...a picnic’s success increases exponentially with the amount of advance attention it’s given. Think of this as a little art direction for one of life’s truly cinematic opportunities. With that in mind, I turned to chef Jody Williams of Buvette, a restaurant in New York City. Williams has shown herself to be someone who understands not just the enormous pleasure that can be derived from great food but also the role a meal’s ancillary elements can play.
That alone makes Williams a logical source for some picnic guidance, though as it turns out, she’s planning a summer picnic program for the restaurant—one that will provide guests with a personalized arrangement of simple yet indulgent foods, the various tools needed to make their outing a success, and even vintage bicycles for those feeling ambitious. Of course, for many of us, part of the fun of a picnic is assembling the different components ourselves, so Williams has also generously offered the following tips as well as a few of her favorite recipes.
A successful picnic is in large part about aesthetics, but aesthetics married to functionality (remember, you have to carry all this stuff). To pull off this delicate balancing act, it’s critical to start with the right basket, as it will set the tone for the entire outing and largely dictate what, and how much, you bring. Williams has an array of vintage baskets that she’s sourced at flea markets...Almost as important as the basket is the right blanket. Williams plans to send guests off with one of the selections from her growing collection of impressive horse blankets.
One of the biggest challenges in putting together a picnic comes during the packing stage... For Williams, the solution is to think of the basket as a bento box... she suggests packing elements together, like putting the butter and cheese alongside the bread or wrapping a hard-boiled egg in the same brown paper as its herb-salt accompaniment. Each package becomes its own little surprise, which makes the meal all the more special.
As important as all of the above may be, it won’t mean anything if there isn’t plenty of great food. For Williams, the key is to keep the food simple but indulgent, and to choose items that travel well—for example, brown bread, dried smoked fish, and fresh fruit. As with any meal, one can go as elaborate as a cold chicken with homemade aioli or as basic as slices of French bread rubbed with anchovies and tomatoes. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re eating from, the meal should have a rustic quality. After all, keeping things down to earth offers its own kind of romance.
BUVETTE’S LEMONICE by Chef Jody Williams
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups superfine sugar
Lemon slices or mint
Stir sugar into lemon juice until dissolved. Taste for sweetness and adjust as needed.
Conserve syrup in refrigerator until needed.
In a 12 oz glass, pour equal parts lemon syrup and sparkling water over ice. Stir in 3 splashes of bitters to finish.
Garnish with lemon slices or mint.
By Brad Goldfarb