Picks

Everything You Need for the Perfect Picnic

Six melamine plates
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Melange.

Even with some businesses reopening and COVID restrictions loosening in many states, the safest way to spend time with others is still outside, from a distance. By now you’re surely overly intimate with the inside of your home, and you’ve probably taken more 6-feet- apart walks than you can count. It’s time to venture into the great outdoors to meet up with friends for a park or beach picnic. A few long months of quarantine and limited options for in-person social engagement warrant making it memorable. Wendy Weston, founder of Perfect Picnic NYC, and experts at New York institution Zabar’s gave us their recommendations for fun, must-have picnic items that will allow you to responsibly carve out a slice of summer with your loved ones.

Every picnic begins with a picnic basket. Weston recommends Picnic Time’s Promenade picnic basket. The wicker bottom provides structure to avoid the dreaded in-bag-smush of your food, and the rest is canvas, so it’s lightweight, flexible, and easy to store. An added bonus? The bag comes with two plates, wine glasses, and a set of flatware—a veritable picnic prêt-à-porter.

You also, of course, want to be comfortable, and need something between you and the itchy grass or millions of particles of sand. Weston recommends a king-size blanket. The luxurious size offers plenty of room for your whole family, or enough space for safe distancing if you’re picnicking with someone outside your household. This KingCamp Outdoor Picnic Blanket is extra large but rolls up small, and it boasts a waterproof bottom, a thin foam pad for cushioning, and a fluffy fleece on top.

Food, obviously, makes a picnic, and choosing the best picnic food is an art form unto itself: It needs to be transportable, non-fussy, and delicious regardless of temperature fluctuations. The NYT Cooking section and Food52 have great lists for inspiration. Hummus or green goddess dressing is always a solid place to start with pita chip, carrot, or cucumber dip-ables. Provided you pack it among ice packs, a humble tuna salad with toasted bread is always a winner. Top the whole thing off with a classic, easy-to-transport fudgy brownie.

When it’s time to dine alfresco, Weston recommends eco-friendly, reusable melamine plastic plates “that won’t break and are lightweight.” And they come in fun colors, and different shapes and sizes.

For easy transportation, this six-pack of food containers is stackable, and the tight-fitting lids mean your meal should stay safely contained if jostled around.

It’s time for drinks! Stay hydrated, happy, and prepared for a long day in the sun. Weston suggests hand-held canned drink coolers from Corkcicle to keep all your drinks “super cold.” Revel in the rapid advances of cold drink technology.

If you’re prepping for a very long day in the sun, Weston recommends this Scout cooler bag, which holds up to 24 cans plus ice. It also has a hard, sturdy bottom that provides a stable, flat surface to better help you organize your bag.

Some cities allow drinking outside during COVID, but check your local laws to see what is allowed. If it’s legal, or if you need to carry a few bottles of wine to a friend’s for a backyard gathering, Scott Goldshine, general manager at Zabar’s, recommends the Meori foldable wine tote. It carries two bottles of wine and folds down flat when not being used. It’s sturdy to tote, and you’ll appreciate how nice it is to walk without your wine clanging loudly in a plastic bag by your side.

For a single bottle of wine, Goldshine recommends this Fred and Friends Wine’O insulated bag that looks like a regular paper bag but will keep your wine chilled to perfection.

For some extra bits and bobs to take your picnicking to the next level, check out these fun flourishes. Decorate, celebrate, enjoy!

Waste not, want not. Weston recommends Clean Cubes, collapsible and disposable trash bins that come with trash bags built in: “Keep it clean, tidy and NEVER litter!” These are structured to stay upright so trash won’t be falling out, and they come in cute patterns too.

SPF is a must, but how about a paper parasol for a little shade? Weston recommends this Paper Lantern Store parasol to help you stay cool while adding a bit of flair and glamour to your summer afternoon.

When you’ve got a big picnic haul, make things easier on yourself and break out a wagon. Weston likes the MacSports collapsible wagon, which also comes in an all-terrain version for the beach or when you are picnic off-roading.