For many of us, the onset of winter is a reminder that we should stay indoors, curl up in front of the TV with a warm cup of tea and not be seen again until sometime in April. But it isn’t as bad as we think. After all, we could be Winnipeg. There are plenty of days where the temperature hovers just under freezing and when the sun shines and the crisp white landscape is actually quite pleasant. It’s the perfect setting for a winter picnic.
When I mention “picnic,” almost automatically one conjures images of picturesque spring days in Buttes-Chaumont with a charming basket full of red wine and pate sandwiches, sitting on a well manicured piece of lawn in front of the lakes and waterfalls in the 19th century Parisian park. There’s no reason why that romantic essence can’t be replicated in winter: sitting on a bench, watching in perfect silence as the snow falls over the landscape in perfect silence, while snuggled under a blanket enjoying a warm drink and a bit of braised pork belly with your loved one.
Here are some ideas on how to make it happen.
WHERE TO GO
Pick a place set back from roads and traffic, secluded by trees or behind a building which blocks the bustle of the city. You can venture into one of the city parks; north Glenmore, Fish Creek, or my personal favourite, the lightly populated Pearce Estates Park, providing a secluded place for a lazy day out in the snow.
If you’re constrained by time pressures, a picnic table tucked away in a corner, a rooftop overlooking the city or a park bench along a secluded spot along the Bow pathway system can be cozy enough to emote the same feeling.
WHAT TO MAKE
Regardless of the time of year, bread, cheese and cured meats are always appropriate. Meats like smoked speck combined with rich cheeses like stilton, chèvre and camembert can provide thick flavours to coat the palette and give the illusion of warmth.
If you feel the need to impress, head over to T&T and grab some cans of butane and a portable hot pot stove. You can braise some pork belly, brisket, or shoulder the day before and then slowly re-heat it while you sit and take in the winter scenery. Rich, fatty foods will definitely help the body feel warm amidst the winter chill.
Winter picnics can truly be made special with the presence of a sweet, hot dessert. A made-from-scratch hot chocolate with steamed milk, a little cream, sugar, some dark chocolate, a little cinnamon and nutmeg and perhaps a little Baileys and Frangelico will score you immediate points. Put it in a thermos and voila, stay warm from beginning to end.
HOW TO PULL IT OFF
Get a decent sized soft cooler. If you’re toting around hot stuff it will help keep the warmth in for longer. An inflatable loveseat is nice to have; it’ll keep you warmer in the long run. Otherwise, opt for a waterproof thermal sheet to sit on and then a few thick blankets to cover up with if you want a more rustic and romantic feel.
Remember to dress warmly. Snow pants are a good idea to help stay dry and warm. If you are bringing a lot of loose items, like a stove and cooler, grab a kid’s sled and load it up. It’ll make things easier, and if there’s a hill nearby, you can pretend that you’re six and relive tumbling down the hill together at breakneck speeds. If there is a fire pit, bring some wood to start a fire, it’ll help keep you warm and add to the ambiance.
Remember, you are only limited by your imagination and preparation. Scouting out the location, preparing the gear and food a day before, and bringing some tools along with you to adapt to the mood and environment can turn it into a memorable experience. Get out and enjoy the winter.