When the sun is shining and the nights start to lose their chill my thoughts instantly turn to picnics. I simply adore picnics and tend to spend the winter months eagerly awaiting the first picnic of spring.
I’m hopeful that this weekend might just be the time. We’re off to the Yarra Valley (to banish any lingering post-holiday blues) and I’ve tentatively pencilled in a picnic for Saturday lunch. The current weather forecast would seem to indicate that I’m being overly optimistic, but there is still time for this to change.
(It should be noted that two years ago, in Paris, I decided that one particular Thursday evening was the start of the picnic season and so off we went to the Buttes Chaumont, where we enjoyed twenty minutes of just-warm enough weather before the chill really set in and we had to take refuge in a nearby café).
The Yarra is a region that lends itself very well to the art of picnicking. Wineries, dairies and gourmet produce stores abound and the natural area offers so many great spots to choose from.
I’m also planning future picnics in my head for November and December, some to take place on the bustling St Kilda foreshore; others nestled in the tranquillity of the Botanic Gardens. I’ve started my shopping list, filling my mental picnic basket with pungent cheese, delicious fresh dips, a variety of more-ish stuffed olives (filled with everything from blue cheese to garlic to prosciutto), thinly sliced smoked meats and of course, some crusty bread to tie it all together – delicious!
But there’s no need to stick to a particular formula when shopping for a picnic, my general rule of thumb is, if it can be transported, it’s picnic food. So let your imagination run wild. Salads (caesar, pasta, greek) work well, as do sandwiches, fruit and quiches. And why not make it an afternoon tea picnic, complete with homemade goodies, or delicious pastries from your favourite bakery.
My love of picnics is so great that even when I have dinner plans I sometimes like to sneak in an aperitif picnic beforehand. The ingredients for this are simple: a bottle of wine (chilled rosé works well) and a small snack. Saucisson and mixed nuts go down a treat for everyday ease, whilst champagne and foie gras work make any picnic a special occasion.
What’s in your picnic basket?