The Pop Up Picnic

We’ve all been there. You want to be the life of the party when your friends are visiting, but your bank account is being a party pooper! Truth is, restaurants are pricey, and sometimes they’re not even worth the splurge. My solution? The Pop-Up Picnic! It’s a restaurant alternative that is personal and cost-effective…not to mention so stinkin’ cute! I’m going to walk you through a step-by-step guide to creating your own outdoor fine dining experience.

STEP ONE: LOCATION

  • The beauty of the Pop-Up Picnic is that you can do it anywhere! For instance, I live by the beach. If I go early and stake out a spot on the sand or on the grassy knolls overlooking the sea, then I’ve got myself some prime real estate. But, if you’re landlocked, go for a drive and look around. Is there a field of wildflowers by the side of the road that you always pass, but have never explored? Is there a patch of shade beneath the tree by your apartment building? A rooftop with a great view? Even a rooftop with a not-so-great view works! All you really need is a sunset to make something drab seem fab. Once you’ve got your spot, it’s time to set up!

STEP TWO: DÉCOR

  • Ambiance is the key to charming your diners. You don’t have to be limited to the typical blanket-on-the-ground approach. Take a look at what you have lying around the house: could you use Grandma’s antique candelabra for lighting? What about those empty wine crates by your recycling bin for seats? Don’t worry about making your set-up look like it came right out of the Anthropologie catalog—there is always something charming about objects where they shouldn’t be. If you’re not a hoarder like me, hit up the local Goodwill or Salvation Army to stock up on cute supplies for cheap. Both places are treasure troves for the Pop-Up Picnic. Scavenge for tableware, embroidered napkins, mismatched chairs, vases of all shapes and sizes, or anything else that may strike your fancy! For my picnics, I’ve got a great folding table I found at Goodwill. I like to toss a pretty tablecloth over it and light some candles. (But you can use electric flickering candles if you don’t want to provoke Smokey the Bear.)

Pop Up Picnic 1

STEP THREE: FOOD

  • You don’t have to be a top chef to create a lovely meal. As a beginner in the kitchen, I have to remind myself not to stress and to just keep it simple. The most important part of a Pop-Up Picnic is the company and conversation. But, if you happen to be a student at Le Cordon Bleu…whipping up a cherry clafoutis wouldn’t hurt anyone.  But remember, breaking the bread doesn’t have to break the bank. On a budget, you can easily make tried and true picnic cuisine: potato salad, chicken cold cuts, lemonade, and fruit salad. You can also spice it up by thinking outside the box: tabbouleh, salted almonds, tomato bruschetta, or figs with blue cheese. For drinks, bring some sparkling peach juice or iced tea. A charming way to transport beverages is in Mason jars. Lastly, the most important picnic element: the picnic basket! You can find beautiful wicker baskets at any thrift store, and, if you’re crafty, personalize your selection with some lace or a monogram.

Where will your next picnic pop up?