Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Let’s Pack a Picnic

By the Gastronomes


/pik nik/ noun – an outing or occasion that involves taking a packed meal to be eaten outdoors

While the restrictions on dining out in our favorite eateries are being lifted on a continual basis as the COVID numbers decrease, we believe there are still a fair number of people out there that will be avoiding any semblance of being closer than 6 feet to another person for a few more weeks/months to come. With the desire to remain distanced and the full onset of summer, what better time is there to go on a picnic?

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like going on a picnic and over the years we have discovered that there are more versions than the traditional version of taking the blanket, the basket and the cooler and finding a nice grassy spot or a table in the park. I believe a good portion of you readers have stepped outside of the traditional picnic box as well.

We are lovers of Virginia wine country and the water and both places are fabulous settings for enjoying an al fresco repast.  After you find your perfect spot at one of the many wineries in our region, all you need with your wine and a nice blanket is a good loaf of crusty bread, some great cheese and some grapes. And conversely, all you need on the water besides a canoe, kayak or tube, is a small floating (most of them do float but be sure to tie them to your vessel of choice) cooler with some ice cold beer, a couple of really good sandwiches and maybe some chips. Either of these situations can be as simple as this or as extravagant as you want to get. The options are endless. It all depends on the mood.

While doing some research for this column, I found a piece on the interwebs that highlighted what they called “unique” picnic ideas – Night, Water, Urban, Winter and Beach. I personally don’t feel that the water and beach concepts are that “unique” but I do like the idea of the night, urban and winter ideas. Here are my takes on those:

Night – I know most all of us grill in our backyards in the evenings and eating outside at home is kind of like a picnic but the key here is to pack your meal and take it somewhere else. This is actually a great idea for Date Night or impressing a new acquaintance. Think about it, it’s cooler in the evenings, the stars come out and this time of year the fireflies abound….just be sure to take some candles or short tiki torches and the bug spray (not so romantic but smart).

Urban – Living in the city can pose some challenges and the suggestions in the article were: “Rooftops, balconies, and waterfronts are favorite destinations. Empty parking lots and the tops of parking garages are also cool spots to grab a bite and relax.” I’m not so sure about the parking lots and tops of parking garage’s but the balcony and waterfronts are attractive options. I guess you could say that those of you who frequent the waterfront here in Old Town Alexandria with your eats ever so often can be considered Urban Picnickers!

Winter – My first reaction was….who hasn’t picnicked in the winter? Anyone who has ever been snow skiing or participated in a winter sport has grabbed a bite out in the cold, however, upon closer scrutiny I see that the idea is to pack up your hot buttered rum and mulled wine and some hearty eats and head out to a special place you have probably already scouted-preferably somewhere you can start a bonfire. Common sense says to wear the correct attire and take some extra blankets – no bug spray needed for this outing.

No matter what mode of picnic you decide to embark on, taking food and beverage that you love is key. While your first option may be to make the fillings for your basket at home, why not consider ordering from one of the many eateries in our area and let them do the prep for you. Just stop by and pick it up on your way to your destination.

Check out the fine restaurants featured in bold in the Dining Guide in this issue for some great suggestions.

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