Spring, Perfect Time to Pack a Picnic

Hoping that warmer temps are here to stay, I ran through my list of favorite outdoor things to do when Spring arrives. One at the top of my list is to pack a picnic, meet some friends and spend the day surrounded by flowering trees, listening to the woods or meadow come to life and breathing in the green energy that is Spring.

Paddle, Bike or Hike

A car parked at a picnic spot

Sometimes we pair a picnic with a hike at Mount Tom or a leisurely walk in Look Park, depending on the day and our mood. Some friends I know will spend a day paddling on the Connecticut or Deerfield rivers and then find a secluded beach to pull off for their picnic.

Here in the Valley, you can set off with a picnic on bicycles rented from Valley Bike Share kiosks and travel to a scenic corner of the region by eco-friendly bike. There are hilltop sites like Poet’s Seat and Mount Pollux and sites to sit along a river in Turners Falls and Shelburne Falls. For an outstanding view, climb up Mount Sugarloaf or Mount Holyoke at Skinner State Park and enjoy your picnic feast at the top.

People enjoying a picnic under a big tree

Pack a Picnic of Local Food

What to pack in a picnic? We’re fans of local food.  Order take out from a favorite restaurant, pick up sandwiches and sodas, craft cider or beer at a local deli, or order one of our Local Picnic Baskets and we’ll deliver it wherever you choose in the Valley.  Like to cook?  Fill your picnic basket with portable fare like  Pan Bagnat, panini or chicken salad along with some favorite treats- local cheeses, fruits and chocolate.

Here’s a recipe for my favorite picnic sandwich, Pan Bagnat which means “bathed bread” in French because the ingredients are marinated within the bread of the sandwich. Don’t forget the napkins.

Pan Bagnat

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
sea salt and ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme or basil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 cup pitted Nicoise olives
1 bunch arugula
2 cucumbers, sliced lengthwise into ribbons with a peeler
5 radishes, thinly sliced
1 loaf rustic bread
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
8 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, rinsed
6 olive oil-packed or salt-packed anchovies, rinsed

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper and whisk to blend.
Combine the onion, tomatoes, olives, arugula, cucumbers, and radishes in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Add thyme or basil, chopped.
Split the whole loaf of bread lengthwise. Rip out some of the bread from middle of the top and bottom halves (to better fit the sandwich filling). Arrange half of the vegetables on the bottom half of the bread. Layer on the eggs, tuna, anchovies, and the remaining vegetables. Pour half of the dressing (left in the bowl that held the vegetables) over the sandwich filling. Pour the remaining dressing over the cut side of the top half of the loaf, and then place the top half over the filling to close the sandwich.
Wrap the whole thing snugly in plastic wrap, place it in the refrigerator, and weigh it down with a cast-iron pan or other heavy-bottomed pan. Refrigerate the sandwich for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Cut in wedges and serve. (recipe: Tartine Bakery)

local picnic on table tomato cheese fruit