How about a picnic? These days, you don't even have to prepare it yourself. Here are some recently reviewed markets that serve up picnic fare, all packed to go.
The Beverly Restaurant and Market (342 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (213) 274-4271). Crusty homemade breads share the counter with some of the best chicken you'll ever have: chili-rubbed, lemon-suffused, rosemary and garlic-stuffed--take your pick ($6.95 each). Big thick golden slabs of corn bread, rife with red peppers, chiles and onions taste great, too. Meat loaf is another winner; it is covered with a thin glaze of zesty barbecue sauce and tastes of very fresh ground meat. There is also a nice double-decker (spinach and golden squash) vegetable pate . For dessert choose from the good assortment of cookies and thin-slivered streusel apple tarts--super fresh and super tasty. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. MasterCard, Visa, American Express. Street parking.
The Joy of Saks (1627 Montana Ave., in the Ashford Market, Santa Monica, (213) 451-0557). Watching your weight? Chef-owner Ed Saks, formerly chef at the Pritikin Center, focuses on simple and, for the most part, fat-free food. Calories, percentages of fat, and milligrams of cholesterol and sodium are listed on little placards waving from the containers in the case. Cajun chicken is grilled without fat in a cast-iron skillet; boned chicken breasts ($9.95 a pound) are made skinless yet are remarkably juicy. Thai garlic chicken and tarragon chicken are also very good. Among the pasta salads (mostly around $8 a pound but as much as $14.50), there's always something glossed with an excellent pesto and another with a pleasing oil-less tomato sauce. And there are always several crunchy straight-forward vegetable salads--corn salad with lemons is particularly nice. For dessert ($1 per portion) there's generally a moist poppyseed banana bread pudding and a scrumptious (even though it's made from wheat flour) fudge brownie. Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Cash and checks only. Street parking.
L.A. Eats (1009 W. Washington Blvd., Venice, (213) 396-5914). If you live in the neighborhood, L.A. Eats is the kind of place you can have an ongoing friendship with. You'll find decent, honest comestibles at a modest price to eat in or take out. The thick turkey-black bean burrito, packed with cilantro and scallions ($3.50), is terrific; enormous home-cured Sicilian olives are wonderful, too. And L.A. Eats makes its own rolls and bread: husky, solid loaves of whole-wheat onion, basil and crusty molasses-scented Anadama bread. Mild jambalaya-stuffed peppers ($6.50) make a good lunch, so does the crisp-skinned, juicy roasted chicken ($4.50 a pound). Desserts are homemade. Besides a delightful fresh raspberry-laced pound cake and an assertive espresso mocha cheesecake, there are extraordinary rich blondies and Jack Daniels brownies. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. MasterCard, Visa. Street Parking.
Mrs. Gooch's Natural Deli (239 N. Crescent Dr., Beverly Hills, (213) 274-3360). Mrs. Gooch's food doesn't have any nitrates, nitrites, refined flour, refined sugar, preservatives, additives, artificial colors or flavorings, hydrogenated oils or irradiated food; they even watch the salt. All this and the food still tastes good. There are several chicken salads, each generously filled with hearty chunks of white meat; they run in the $8 to $9 range. Cold baked chicken breasts made with rosemary and lemon ($6.99 a pound) are nice and juicy; poached smoked salmon with green peppercorns, is exquisite, delicate and pricey ($18.95 a pound). Want something sweet? Try one of the good, non-sexist molasses-and-ginger-filled "ginger persons" at 49 cents each. Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. MasterCard and Visa. Parking lot. Also, 826 N. Glendale Ave., Glendale, (818) 240-9350 and 9350 Reseda Blvd., Northridge (818) 701-5122.
Netty's (1700 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 662-8655). Barbed-wire fencing in front of this stand makes Netty's look like your basic bunker. But there's also, just behind the parking lot, a garden of fresh herbs. The chicken salad with red and yellow bell peppers, Chinese pea pods and a sesame seed vinaigrette ($4.50 a half pound) is delicious. Another good bet is one of Netty's he-man sandwiches piled into a massive sesame roll. They are served at lunch time only and run around $4.95. The blackened chicken with honey mustard is a big thick affair slabbed with beefsteak tomatoes; the pizza-like spicy sausage, mozzarella and green pepper sandwich has a nice, crumbly texture and just the right piquancy. Nice pastries too. Tue.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Visa, MasterCard. Parking lot.