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What goes in your picnic basket?

This is just one of those questions I am interested in hearing various people's varying answers on. What are the one or two food items that absolutely must be included in any picnic meal?

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  1. Absolute musts : 2 tasty cheese selections with snackable accoutremonts, typically a brie and a guyere and Sangria to festively wash it and whatever else down. I wish it was warm enough to go on a picnic right now!!!

    1. Good Bread! An absolute must. Say, crusty on the outside, the proper chew on the inside, like a perfect French baguette. If you have good bread in your pic-i-nic basket, you can get away with murder on the rest. The rest can be as simple ( meat and cheese) or as toney (lobster salad in home-made mayonaisse) as you wish. You still need the Good Bread. Lousy styrofoam-y supermarket squishy stuff just doesn't cut the mustard, let alone deserve being spread with it.

      Bread. Build from there.


      1. Model 1. Musubi, teriyaki chicken, Japanese style quick pickled vegetables

        Model 2. Good bread, cheese, German sausages

        Model 3. Sticky rice, laab, dried meat, Lao sausage, lots of greens

        Model 4. Different great sandwiches, pickles, potato salad

        All with appropriate wines

        1. The "main" stuff depends but we always have our picnic basket stocked(and ready to go) with the following-
          Salt and pepper
          Packets of Dukes mayo, Dijon mustard and spicy mustard
          Sharp knife and small cutting board
          A couple of garbage bags
          Cutlery, plates, plastic wine glasses, and napkins
          A tablecloth
          A couple of spreaders and some small tongs

          When we get home we wash up and restock.

          1. my favorite picnic treat is probably cold salmon, brined and smoked, with herbed cream cheese and melba toasts.

            1. Beef

              and a bag of charcoal in the trunk

              2 Replies
              1. re: swsidejim

                Now there's a minimilast approach! Sounds delicious.

                1. re: Catskillgirl

                  I need these items, anything else is just a condiment for me.


              2. I can't remember if I've ever taken fried chicken on a picnic, but some of the things I do remember are:
                Terrines, both meat and veggie
                Pasta salad
                Lots of artisan breads
                Steaks and an hibachi
                Good wine
                Good cheese
                Great big mufletta type sandwiches with even more deli cuts in them
                And then there were the scuba/sailing picnics where we just took a salad, a loaf of crusty bread, a bottle of white wine, an hibachi (just in case) and ate whatever was brought up from the sea.
                And let's not leave out the occasional hotdog or brat, with potato salad, kraut, mustard and a nice German wine.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1

                  I second the motion that wine is an absolute must at a picnic, unless of course you are a teetotaler. Chenin Blanc (Vouvray) is perfect, although Pinot Grigio will work as well. Both will go great with just about all picnic foods. If you prefer a red wine, I would suggest a light and fruity blend, or a shiraz, but then shiraz is probably my favorite red varietal and I like it with almost anything.

                  1. re: Thefoodczar

                    Don't laugh, but my very favorite red picnic wine (unless we're doing steak on the hibachi) is...
                    You ready for this?

                    Hey, can you imagine Lambrusco and Pop Rocks for dessert? '-) Seriously, it really is one of my favorite reds, and it's great on picnics.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      A picnic is never complete without good cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit cup.

                2. A CORKSCREW!! It's always a real bummer when you get to the park and can't open that damn bottle of wine!

                  I'm also a sucker for a great fried chicken, cole slaw picnic. Can't beat that!

                  1. 1) Good bread
                    2) Good booze hidden in soda bottles so the cops don't ticket me

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JungMann

                      JungMann, I lift my 7-Up bottle of gin and tonic to you!

                      It's really sad that we cannot have an urbane picnic, along with an adult beverage, in most parks. Very unlike Europe. I hate being a scofflaw (or maybe secretly love it...hmmm...), but until the collective "we" remove heads-from-butts, this is going to happen.

                      Most of us having urbane picnics are not the ones gang-tagging on park buildings, no?


                    2. Beginning to think I am on a gourmet site here. Everything sounds so good in that picnic basket, but me, being a country girl, LOVE LOVE LOVE my fried chicken, potatoe salad, and the biggest plate of homemade pastries ever. Lemonade is a must too, but don't forget the flavorings that go in it! But I sure wont turn down anyone elses offer for a picnic. Me & BooBoo will be there.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: thecountryrose

                        I love fried chicken, but it's one of the things I hate most at picnics. It always ends up soggy and unpleasant. Any tips on how to keep it warm and crisp?

                        1. re: JungMann

                          Don't try to keep it warm. Cold fried chicken is best for picnics.

                          My favorite picnic is simple family fare: meat-n-cheese sandwiches on white bread, veggies with ranch dip, potato chips, cookies, and soda/gatorade.

                          1. re: Aimi

                            I don't keep it warm either. I love it at room temp or cold. I have never had any problems with sogginess either. When I fry chicken, I dont use a milk or egg bath, just roll it in flour and drakes mix with some emeril essances in it. it even stays crispy when you nuke it to.

                            1. re: thecountryrose

                              "emeril essences"? Not sure I want to go there.

                      2. I've done everything from cheese, crackers and wine to fried chicken, potato salad and chocolate cake. It all depends on the who, what and where factors. My favorite picnic, though, is cold soba noodle salad with a peanut and soy dressing, szechuan green beans and Tsingtao beer. Yep, I know I'm mixing my cuisines here, but they taste good together.

                        1. One of my favorite items is pan bagnat: a really good French baguette split sideways, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with really great olive oil, thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, capers, red onion, salt and pepper, wrapped and squished flat. And a couple of fresh figs for fruit, then a caramel au fleur de sel tart for dessert. Really great for a bike ride out to the rapids...

                          And of course, kalbi (korean marinated short ribs) done on charcoal in a little hibachi and korean side dishes, kimbab (korean style maki-sushi). Takes me right back to my childhood.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: moh

                            OHH the Pan Bagnat sounds wonderful- my mouth is watering-I know what is going in my next picnic basket. Thanks for sharing:)

                            1. re: poached

                              The great thing about Pan Bagnat is that you can stick whatever you want in it. Some people put thin slices of cheese, roasted pepper, pesto, tuna, whatever tastes good! Be generous with the olive oil on the cut surface of the bread. Wrap in plastic wrap and put something heavy on it like a big book for about 1 hour. Cut into slices and enjoy!

                              1. re: moh

                                I am partial to moh's descrition, since I love the salade Nicoise in a pan bagnat. I'll add this: making the pan bagnat with a boule type bread is wonderful, and confines the sloppy ingredients more effectively. (Dig out a bit of the boule if necessary, to make room for the salade Nicoise.) Any mess after serving, is...well, on us. Most of the liquid is absorbed delicously.

                                Can't wait for a picnic!

                                1. re: cayjohan

                                  DIgging out the boule is a great idea! I'll have to try that on my next sandwich. Great idea! And finally the weather is improving for a picnic, perfect timing...

                          2. Never did picnics as a kid. As a young newlywed in Mexico, outdoor eating was a regular weekend activity. On May 1, (labor day) we would slaughter a pig in the early morning, and have carnitas cooked in a big pot on the woodfire for dinner. OMG, and water straight from the well! mmm mmm

                            Anyway, since I can't get a pig into a picnic basket, I would pack my old standby- tortas on crusty bolillo's with ham, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, and avocado. And a Modelo Especial to wash them down!

                            However, it's hard to fit a pig in picnic basket, so I would do the alternative

                            1. I almost never picnic, but while in Madrid my host family packed a basket full of:
                              - perfect crusty, chewy bread
                              - tortilla (the Spanish potato omelet, not the flour wrap)
                              - several bottles of Rioja
                              - tomatoes on the vine, from the garden
                              - slices of aged manchego and serrano ham
                              - a small container of juicy olives

                              And off to the Retiro park we went. What a great memory!

                              1. a stuffed cob loaf.

                                Gets all the goodies in one easy to eat package.

                                And wine.

                                1. Our usual picnic is very simple: we go to the Ferry Building or another specialty food market, and pick up a loaf of artisanal bread (or sometimes some good crackers), a couple of varieties of cheese (farmhouse sharp cheddar and Point Reyes blue are favorites, plus whatever else catches our eye), some fresh fruits (apples, pears, peaches, cherries, whatever is in season), and sometimes we buy a red bell pepper to eat with the cheese. Then a nice bottle of wine - usually this would be red wine, since we don't bring a cooler but just our bike bags. My husband's Swiss Army knife has a perfect cheese/fruit/veg blade plus a corkscrew, so we're set. We take along a few plastic cups for the wine, which we wash and reuse, but otherwise our set up is finger food only.

                                  1. Picnic baskets bring back very fond childhood memories. Every Saturday in the summer, Mom would pack our wooden large basket with homemade cole slaw, potato salad, cucumber salad (very Hungarian), sliced tomatoes, good crusty artisanal bread/rolls, homemade brownies, fruit salad and other treats. There was a time that I was upset she wouldn't just buy us hot dogs and hamburgers, as we went to a large amusement park. When you are a kid, you don't want to be different, but as an adult I cherish the amount of work and special care that went into making our favorite treats. And yes, all of the friends we brought with us came in large part for the food as well!

                                    1. meatloaf sandwiches on soft rye bread
                                      cold Yukon gold taters with oil & vinegar
                                      cold beer

                                      1. My favorite so far is a roasted veggie sandwich with Ricotta that I got from Dave Lieberman on the food network. Wonderful at room temperature with whatever fruit is in season and a nice bottle of wine. Can't wait until Opera in the Park season starts!

                                        1. Fried chicken is a must! Served cold with hot sauce. Potato salad and/or coleslaw. Crusty rolls with butter. Crudites are a nice touch, but not necessary. Dessert - apple pie or crisp, no need for ice cream. If the site has access to BBQ pits, ribs are a great addition.

                                          1. What a great thread. I can never decide what to take to a picnic, and it usually ends up as a sandwich each and some crisps or something. I'm gonna make an effort to try some of your ideas :)

                                            1. cheese(s)
                                              good bread
                                              better wine
                                              cured meats
                                              hickory smoked almonds
                                              dark chocolate / sea salt caramels

                                              i cannot wait for picnic weather