Thursday 2 July 2015

French Foodie's Top Tips for A Perfect Picnic

When the weather is good in Dublin there's nothing Mr. FFID and I love more than a good picnic, you probably know this already if you follow me on Instagram.  I don't think I've ever planned a picnic more than a few hours ahead but I have some tips to help you make your picnic better than the average combo of egg mayo sandwich and a pack of Tayto.

The Weather: check the forecast
We live in Ireland and it's pretty unpredictable but still the weather app (at least on my iPhone) is quite accurate so you should definitely use it. Make sure that there is no chance of precipitation at all. One day Mr. FFID and I didn't do this, packed everything and the minute we left the house it started raining. We ended up having a picnic in the living room with our cats trying to steal our foie gras.

The location: pick the perfect spot
Avoid the obvious spots such as Stephen's Green or Merrion Square where you have to fight for every inch of grass, chose a large public space. My favourite spots (see you there?) are: along the Canal (I like Percy place), Iveagh Gardens (so romantic), the Phoenix Park (don't feed the deers) and Sandymount Strand.

Be comfy
Do bring a blanket, little cushions or even a large pretty tablecloth to sit on. You'll be more comfortable and less itchy than if you're sitting on grass or sand. Pillows are also great if you fancy a little nap after eating.

Don't forget the sun cream
This is from my experience of being with an Irish man whose skin sizzles in the sun like bacon on a pan. Protect your skin!

Eat and drink like a king
I can't recommend enough that you buy artisan food, it's more expensive but your belly and soul will thank you. Make your picnic a great foodie occasion and spoil yourself:

- artisan breads (to make your own sandwiches or eat with cheese and charcuterie): buy from Le Levain (at Temple Bar market on Saturdays), Avoca suffolk Street (their rustic organic baguette is delicious), Arun Bakery and Tartine Bakery to name a few.
- Irish charcuterie: Gubbeen chorizo and salami, On the Pig's Back pâtés and terrines, Ed Hicks' bacon jam...
- Smoked salmon and trout from Burren smokehouse or Goatsbridge
- Like Darina Allen, bring sweet cucumber pickle (recipe below) to every picnic. I'm addicted to it since I've done the Ballymaloe course. Lovely with fish and also terrines...

Darina Allen's Sweet Cucumber Pickle Recipe
170 g (6 ozs) cucumber, thinly sliced
 55 g (2 ozs) onion, thinly sliced
 55 g (2 ozs) sugar
1 level teaspoon salt
35.5 ml (1¼ fl ozs) white wine vinegar
Combine the sliced cucumber and onion in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over the cucumber and onion.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1 hour.

- Eat Irish farmhouse cheese: I'd take one hard, one washed-rind, one soft and one blue cheese but that's because I love cheese. My favourite Irish cheeses are: Milleens, St Tola ash, Diliskus, Brewer's Gold, Crozier Blue, Coolea, Durrus, Ardsallagh but there are so many you can choose from.
- Bring some crudités: radishes, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks... they're great healthy snacks. Try radishes with rustic bread and butter, French style!
- Bring some delicious salads: I love a good homemade tabbouleh or this beautiful tomato and pomegranate salad and with Ottolenghi you can't go wrong!
- Pick up a bottle of your favourite wine and/or Irish craft beer. 
- Other food items I like to bring: fruit salads, olives, homemade hummus, strawberries, macarons, crisps (Keoghs or O'Donnells), crackers from Sheridans cheesemongers, hard-boiled eggs,...

Don't forget the utensils
Personally I prefer to bring real cutlery and plates, it's more chic. Don't forget the following items: corkscrew/bottle/can opener, cutting board, kitchen paper/towels, plastic bags for rubbish, wipes (to clean your hands), a cooler, a picnic basket or bag, mason jars to store your food (great for salads), sharp knives, serving spoons and plastic containers for your food and leftovers.

Enjoy the weather, the food and the company!
Create a nice spread on the tablecloth/blanket to make your picnic look pretty. Take your time eating and enjoy the scenery around you! Eating is a pleasure and if the sun is shining, it's pure bliss. You're allowed to take a quick picture at the start for Instagram but then you have to put your phone away and enjoy!

Bon appétit!