It’s true what they say, a bit of sun and Parisians flock to la terrasse as soon as it warms up – it’s picnic season! Sometimes I think it’s just an excuse to get out there and bronzer, but really a pique-nique is a great way to get big groups together to catch up, especially because little Parisian apartments make indoor gatherings a bit difficult for most.
There’s also a great sense of casualness about a pique-nique. It’s a bit of a potluck feel.
Everyone brings what they want and then it’s all about sharing the food and nibbling as the sun slowly slides across the sky.
My pique-nique favorites
Normally, I head to a couple of different shops to pick up things for a pique-nique. You want a little bit of this and that for variety, and things that are easy to eat. I’ll stop by the open market in the morning and pick up some fresh fruit and radishes. I also get some cheese, hard or semi-hard, because the soft cheese will start to ooze a bit too quickly in the sun and get a little messy for a picnic. I’ll keep my eye out for one of the stands that have everything that’s great for an apéritif, like olives, marinated sweet garlic cloves and mushrooms.
Then it’s off to the charcuterie, to pick up some saucisson, thick dried cured sausage that is so tasty and finger-friendly. I ask them to slice it too, so it’s all set to stick in my basket. A couple of different pâtés are nice as well. For little containers of rillettes, another popular French spread, head to Comtesse du Barry.
Now don’t forget a bottle of chilled rosé and some baguettes! When you’re at the wine shop, to get a head start, ask for the bottle fraîche, or chilled.
Packing the Pique-nique
In my picnic basket I throw:
- A blanket, scarf, or towel to sit on
- Cheese knives, and a couple of forks and spoons
- Wine bottle opener
- Plates and napkins
- Wine bottle cooler – I use an ice pack that wraps and Velcro around the bottle
- Trash bag
Learn more about pastry chef Molly Wilkinson in her post for INSPIRELLE or check out her favorite ice cream picks in Paris.
Classic French Carrot Salad Recipe
If I have a little time, I’ll whip up a classic French carrot salad. The carrot salad is very simple to make and so classically French that you often see it at market stands, in little épiceries, and at pre-prepared food stores.
You’ll need a botte or a bunch of carrots (about 6 large), parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Wash, peel, and grate the carrots. Chop about a handful of parsley and add that to the bowl. In a small bowl, eyeball about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, and an equal amount of lemon juice. Add a small spoonful of mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper, and then whisk everything together. Pour it over the carrots to taste. I’ll usually add about half to the carrots, give it a toss, taste, and then add more if needed.
Where to pique-nique in and around Paris
There are several spots in Paris that are great for a picnic. Any of the larger parks like the Champs de Mars, Bois de Vincennes, Buttes Chaumont, Luxembourg, Tuileries, Monceau or Georges-Brassens gardens welcome picnickers. Sometimes there are areas where you cannot sit as they are waiting for the grass to grow back. Just keep an eye out for a little sign that indicates this. Or why not settle yourself and your picnic basket somewhere along the Seine River? To get a breath of country air, head to the châteaux nearby, like Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Sceaux or Versailles. And for something a bit out of the ordinary, rent a small boat and cruise along the Canal de l’Ourcq.