A warm spring or summer evening is a splendid excuse to pack up a picnic basket and enjoy the picturesque outdoors. Whether setting up shop at the local beach, laying a blanket out at a neighbourhood park, or enduring a long hike to a final destination, here is a glimpse at the requirements of a perfect picnic, and few recipes that are sure to keep a smile gleaming well after the sun goes down.
Planning ahead is a great place to start. Pick a beautiful spot, and create a checklist to help gather together the essentials – for example, a corkscrew!
The Perfect Picnic Packing List
- A comfortable blanket or quilt – and folding chairs. The ground should be covered, however be careful not to bring that century old semi-precious quilt – spillage easily occurs.
- A cooler and / or plenty of ice packs. There is nothing worse than a lukewarm bottle of white wine on a warm night. Frozen water bottles help to keep things cool, while saving space, and ensuring icy cold hydration!
- A picnic basket or large reusable grocery bag. If picnicking is something of a regular activity, invest in an over-priced wicker basket. That gingham lining makes the investment worthwhile. If not, use a reusable grocery bag. However, stay away from plastic grocery bags – this is just asking for holes and extra garbage.
- Plastic storage container (Tupperware) and plastic baggies. Both will prevent spillage, and keep foods fresh.
- Plates, forks, napkins, cups, cutting board. Use the real stuff here, and save the environment by eliminating Styrofoam! Take care when packing the basket – wrap the stem/glassware in cloth napkins, and stack the plates in a blanket to avoid wasting space, and limiting chips. *Some wicker baskets come with real glassware, specifically designed to fit perfectly.
- Bug spray, or citronella candles – nothing says al fresco dining like a few thousand mosquito bites, but a good way to keep the bugs at bay is with some ambiance and a toasty warm lemon aroma.
- iPod speakers. Nothing says romance like a little background music. Create a playlist specifically for this occasion. Van Morrison, Paul Simon, The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons… nothing more picturesque than the beauty of the sun setting in the background while listening to “man with a guitar”.
- A game of sorts. Ball and glove, Frisbee, or perhaps a competitive game of travel Scrabble?
- Bottle opener, corkscrew. The number one thing typically forgotten, that leads to the feeble and dangerous “bottle in the shoe” attempts at uncorking a wine bottle. Buy one specifically for the picnic basket. Do not remove it.
- Trash bags. Keep the picnic area tidy. Maybe even clean more than the picnic area. Pick up some karma points. This is one of the most important Perfect Picnic requirements.
The Perfect Picnic Menu
Finger-friendly, easy-to-prepare foods are the name of the game. Sandwiches, a charcuterie plate with baguette, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, and a roasted chicken, are some of favourites. Steer clear of mayonnaise-based foods, and opt for an herb pesto instead. Remember that at best eating will occur at just below room temperature, a.k.a bad mayo temperature. Pesto’s are a great alternative – and are arguably healthier as well.
If a charcuterie and cheese plate is the name of the game, choose the cheese based on the weather. It may be a better to pass on the Triple Cream Brie this time, in hopes of eliminating the cheese puddle. Semi-firm, low moisture cheeses are the best choices here – Manchego, Smoked Gouda, or an aged Cheddar are great options.
If a salad is the clear choice – remember pasta salads work better at picnic time. Green salads tend to become soggy if dressed too early, and take up too much space in the picnic basket to wait until the destination.
Wine should always be on a picnic menu. Rose wines are fairly standard solely because they do not require to be overly chilled. They are the perfect balance between red and white. If red if the only type in consideration, go for a lighter body red – perhaps a Pinot Noir. Or if it’s the opposite and opting for white is of high priority, go for a Sauvignon Blanc or a light oak Chardonnay – just remember to pack an extra ice-pack to keep this chilled.
Always have a couple of non-alcoholic options on hand. Fruits juices or sparkling sodas are great beverage options as well. Keep in mind the liquor laws in the picnic area. In retrospect, non-alcoholic beverages may be the only option.
As far as desserts go, this is where a good Chocolatier or Patisserie can work wonders. Splurge a little on the individual cakes and pastries at your neighbourhood sweets shop. They can individually wrap them for you, and even throw a candle in there if this is a celebration!
The right food, location, good weather, things to do, privacy, and peace and quiet, all serve to ensure a great experience on a picnic. Take the time to think these things through before heading out in order to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the Perfect Picnic.
This article was previously published in Bon Vivant, The Sutton Place Hotels In-Room Magazine. It was republished with permission of the author Ally Taylor, local blogger of All in Moderation.