One of the best things about summer in Davis is the weekly picnic-in-the-park. Every Wednesday night, a few hundred people come out to Central Park to pick up farm fresh fruit at the market, listen to a band play, and share dinner and drinks with friends. From March through October, there are pony rides, bouncy houses, a climbing wall, and usually a few games of hack-a-sack (remember that?) going on around the green to entertain kids who will only sit long enough to earn a popsicle (seasonal flavors, of course).
Sometimes we buy our food there (tri-tip, corn dogs, and Indian fare are favorites), sometimes we bring our own. And after a couple of summers of these weekly market nights, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of getting us packed up and swiftly out the door —often on our bikes. My friends and I have often joked about the lengthy process of nailing down exactly the right combination of supplies. There’s a lot of trial and error. Here’s what I’ve discovered I need in order to pull together a picnic any night of the week.
After all, picnics on the fly are, in my opinion, key to summer.
I’ve tried a variety of picnic blanket options over the years and find myself coming back to this surprisingly simple, inexpensive solution: a painter’s canvas drop cloth from the hardware store. It’s large without being bulky, and ours gets tossed in the washing machine regularly and cleans right up. (In fact, it softens with washing, so I’d recommend doing that straight off.) I also appreciate that the neutral tone doesn’t detract from the food—or faces, in photos—and goes with every occasion.
Hard, flat surface
If I’ll be setting it down soon, my preference would lean toward a beautiful wooden picnic basket like the one shown here—its lid works great as a table-top. But whether or not I bring it or a canvas bag, I also tote along a cutting board. Epicurean boards are favorites for picnics (and at home) because they’re thin and easily portable, but they’re still sturdy and attractive.
I love the Opinel trekking folding knife we picked up in Paris a few years back. It seems like the sort of tool one would pull out while sitting under a tree in an orchard, to peel a piece of fruit.
Bota Box. True, they’re a sponsor, but regardless: ever since my trip to Big Sur with the brand, I’ve become a fan—particularly of Bota Minis—for Farmer’s Market nights. I think the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite.
The minis are easy to toss into a bag (I don’t worry about them breaking en route or in the park); they’re lighter to carry than glass; I don’t need to worry about a corkscrew; and if I just want one glass (we’re there as a family), I can re-seal it and toss it back in the bag for later. Each one is the equivalent of three glasses of wine.
Of course we usually share with friends, so it’s rare they come home.
Cheese, Salami, Crackers
We often end up supplementing with some purchased food at the market, but a meal of cheese and salami secco is my favorite kind. Here are some favorite cheeses. And, if interested, here’s a cheat sheet for truly great picnic sandwiches.
Reusable serving pieces
I rarely pack plates, but these enamelware dishes (porcelain fused to steel) are functional and pretty—they’re hard to break. And a set of the tumblers would make great cups because they stack! But I also like these Govino wine glasses (pictured) if I have the space. Our market has someone stationed to help you sort your trash into different bins for composting, recycling, and landfill, and it’s always particularly embarrassing to have to put anything in the landfill bin.
I tend to throw in some dish towels to use as napkins (or to wrap leftovers in). These striped ones shown are from a market in Mexico, but these Tekla dish towels or Schoolhouse Electric Utility Napkins would be similar.
Small bills for Market fare
Right now, there are beautiful cherries and sweet stone fruits at the Davis Market. Sun gold tomatoes are starting to appear as well. There’s no need for serving dishes; just spread out and share.
And of course a backpack with the usual amenities: diapers, wipes, and some milk.
What am I missing? What do you keep at the ready for summer picnics?
This post is sponsored by Bota Box, the nation’s leading eco-friendly wine producer of premium 3-liter varietals. Each package is printed on 90% post-consumer fiber and is 100% recyclable; Bota Boxes create 85% less landfill waste than traditional glass bottles. Bota Box wine stays fresh for 30 days or more after opening, and has received 49 Gold Medals and 21 Best Buy ratings from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Have you tried Bota Box? Which varietal do you like best? Bring one along on your next adventure and tag your instagram #GoAdventure and #GoBota. (I know I’d love to see where you’re having your summer picnics! I’m @AshleyMuirBruhn.)