How to Master the Simple French Picnic

Bring the essence of the French picnic to any outdoor setting with these simple, yet sophisticated tips and ideas.

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On a blanket in the grass sits a charcuterie board with meat, cheese, and fruit next to a basket with fresh flowers and bread. A camera sits next to the basket.

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Ah, the French picnic—images of sitting by the Seine, nibbling on delicious morsels, and sipping refreshing drinks come to mind. But you don’t need to fly to Paris to recreate this chic experience. With a few simple tips and a dash of creativity, you can create the essence of a French picnic wherever you are.

Setting the Scene

First things first, creating the right ambiance is key. 

You don’t need much—a comfortable blanket, preferably in a cheerful yet sophisticated pattern, will do the trick. If you want to add a touch of elegance, a lightweight folding table or wooden board can serve as a makeshift table, literally and figuratively elevating your picnic setup.

Check these out: 

A basket with flowers, baguettes, and a bottle of wine sits on top of a blanket in the grass. There is also a charcuterie board with cheese, grapes, and plastic cups, as well as an open picnic basket in the background.

The Menu: Simple, Elegant, and Oh So French

The beauty of a French picnic lies in its simplicity and the quality of its ingredients. Here’s how to curate your menu:

Pick a Cheese

No French picnic is complete without cheese. Select a variety of textures and flavors. A creamy Brie, a sharp Comté, and a tangy chèvre (goat cheese) offer a good range. Pair them with a fresh baguette or some crisp, high-quality crackers.

Add in charcuterie meats

Traditional French charcuterie meats (such as jambon de Bayonne and pates) can be challenging to find in the U.S., but any quality cured meat—such as prosciutto, salami, or mortadella—will do here.

Balance it with something fresh

Balance the richness with some freshness. Think seasonal fruits (grapes, berries, or slices of pear), a simple salad like a tomato and mozzarella caprese, or a green salad dressed in olive oil and vinegar.

Sweet finale

For dessert, keep it light with madeleines, a small tarte aux fruits (fruit tart), or even some luxurious dark chocolate to share.

Elegant Sips

A bottle of chilled rosé, sparkling water with lemon, or lemonade is perfect for drinks. Trader Joe’s and some grocery stores sell sparkling waters and fruit juices packaged elegantly in glass bottles, which would make a perfect addition to your French-inspired picnic.

A blanket on the ground is spread flat with a charcuterie board full of fruit, meat, cheese, and bread as well as a glass of bubbly liquid. An open picnic basket sits in the background.

Packing Essentials

Keep it cool

Use ice packs or a stylish insulated cooler to keep your cheeses, meats, and drinks at the perfect temperature.

Check this out:

  • This picnic basket meets an insulated cooler—this basket is so cute and comes in several designs, but I’m always partial to the blue and white stripes.

eco-friendly utensils

To reduce waste and add an eco-chic vibe to your picnic, opt for reusable or biodegradable cutlery, plates, and glasses.

Check these out:

  • These reusable travel utensils are so cute, and I love that everyone gets their set.
  • These bamboo appetizer plates are the perfect size for your French picnic.
  • Unbreakable stainless steel wine glasses are stylish and functional—plus, even if you’re just drinking water, it feels so much more sophisticated in a wine glass. They come in stemmed and stemless versions.
  • Or, this picnic wine tote is perfect for protecting your bottle, plus it comes with a set of glasses and a few other picnic accessories.

Don’t forget the necessities

A cutting board, a knife for the cheese and charcuterie, and a corkscrew for the wine are must-haves.

Extra Touches

Bring along some cloth napkins, a bouquet of wildflowers in a jar for that je ne sais quoi, and perhaps a French playlist to set the mood.

A woman lounges on a blanket in the grass with a journal in front of her. On the blanket there is also a charcuterie board of grapes, cheese, prosciutto, bread, and crackers; a camera; a basket with fresh flowers and baguettes; a bowl of strawberries; and some peaches.

Enjoying the Moment

The final ingredient of your French picnic is the company and the ambiance. Whether with friends, family, or a special someone, the joy of a French picnic comes from savoring the moment and the simple pleasures of life. Play some games, enjoy good conversation, and maybe even lie back to watch the clouds go by.

Remember, the essence of a French picnic is not in the extravagance but in the simplicity and joy of sharing good food and good times. So, pack your basket, find a sunny spot, and let the magic of a leisurely afternoon unfold. Bon appétit!

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