Four Steps to a Picnic Perfect

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In French, the word is pique-nique — "pique" meaning pick and "nique," small things. Unlike us Yanks, the French pick up small things in style, effortlessly making even a picnic something magnifique.

Paul Heitz, owner of Amour Wine Bistro, once organized an illegal pique-nique under the Eiffel Tower for a surprise birthday celebration for a friend (and yes, he talked to the police first) and more recently threw an Independence Day (and perfectly legal) picnic in Chimborazo Park overlooking the fireworks at Rocketts Landing.

He's full of ideas for making a picnic unforgettable:

1. First of all, treat your guest as if you have them at your house, so the chairs and table have to comfortable.

2. The table needs to be dressed with a tablecloth, flowers and candles. It's so much better to use real silverware, plates and glasses for water, wine, beer and (of course) sparkling beverages. Don't forget the music.

3. Food depends on the season, but I always think of classic dishes prepared to be easily transported. In summer, refreshing foods, lots of fruits, vegetables and salads with tart, cold refreshing drinks. In spring and fall, aim for a mix of hot and cold dishes, with savory and sweet pies, cakes and tarts. I like to prepare the food fresh, the morning of or the evening before. The bread or baguette needs to be from that morning, the salads made just an hour before. You can finish it at the table. 

4. A good pique-nique is all about preparation, so make a list of what you need to take with you for the table setting — table, chairs, tablecloth, silverware, glasses, china, tools for service, napkins, basket to carry, trash bags — because when everything is ready, you can relax and enjoy, too. Then all you have to do is open good wines and the pique-nique can start.

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