The benefits of outdoor dining
It’s hard for me to choose my all-time favourite spot in Nice, there are so many that I like to visit when I’m in need of some fresh air or to clear my head, from a stroll on the cobbled streets or the pebbled beaches to a browse through one of the many cluttered antique shops, there’s no shortage of possibilities. And yet, sometimes the best places you can enjoy are those close to home. I adore the JAN Garden on-site at Restaurant JAN, and it’s the perfect spot to enjoy some fresh air, a brief break from the chaos, and more often than not, a delicious lunch.
Dining outdoors or “al fresco”, loosely translated to “in the cool air” in Italian, has plenty of benefits. Not only is it an easy way to add some romance to a meal, mother nature provides its own ambience and great views so you don’t need to worry as much about decor and table dressing. That aside, there are a few noteworthy health benefits linked to outdoor dining.
Soak up the sun
Between spending hours at work, commuting, or tending to life’s never ending stream of errands and chores, it’s scary how easy it is to spend a few days without seeing the sun at all, especially during the cold winter months. Making yourself enjoy a sunny lunch outside is not only great for your mental health, there are some physical benefits too. When we expose our skin to sunlight, it kickstarts our vitamin D production, which in turn can naturally boost our mood and immune systems.
It’s no surprise that studies have proven that spending time outdoors lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. Outdoor dining, along with keeping your heart healthy, can also decrease the levels of stress hormones in your body and ease your muscle tension. Fresh air is also linked to better mental clarity and increased energy levels.
Capitalising on natural beauty
As much as I love an elaborate table setting, sometimes it’s great to go the simplistic route and draw from your surroundings to give your dining experience a special ambience. Using the right outdoor venue for a special occasion like a birthday lunch, kitchen tea or even a wedding can relieve some of the pressure and cost of dressing up your tables and ensure it’s a memorable experience for all.
An elevated sensory experience
No one can really provide a conclusive answer for why food tastes better dining al fresco, but most people will agree it provides an elevated sensory experience. It’s likely related to the fact that you’re less distracted by work and other stress, you’re enjoying a feeling of nostalgia, or that the fresh air has improved your sense of taste. That’s right, there is a link between fresh air and an improved sense of smell and taste thanks to a reduction of congestion and better ventilation reducing carbon dioxide levels in our bodies, which can make us more tired and dull our senses if we’re stuck inside too long. Whatever it is, things just taste better in the fresh air.
Some great meal ideas for outdoor dining include tasty finger snacks, platters, salads and home-made pâtés, and of course, the perfect glass of wine to top it all off.
TAKE YOUR AL FRESCO DINING UP ANOTHER NOTCH WITH THE RIGHT WINE
Since the colder winter months have arrived in South Africa I find myself leaning more toward a rich red wine for my outdoor dining. De Grendel’s Rubaiyat is a deep ruby red in colour, with floral nuances of fynbos giving way to luscious aromas of blackcurrant and black plum. This is underpinned by distinctively complex notes of cedar wood, mocha and dried herbs. Delectable flavours of blackberry and mulberry are rounded off by velvety tannins and savoury spice. You don’t have to stick to outdoor dining exclusively though, it’s perfect for comforting winter meals like rich roasts, rosemary lamb, medium rare Chateaubriand, Boeuf Bourguignon and Beef Wellington.