Planning The Perfect Picnic (Food Poisoning Not Included)

paris picnic
Trey Ratcliff, Flickr

The solstice may be a few weeks off yet, but let’s not kid ourselves: summer has begun. A favorite warm weather pastime the world over is dining al fresco. I first discovered the joys of the picnic, in particular, when I was 10, and my family spent the summer traveling Europe in a borrowed Westphalia camper van.

From the Swiss Alps to the Yorkshire Dales, we practiced the art of picnicking and the menu was always a regional variation on bread/cured meat/cheese/chocolate (this is also what fueled my obsession with those foods).

Now that I’m an adult (at least, in theory), I still find picnics to be the ultimate form of outdoor indulgence. This summer, whether your travels take you overseas or only as far as your backyard, plan on making a habit of putting together a portable meal. Eating outdoors is a fun, easy, relaxing way to enjoy the season, especially if you follow these food-safety tips:

  • Make your menu tempting at room temperature. Fried chicken may be a Southern picnic staple, but it’s also a case of food poisoning waiting to happen if it’s not consumed within two hours of preparation (click here for the USDA’s microbiological explanation). Also, two words: soggy coating. Instead, serve sandwiches and grain-, pasta-, or roasted vegetable-based salads.
  • Keep it cool. Line an ice chest with ice packs, and then stash perishables, or if you’re hiking, fill and freeze the bladder from a hydropack. If something needs to be served at “room temperature,” use the ambient air temp to gauge when you should remove it from the cooler. Got some great cheese and it’s 100 degrees out? Five or ten minutes will do the trick.
  • retro picnicepiclectic, Flickr
  • Good hygiene begins at home, but don’t forget to pack some anti-bacterial gel for pre- and post-meal cleanup.
  • Keep it compact, green and clean. A bottle of wine is the ideal companion for a picnic, but broken glass definitely doesn’t make for a good garnish. Use a neoprene wine bag to keep your bottle chilled and protected (if temps are soaring; even red wine needs a cool-down). Use designed-for-outdoor-use stackable cups. For plates and cutlery, forgo the paper-waste and invest in either outdoor dining dishware or biodegradable bamboo products, which are widely available. If you have access to a compost bin (or some chickens), save all non-meat and dairy food scraps in a Tupperware. Leave your picnic spot cleaner than you found it.
  • Keep food fresh and pest-free by covering it with a lid, clean dishtowel or mesh dome (you can frequently find vintage versions of the latter at flea markets and antique shops).

Souvenir Of The Week: Snake Wine In Vietnam

Reportedly, it tastes like envelope glue. And there might be a gecko or lizard floating around, like a hair in the soup du jour. But who cares? You’re not actually going to swirl and sip the snake wine you bring back from this Southeast Asian nation. You’re going to casually set it on the table at your next dinner party and freak everyone out and give them yet another reason to use a camera phone at mealtime. Bottles of rice wine with a preserved reptile coiled inside (scorpions are another variation) are popular souvenirs from Vietnam, where the dissolved poison is said to be used for medicinal purposes, and they make fantastic conversation pieces - if you can get them through Customs. Bottles are subject to U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibitions on importing certain reptiles.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Niko si]

Love French Wine? You’ll Love the French Wine Metro Map

There’s something about the design of subway maps, and not just for plotting metro lines across cities.

For those looking to master French wine regions, look no further. Combining the simplicity of the Paris metro map and the complexity of France’s numerous wine regions, De Long Wine has made a map that makes all of the French wine regions seem as close as a short metro ride.

Of course, if you want to visit all of them, you’ll have to do a little more planning than that, but it’s a fun way of learning about where all of the French wines come from. And that there’s more to le vin français than just Bordeaux.

Frame the 18×24 print, hang it on your wall and start planning your next French wine adventure.

[Via: The Paris Kitchen]

Photo Of The Day: Wine Tasting

Photo of the day - wine tasting
What makes you enter an unfamiliar shop in a new city? An inviting window display? A big crowd (or lack thereof)? How about a funny sign like this Brooklyn shop, which advertises, “delicious free booze poured by a crazy French guy”? They had me at “delicious” and “free” wine; the French guy is just icing on the cake. It helps that the store looks cozy and friendly; the sign helps to show off their personality.

Share your favorite travel signs for the Photo of the Day by adding to the Gadling Flickr pool or tagging us on Instagram.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mike GL]

FOOD & WINE Classic In Aspen Tickets On Sale Now, Discount Before March 15

aspenSeems like just yesterday Gadling was announcing the 30th anniversary of the prestigious FOOD & WINE Classic at Aspen, and already the next is almost upon us. Have you scheduled your annual cholesterol screening yet?

This year, from June 14-16, Food & Wine magazine will celebrate 31 years of incredible food and drink in one of the most glorious locations in the Rockies. Join the nation’s top chefs including José Andrés, Jacques Pépin and Marcus Samuelsson, as well as internationally renowned winemakers, master sommeliers, brewmasters, mixologists and food crafters at the most legendary culinary event in the nation.

The three-day weekend also features over 80 cooking demos, wine and interactive seminars, panel discussions, tasting events and classes on food and wine pairing, as well as twice-daily Grand Tastings featuring over 300 winemakers, craft brewers, distillers and specialty food vendors.

New this year are “DIY Sausage” from offal king Chris Cosentino; a “‘Top Chef’ Leftover Challenge” with Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons; “Next Superstar Value Wine” by wine expert Mark Oldman; “Great Cocktail Party Drinks” with über-mixologist Jim Meehan and F & W editor Kate Krader, and “Dim Sum at Home,” with Andrew Zimmern.

Tickets for the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen are $1,150 before March 15, and $1,250 thereafter. There will be also be a la carte ticketed events, including the Last Bite Late Night Dessert Party; additional details will be released in March. To get your tickets (hurry, hurry; it’s always a sell-out), click here.

[Photo credit: Food & Wine magazine]