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We caught up with Chef Justin Kent, who's known for his catering business “Picnics in Paris,” to learn his tricks for creating a Parisian-inspired picnic.
How do French picnics differ from Canadian picnics?
French picnics are kept simple yet elevated by using high quality, fresh and locally-produced ingredients. Everything from the bread, cheese and produce to the meats and wine or spirits is made in France. You can replicate this in Canada by visiting your local shops and markets before heading out on your picnic to ensure you are packing fresh, high-quality ingredients.
What are your picnic basket essentials?
You want to eat and socialize in comfort, so bring a large picnic blanket with a weatherproof bottom and a large umbrella in case you picnic in a sunny area. Keep food fresh and drinks cold by bringing a cooler with a cold pack or ice in zipper bags in addition to your picnic basket. Food is of course a picnic’s main attraction, so coordinate with friends or family on what to bring so you have a nice variety and no repetition in plates. Don’t forget to pack a cutting board, knives and trash bags for waste.
If you could only pack 5 items in your picnic basket, what would they be?
- Fresh French baguette from my local bakery
- Charcuterie — saucisson sec or local artisanal charcuterie are my favourites
- Cheese trio — soft brie, smoked gouda and blue cheese
- A refreshing cocktail (like Le Grand Fizz) that can be made ahead of time and kept in a jug or carafe
- A crisp summer salad of arugula, shaved fennel, carrots, endive, radish, champagne vinaigrette and goat cheese.
And for dessert?
Fruit-based desserts are great for summer picnics — strawberry pannacotta or a fruit crumble all travel well for picnics. You can choose fruits that grow locally to keep your recipes fresh and seasonal.
Any important factors to consider when planning a Parisian-inspired picnic?
1) Make sure to pack lots of water on a hot summer day to stay hydrated. To elevate your water add lemon or cucumber slices to make it extra refreshing.
2) Choose the perfect time of day. If you are picnicking with family and friends an afternoon in the sun is the perfect setting. If you want to make your picnic a more romantic affair, try setting your picnic basket down an hour or two before sunset.