Good food, of course, is the most important part of any picnic, but you need a way to carry it to your destination and something to eat it from. Nothing wrong with a sack lunch of course—but it lacks a certain celebratory quality.
For our Hollywood Bowl picnics, here are the items–other than food–that I consider essential:
Acrylic wine glasses
Salt and pepper
Portability is a major consideration. You see these adorable wicker picnic baskets with matching accoutrements—but I have found that they’re not very functional. I have an insulated rolling cooler that I’ve used for six seasons now. It’s getting pretty battered, and I’m starting to keep an eye out for a replacement. There’s quite an array available online. This one, from Keep Your Cooler, looks pretty handy.
Along with portability comes food safety. I have an assortment of freezer gel packs that I use instead of ice. (All Hollywood Bowl attendees know that you will inevitably hear two things at the Bowl: the national anthem at the beginning and, at the end, a heartfelt announcement over the PA system asking people to not empty their ice chests in the aisles.) My favorite is a wrap-around ice cube thingummy purchased at Target a few years ago, but I’ve been eyeing this nice wine bag at the Hollywood Bowl store. Obviously the folks who buy for the Bowl store know a good thing when they see it. They stock a beautiful rolling cooler–but it is $175.
I like to pack most food in ziplock bags, which don’t take up a lot of space—but crushable food should always go in hard containers.
I prefer reusable plates and linens rather than disposable ones, though I fully understand that using these things once and tossing them lightens the load on the way home—but it doesn’t lighten the load at our landfills. Smarty Had a Party has a wide selection of biodegradable disposable napkins and plates, if you’d like to feel virtuous about your trash.
My acrylic wine glasses came from World Market.
I like them a lot—you cannot tell that they’re plastic until you touch them. They are surprisingly clear. The only drawback: I haven’t been able to find acrylic champagne flutes that I like as much, only the old-fashioned thick and chunky ones. Feh. The search continues.
One more thing: coffee for dessert (you know how important dessert is to me!), served in our seats at intermission. We always bring our own. Hazel likes to have her thermos filled with Starbucks decaf on her way in. It’s not that you can’t buy coffee at the Bowl; you can. It’s terrible. Terrible. And you have to stand in line for 20 minutes to get it, thereby adding insult to injury. For some reason Hazel has taken my bargain 99 Cent store paper cups in dislike–yeah, yeah, so they seep a little, big deal; just double them–and recently she announced that she would be bringing good paper cups. Okay, fine. I left the bargain cups at home–and Hazel forgot to bring hers. Fortunately, we discovered that those acrylic wine glasses work just fine for coffee too.
Picnickers need to be prepared, but they should also be flexible.