Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Perfect Picnic

For the last few weeks, skies have been sunny and the humidity close to nil; in other words -- perfect picnic weather. 

Yves Saint Laurent and Marian McEvoy, future editor of Elle Decor, in Marrakesh (1977).  Fondation Pierre Bergé -Yves Saint Laurent/Guy Marineau
Whether you choose to lounge on a bright blanket and eat from colorful, woven baskets, à la YSL or….

Sit at a table dressed with white linen and crystal, à la Downton Abbey, the perfect picnic requires careful planning and preparation. 
Over many years of attending concerts and operas in the park, I’ve gotten the whole picnic thing down to a science.  Here’s my take on the perfect picnic. 
Since I prefer to sit at a table, the first things to get packed are the folding table and lawn chairs. 

Into a lightweight, nylon hamper with zip top I put the following:

Colorful Melamine dinner plates, one for each guest (and a few extra for serving plates);

Silverware next, separated (knives, forks, spoons) into individual small zip lock bags for quick and easy access, and a large, empty zip lock bag in which I’ll throw the soiled utensils at the end of the meal;
Stemmed wine glasses go on top, individually wrapped in a large cloth napkin or tea towel, if you prefer (M-T Note:  I have nothing against plastic glasses, but I find they are too easily overturned.);
The last thing to go in is the tablecloth, because that will be the first thing to go on the table. 

I find the suitcase picnic hamper works best for my utility items.  It’s easy to carry, and the flat top comes in handy as an extra surface.  Into the hamper I put the following:

Serrated knife;
Paring knife;
Cheese knife;
Cork screw;
Citronella candles;
Wash ‘n dry handiwipes;
Plastic salt and pepper shakers;
Saran wrap (for leftovers);
Roll of paper towels (comes in handy for spills and wiping off dirty plates before they get packed away);
Plastic garbage bag with drawstring;
Crusty Baguettes wrapped in paper (cut to fit, if necessary) -- not, strictly speaking, a "utility" item, but definitely a "necessity" item.  A good meal without bread?  Impensable!

Wine and bottled water go into the insulated wine carrier. 

Into the Igloo Playmate with sliding top go the food and condiments, which brings me to the simple, but tasty, menu.
Marinated olives and assorted nuts
Asparagus with tarragon lemon sauce (a separate course in France and always eaten with the fingers)
Cold pork loin with Dijon mustard (the tarragon lemon sauce is delicious on this, too)
Cold pasta salad
Assortment of Cheeses served with red grapes
Fresh fruit (whatever is in season)
The pork should be roasted a day or two ahead of time.  I slice it right before we leave, put it on a serving plate, wrap the whole thing in saran wrap and put it right into the Playmate.  You can use any recipe you like, but I find Marcella Hazan’s roasted pork loin with bay leaves, vinegar and black pepper (The Classic Italian Cookbook) is fabulous served hot or cold. 

Everyone has a favorite pasta salad recipe, but if you don’t have one, give this a try from the Brooklyn Farm Girl. 

Here’s the tarragon lemon sauce recipe for the chilled asparagus.  It’s also delicious over fruits and vegetables in aspic. 
Tarragon Lemon Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade*)
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

(*M-T Note:  I have a “thing” about making my own mayonnaise (See "Memories of Mayonnaise"), but if you don’t have the time or the inclination, here’s an easy way to dress up any mayo from a jar.  Simply whisk in some fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, any fresh spice you like, salt and pepper to taste and then whisk in some good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil until creamy.  Et voilà!  Almost homemade.) 

Intimate Weddings Blog

Don’t forget fresh flowers for the table.   A simple arrangement in a mason jar looks so lovely on a picnic table.  Fill the mason jar with water before you leave, then just unscrew the lid, pop in the posies and you have the perfect centerpiece for your perfect picnic. 
Bon appétit. 


  1. Lovely post that makes me want to pack up and have a picnic! Love that sundress in the first picture too!

    1. You bring the pasta salad, Pamela, and I'll do the rest. The sundress is so cute, isn't it? Unfortunately, it's a few seasons old and out of stock; but, the Halston straw hat is still available, I think.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    You make us read with some nostalgia... When the humidity is low a picnic is lovely!
    Enjoy your summer and hope you can work out such a picnic too.

    1. So glad you enjoyed my perfect picnic. I would love to have you as a guest at one of our pre-concert/opera picnics. What fun we would have!!

      Big hugs, my dear friend,

      Gros bisous, M-T

  3. A perfect picnic!! I like to sit at a table as well. No surprise there:)). I'd love to join you anytime anywhere.
    I love your look:)

    1. I couldn't agree more. Lounging on a picnic blanket looks inviting, but at my age my back doth protest.

      You have an open invitation, Jennifer, to join me anytime anywhere.

      xoxo, M-T

  4. We recently had a picnic before the open air opera at Holland Park. Unfortunately it was a bit chilly and windy and I had to wrap a pashmina round my legs to keep warm. Still the opera was very good "The barber of Saville". Thanks for the lovely comment you left on my "Royal Ascot" post. The hat is gorgeous however I now have a bit of a problem storing it as it is very large.

    1. Ah, yes, "The Barber of Seville" -- my husband's first opera. He was hooked. So sorry the weather put a chill on your pre-opera picnic, but am glad the opera warmed things up a bit.

      I truly loved your "Royal Ascot" post. Fabulous!! As were you in that magnificent hat! But, yes, indeed, they are a bit of a storage problem. My derby hat is sitting at the top of my closet all wrapped up snugly and taking up a great deal of valuable closet space.

      Remember that shoe closet "Sex in the City" Carrie dreamed about? I dream about one for shoes and one just for hats!!

      Cheers, Josephine, M-T

  5. Now I'm getting hungry and ready for lounge on that picnic blanket. This is picture perfect! Love your images and that tarragon lemon sauce is a must. How clever is that wine color for 4 bottles of crisp sauvignon blanc?? ;)
    Thanks for joining our Lifestyle LinkUp today with your stylish inspiration.
    Happy weekend!

    1. The tarragon lemon sauce goes w/lots of dishes. I often spoon it over a fruit and vegetable mold I like to serve as a first course.

      It was my pleasure to join your Lifestyle LinkUp. I love discovering the talented bloggers who are contributing to it.

      Cheers, M-T

  6. Picnic time has ARRIVED!Useful TIPS here................
    Jennifer & Heather sent me!
    So, fun cruising around the BLOG WORLD!

    1. That was my favorite picnic dinner to take to the Cooper River Park near my home when the Metropolitan Opera would come for opera al fresco, and it was FREE. They no longer make the journey to the wilds of New Jersey in summers. Musn't complain, though, I'm an opera fanatic who spends most of her weekends at the Met in New York during the season. But........it's always a long, hot summer in between performances.

      Delighted Jennifer and Heather sent you my way. Stop by again.

      Cheers, M-T

  7. I love a good picnic! I'm over from the linkup and glad to meet you here!

    1. Delighted to meet you via the linkup. I'll be popping over to your blog to get to know you better.

      Cheers, M-T

  8. Great post! This makes me want to get out and have a picnic! Love that you put a pic in there from Downton! xo

    1. Don't you just LOVE anything Downton Abbey? I can't wait until the final season. Have a wonderful picnic!

      Thanks for stopping by,
      xo, M-T


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