Picnic Fancy is a blog about eating food outside with friends. You don’t have to be fancy (though, it’s fine if you are). By “fancy,” we mean that your ready response to the question “Fancy a picnic?” is always: “When, where, and what can I bring?” And sometimes—or, if you’re like us, all the time—you like to get fancy with your picnics. However you like to picnic, welcome. We’re glad you came.
We are Heather and Joel Topcik. native Midwesterners (Heather is from suburban Minneapolis and Joel is from suburban Detroit) who have lived in New York City since 1996. Our love of picnics grew out of necessity: like many New Yorkers who live in modest apartments with no backyard, we have learned to be resourceful with the advantages we do have: Central Park, Riverside, and other NYC green spaces. Coney Island, Rockaway, and other Atlantic beaches. Community gardens! State parks! Storm King!
“Do what you love,” they say, and Picnic Fancy is about everything we love to do: thinking about things we want to eat and drink, planning and plotting out meals and thematic menus, prepping and schlepping everything to a pretty spot on the grass, arranging it all into an elaborate spread, and inviting everyone we know.
We’ve been doing it since 2012, when we fired off a mass email calling for a picnic in Central Park, flash-mob style. Meet under the big tree in Sheep Meadow. No need to RSVP. Just come—or don’t. Bring something to share—or don’t. If everyone comes and the Man wants to see our permit, we’ll tell him we’re just a bunch of free-radical picnickers who happen to be sitting close by one another. You got nothin on us.
At first, on that mild and golden July evening—after we’d laid out the summer rolls, cold sesame noodles, and grilled chicken cabbage salad for our pan-Asian menu—we weren’t sure anyone would come. But then Bill and his daughter showed up. Jenny G. was close behind. Pretty soon it was a proper picnic. Even the fireflies came.
We took lots of pictures. Maybe we went a little overboard on the food styling. The next week, we sent out a recap of our pop-up picnic, complete with photos, the menu, and a heads up on the theme for the next one: French!
We’ve upped our picnic game considerably since then, with even more ambitious themes (Scandinavian Midsommar? Skål! Jewish deli and appetizing? Eh.), more collaborators, new locations and new gear for hauling and setting up and minimizing waste. And we’ve put it all together here to be a chronicle of our personal picnic fancy, a source of ideas and inspiration for anyone looking for recipes and picnic menus, reviews of picnic products, or ridiculous rundowns on picnic strategy and planning.
Heather + Joel