Picture this: you wake up (perhaps a little late) to the Holy Grail – a sunny weekend, wide open with possibility. Sure, you could go for brunch but this could end up being less than leisurely if you have to fight the masses for a sunny seat in an outdoor terrace. Why not try getting a little creative with your plans… do your best George Michael impression and suggest ‘let’s go outside’ to your partner in crime.
Every deli is ripe with a selection of delicious pre-made portable options because no one has the time or inclination to concern themselves with making a night-before muffaletta-style picnic loaf when it may well rain the next day. If you want to really impress I suggest being the master of your own picnic production with minimal effort – take the assembly route to the perfect picnic.
I’m personally not into the idea of trying to make dishes portable for the sake of eating outside, picnics are best designed along the lines of a good cheese and charcuterie board, making them transport-friendly by nature and entirely crave-worthy. There are no rules, but choosing one or two things from each of the below categories should ensure that a) You have a delicious picnic feast b) It looks like you spent hours curating the perfect spread and c) You’ve earned baskets-full of brownie points.
Pop to Sheridan’s and pick up Delice de Bourgogne i.e. dream cheese. The rind melts in to the interior at room temperature with the center becoming custard-y in texture. It’s the closest relation to butter in the cheese world, with hints of truffle and creamy earthiness. While grapes are of course fantastic paired with such a rich cheese, my top tip is to pick up a punnet of strawberries to accompany. These can double as dessert, dipped in a tub of chocolate spread – drool.
For something with a little more tang and bite, go for Young Buck, a ridiculously good raw milk blue cheese produced in Northern Ireland. This one is perfect popped into your mouth solo or stuffed into a medjool date – simple but effective.
If your cheese selection isn’t complete without something hard, Comte is sturdy, sweet, and nutty with hints of browned butter. You’ll never consider cheddar an option again after this. As this French beauty is from the Jura Mountains, it matches perfectly with wine from the same region and Aldi has a fantastic sparkling Cremant de Jura for just €9.99, which is the perfect picnic tipple in general.
I’m all for embracing game when eating in the wild myself and chinghiale or wild boar salami has an addictive sweetness you just don’t get from traditional cured pork sausage. This is one of those things that you think is too rich to finish only to find it has all but disappeared, so get thee to the Fallon and Byrne charcuterie counter.
Duck breast isn’t your traditional charcuterie feature but Skeaghanore produces a fantastic option which is smoked and already cooked. This is gorgeous cold, sliced thinly and eaten like any other element on the board. Handily, this is available in most Supervalu branches.
A spreadable meaty option is always convenient and On the Pig’s Back venison terrine with raisin and ginger is a vacuum packed tranche of terrine perfectly portable and picnic friendly, as well as being completely scrumptious. Spread this all over whatever vessel you have to hand.
Le Levain artisan French bread made by Rossa Crowley is some of the best around. From walnut sourdough to rye, these loaves beg to be ripped apart by hand and topped with any (or all) of the above treats. Available at Temple Bar Market, Sheridan’s and Terroirs in Donnybrook.
Tartine bakery’s rye sourdough has also gained revered status in Dublin bread lover’s eyes and is the only organic sourdough which meets the exacting standards of Le Pain Quotidien Ireland – even if you aren’t a bread lover, these rustic, hand-shaped loaves will seduce you, guaranteed. Available in the Dublin Food Co-Op.
Bag yourself a cracker with the Fine Cheese Company Toast for Cheese fennel seed flavour, which compliments charcuterie beautifully. Foods of Athenry’s gluten-free cranberry and hazelnut variety is also a winner – salty and sweet and perfect for shoveling all manner of goods into your mouth.
Fresh figs, apple, grapes and dried prunes are natural partners for cheese and charcuterie but consider adding in something sticky for sweetness too. If I could have only one accompaniment for cheese, it would be Aix&Terra black truffle honey, more aptly described as liquid gold from Provence. Their fig mustard certainly passes muster too. For something a little out there, try Hick’s Bacon Jam, trust me – as odd as it sounds it works.
For crunchy sides, try Mr.Filbert’s rosemary roasted almonds, Scrubby’s parsnip crisps with chilli and lime or my personal favourite/Achille’s heel – Torres black truffle potato chips, the king of all fancy crisps. All available in Fallon and Byrne, you will not thank me for introducing you to these addictive bites.
To end your picnic on a sweet note, a quick trip to Cocoa Atelier for a selection of candy-coloured macarons will seal the deal and have your beloved feeling like they need to up their date-planning game to match you. If you happen to be in Ranelagh, Best of Italy’s homemade dulce de leche cookies would almost certainly do the trick.
With a combination of these treasures, your picnic will be a hit wherever you choose to enjoy it. So sit back, relax on the grass, mentally congratulate yourself for pulling off a cracking picnic spread… and look forward to having the favour returned.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!