When I started making plans for a trip to Paris, one of the first things on my Paris Bucket List was a French style picnic in the park. I pictured a real French baguette, salty prosciutto and soppressata, creamy cheeses and of course sweet and colorful macarons all while sipping a bottle of Rosé on the banks of the Seine under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
While some of the details turned out differently, it still is one of my favorite memories from my trip to Paris. Read on to hear all the details, and find out how you can create a French Style picnic at home with your friends.
Arrival in Paris on a Foggy Summer Morning
Ruby, Jen and I landed in Paris on a foggy August morning after an 8-hour flight, ready to explore. We dropped our bags at the little third floor Airbnb apartment and immediately headed out to the city center to pick up our metro passes.
We had to run because the phone tracking our steps and giving directions was almost dead, so we raced past beautiful old apartments and friendly cafes with hardly a second look. Afterward, with metro passes in hand, we braved the dark underground trains back to our little apartment.
Before we could fall into bed; however, we needed food, so to the small grocery store down the street we went. Walking into the cheese section was like a dream – I immediately saw my French picnic becoming a reality amongst the Brie, Camembert and French butter. The store smelled like freshly baked baguettes and good wine, and I couldn’t believe I was here. Paris.
We pored over the cured meat section, and studied the yogurt options, tried to decipher French wine labels, and found fresh apricots in the fruit section. I skirted any products I saw in the US, determined to not let so much as a Lays chip cross my lips this side of the ocean. Carrying our brown paper bags back up the busy street, we only had one more stop to make.
Stepping into the little Boulangerie was like finally doing something I had dreamed about for years. The tiny, little shop was hot and smelled divinely like bread and pastries. In the showcase, there were chocolate croissants, plain croissants (Is there such a thing as a plain croissant? I think not!) pear tarts, and artisan bread. And then I saw them, those famed French baguettes, sitting on end row by row in a tall wooden rack behind the shopkeeper. The crisp crusts were perfectly slashed, and baked to a golden brown.
I pointed toward the baguettes hoping that language would not be necessary for this exchange. He smiled, turned around and picked one up and then said something else with a question in his voice. I had no clue, but just nodded, he was holding a baguette after all! He sliced the long baguette in half and popped both halves into a little paper sleeve with French writing on it. I managed to hand him the right coins after he typed the number on a calculator for me, and then I walked out with my first French baguette. It felt amazing.
Creating A Delightful French Picnic
Several days into our stay, we decided it was time for The Picnic. By now we had found a small park in the middle of our neighborhood,\ and discovered a little fruit stand across from our regular breakfast cafe. The first time we went in, the shopkeeper just smiled and smiled at our delight over the fruit. I asked him what a strange fruit was, and he said it was a date, then told me to try one. I did, and he must have seen my mouth pucker up because he laughed and picked out a ripe one for me. It was the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted.
So that morning I pulled the Brie and French butter from our little apartment refrigerator, found a wooden cutting board and packed it carefully in the Market Tote along with a bottle of Rosé` and some empty yogurt containers for wine glasses. At the fruit stand, we chose fresh figs and green plums, and little bunches of sweet grapes.
The Boulangerie across the street had so many choices, but we finally settled on a pear tart, macarons and palmier cookies. With everything stowed easily in the Market Tote except the still-warm baguette, I carried that in my arm as we chose a quiet spot in the grass inside the little park. It was cloudy that day, and the weather was beautifully pleasant. The slight breeze held the fragrance of flowers and the laughter of children playing on the swings next to the park.
We spread out the cloth and got out the wooden board for the cheese and fruit. I piled the salami on one end, added a chunk of yellow butter, and laid a bunch of grapes beside the sharp cheese. We cut the fresh figs in half along with the brightly colored plums, and arranged them on one end of the board. The pastel macarons looked delightful in their little,white, paper sleeve from the bakery. The baguette needed no embellishment to make it look more delectable. Jen popped the wine cork, Ruby sliced the baguette, and I retrieved the glasses.
The baguette’s perfectly crispy crust enshrouded the soft and still slightly warm inside.The lightly salted, creamy, yellow butter was he perfect thing to slather on warm bread. The sharp cheese and salty, cured meat tangled on our taste buds along with sips of Rosé. The fresh figs and green plums were sweet and tasted like sunshine.
Ruby popped a macaron in her mouth first, just because she could. We laughed at the young man who talked to her in the park the day we first found it. He told her we obviously knew how to live in Paris like real Parisians. Ruby said he was drunk, and we told her she said that about any man who talked to her. Jen made us all giggle with her giggle, and we poured more wine.
We sat cross legged in the grass around the tablecloth, just three friends enjoying a moment with cheese and bread in Paris, France.
Step 1: The Perfect Recipe for Your French-Style Picnic
★ One to two types of meat, such as prosciutto, salami and/or soppressata. Any salty dry-cured meat is perfect. These are all easy for me to find at my local grocery store.
★ Hard cheese, such as cheddar, and a soft cheese such as Brie or Camembert. I like a dry Parmesan or a mild Havarti as well.
★ Something fruity, such as Jam is fantastic with cheese, butter, and bread. Fresh fruit is always great if you have it!
★ Butter. I can’t stress this one enough. If possible, treat yourself to a European style butter such as Kerrygold. You deserve it:)
★ Bread! A chewy baguette is, of course, amazing, but your favorite bread or crackers will carry the butter and cheese perfectly. Since I don’t live in France, I sometimes buy the Take and Bake baguettes at my grocery store, all you do is put them straight on the rack in a hot oven and pull out fresh bread 18 minutes later.
★ Something sweet, like a little pastry or cookie. Fruit tarts or colorful macarons from your bakery or kitchen are such fun.
★ A fun drink, such as iced tea, wine or sparkling fruit juice finishes off your picnic perfectly.
★ A cloth, a wooden board, and basket or our leather Market Tote to carry your picnic to the perfect spot with your friends.
Step 2: Savor the Preparation
Enjoy the preparation as much as the eating!
Imagine yourself in Paris, stopping by the bakery for a baguette and a few macarons. Close your eyes before you slice the cheese, and picture someone making it, starting with milk and cream. Spoon out the butter, and imagine the thick, rich cream being churned, paddled in cold water, and sprinkled with a flaky salt. Pick up a macaron and see the smooth surface, the sweet filling, and the perfect round shape that someone created with such care.Being mindful and completely present in everything we do heightens our enjoyment of life, and reduces stress levels.Click To Tweet
Slide a sharp knife into the crusty bread and imagine a jolly little baker in a toasty kitchen slapping out the dough and rolling it into perfect logs, then slashing it and popping it into a hot oven. Being mindful and completely present in everything we do heightens our enjoyment of life, and reduces stress levels.
Step 3: Take your Time
April MacCarthy writes this at NaturalBlaze.com: “Study after study shows that when you slow down and chew your food thoughtfully you eat less. But it also gives you the chance to be social and chat more, and the French have mastered this aspect within their dining experience.”
Practice eating more slowly, and savor your food. Eating is a daily pleasure, and a time to slow down, to be social and to enjoy good flavors.
So eat slowly, sip often, and laugh as much as you can. Let the talk flow between the cheese and bread, pass the macarons between every course, and always put just a bit more butter on your baguette.
Watch this video to see how to put the ingredients of a French picnic together in under 15 minutes!