Celebrate the fine flavors and scenery of fall with our two outdoor menus.
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

With summer's heat gone and winter's chill yet to come, the crisp, cool days of fall offer a welcome opportunity for alfresco dining-whether in your own backyard or on a leaf-peeping hike. Our two menus set the right mood by echoing autumn's vibrant hues and flavors. Golden butternut squash, rosy tomato soup, and russet-toned pumpkin bread reflect the changing colors of the leaves, while sage, walnuts, and apples complement the menu with rich tastes befitting this time of year.

You can prepare most of the dishes well in advance and enjoy them at room temperature-meaning you can savor them at your leisure. However, our Lunch Under the Trees menu works best for a backyard experience, where the food does not have to travel far from home. If you're planning a hike, quick road trip, or picnic, pack up our easily totable Autumn Picnic menu, and enjoy it in a scenic spot along the trail.

Lunch Under the Trees (Serves 4)
Because the pasta salad can't be made too far in advance, this menu is best for a backyard meal.

Antipasto Plate
Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup
Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia with Gruyere
Cavatappi Pasta Salad with Walnut-Sage Pesto
Apple Crumb Croustades

Wine note: With all the savory flavors in this alfresco menu, especially the walnut-sage pesto, this meal needs a wine that isn't shy and has bright herbal flavors of its own. Sauvignon blanc-especially one of the outrageously flavorful examples from New Zealand-hits the mark perfectly. A top choice: Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2004 from Marlborough ($13). -Karen MacNeil

Autumn Picnic (Serves 4) Take the soup in a thermos to ensure it stays warm. Bring extra fig bars-you'll be sorry if you don't.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup
Marinated Chickpeas
Chicken and Ham Sandwich with Artichoke-Tomato Spread
Fig and Cream Cheese Bars