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Life's a picnic at the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival in Paso Robles 

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There are many reasons to love the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival. Men in tights. The feeling of superiority you get when you tell your friends you attended a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play while all your friends are watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure for the 17th time. Balmy Paso Robles summer nights. The sight of a man speaking earnestly to a Cupid statue. Or immersion into Shakespeare’s bizarre, delightful reality in which putting on a mask renders you immediately unrecognizable, even to your beloved.

But really, I come for the picnic. I can’t get over the novelty of being allowed—nay, encouraged!—to bring my own food to an artistic event. And what beats a summer picnic? Not much. Given how precious and rare this opportunity is, it’s essential that you not waste it on a Happy Meal or refrigerator leftovers. Put some thought into your picnic fare, and I contend that the overall experience will improve dramatically.

In case you’re wondering, this is what my boyfriend and I packed for Pay What You Can night at the Shakespeare Festival on July 18: potato salad, noodles, green beans and mushrooms, Kool-Aid, sparkling cider (for a touch of class), and Hostess cupcakes.

You might be thinking those Hostess cupcakes were a spur of the moment decision, but they were carefully and lovingly hand-picked from a wide selection of potential dessert options. If my choices don’t quite tickle your tastebuds here are some other choices:

Pay a visit to Vivant in Paso Robles. I’m not much of a foodie, but I do occasionally indulge in a block of cheese that doesn’t come from a bag labeled “Kraft” and when I do, I like to know that I’m going to enjoy what I’m paying for. Vivant accommodates cheese lovers by allowing you to sample cheeses before making your purchase, enabling you to potentially discover some new type of cheese you never had the courage or opportunity to sample. Vivant is at 840 11th St. in Paso Robles, and you can get more information at 226-5530 or

If you’re not quite sure what to do with your cheese (amateur!), look to Luna Red in San Luis Obispo for inspiration. Their cheese plates pair the cheese of your choice with honey, fruit, walnuts, and artisan bread. Sharing the plate always tests the bonds of affection between the foodies in question, and it’s a pretty simple equation to put together your own version of these cheese plates.

Staff Writer Rhys Heyden opted to bring popcorn, and if you intend to follow his example I recommend SLO Pop (950 Chorro St., SLO). And intern/Cougars & Mustangs writer Chris White-Sanborn brought a hot pocket, which he polished off before we even arrived at the venue.

The second, and final, Central Coast Shakespeare Festival Pay What You Can Night is Thursday, July 25. Get thee to Paso Robles!


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