dark without one.

Kristy Holland writes about dating once a week for the Colorado Daily. Tell her about your date-night ideas at boulderdatenight@gmail.com.

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