Face it. Dogs and burgers are out. Forget the Spam on Wonderbread. We have entered the age of the gourmet picnic.
Tasty treats teem. Delis and bakeries are gearing up for the spring movable feast with a multitude of picnic ideas ranging from simple to elegant. Many places are open Sundays.Some prefer advance notice to whip up the ultimate in portable potables.
If spring fever whets your apetite for seafood, Bethesda's Wisconsin Avenue Wharf recommends a lobster or crab-salad sandwich ($2.39). If you really want to pig out, the Old World Market next door will collaborate with the Wharf to put together a veritable groaing board of meats, cheese and wine to go with that seafood sandwich.
Pate, according to my epicurean friend Jackie, is the mainstay of any picnic. Try Georgetown's French Market pate maison ($3.50 a pound) or en croute ($5 a pound). Don't forget the tongue salad ($1.95 a pound) or veal antipasto ($3 a pound).Or trek up Wagshall's in Spring Valley for some of their homemade veal pate ($6.79 a pound). The sharp flavor of Cornichon (French pickles) adds a nice touch ($2.29 for a 10-ounce jar).
If the thought of pate appeals to you, but meat doesn't, try the vegetarian lentil pate from Georgetwn's Gate Soup Kitchen. A carry-out order comes with raw veggie garnishes, house dressing and crackers. Not bad for $2.35.
A fastidious colleague, when not picnicking formally at Wolf Trap, nibbles daintily the eight styles of liverwurst ($3.25 a pound) from the German Deli downtown. They vary in texture and seasoning - including farmer's style, soft, fine and spiced with onions and black pepper. Or try the calves' liverwurst - coarse and laced with marjoram. Mrs. Fehr, the owner, recommends the landjager ($3.95 a pound) the German version of pepperoni - only milder. It's non-perishable and a pound yields six or seven little sausages. Sate your sweet tooth on a piece of honey almond cake (85 cents for a generous slice). Forget the calories and grab a box of imported German cookies ($1.25 to 1.50).
A nice alternative to liverwurst is teh Gracious Grain sandwiches ($1.30 to $1.35) delivered fresh Monday through Saturday to Adams Morgan's Fields of Plenty and Stone Soup. A cooked grain patty with herbs, onions, carrots and spices, garnished with tomato slice, alfalfa sprouts and tahini dresssing on whole wheat bread.
Lazy? Or just hurried? Try one of the prepackaged box lunches available. The Capitol Hill Wine and Cheese offers 10 varieties ranging from a $2.99 lunch - Finnish Lappi cheese, liverwurst and choice of red, white or rose California wine in a half-split bottle (about 6 oz.). Or try the top of the line - choice of pate maison or champagne, and half-split bottle of domestic champagne, for $4.99. French bread, after-dinner mint and choice of cookie or fresh fruit included in each lunch. Georgetown's American Cafe offers three set menus from $3.95 to $5.95 - in a box with handle, plastic ware, napkin and handiwipe. Adams Morgan's Avignon Frores offers three meals for $6.35 to $7.15. A picnic basket is extra.
Saturday shopping? Bloomingdale's delicacies department beckons you to come and concoct your own fantasy picnic. If the decision proves difficult, they recommend a simple picnic for two - Havarti and Brie cheese, Greek and French potato salad, French bread, Black Forest ham, smoked turkey, Evian water and a quarter of a pound of Godiva chocolates, all for $10.For $3 more, it comes in a burlap sack with the international picnic logo on it.
Go all out and create an international feast. Pick up some hummus ($3.25 a pint) or babaghanouj ($3.50 a pint) from the Dupont Circle's Iron Gate Inn. Add some fresh Greek olives ($1.45 a pound) from Hellas Greek Imports as long as you're in the area. Don't forget the cans of stuffed grape leaves ($1.15 to $1.25) or feta cheese (Greek, $2.95 a pound; Bulgarian, $3.20 a pound). Want to eat the grape leaves an naturel ? Apollo Greek Foods of Falls Church offers them in three sizes (small 99 cents, medium $1.49; large $5.50 about a hundred leaves).
Try some meat and fish-stuffed dumplings or dim sung (70 cents to $1.50 a piece) from the Viet Nam Center in Arlington. Add an English-style pork pie ($1) or beef pie (69 cents) from the Loch Lomond Bakery in Hyattsville. Don't forget their ritual Friday offering of sausage rolls (69 cents). If you have room, try one or all of the five kinds of rice cake ($1.50 a pound) offered at Silver Spring's Korean Korner.
Now you have the perfect meal. All you need is a nice basket. Naturally the selection is wide. It's still early in the picnic season, and many places don't have their new line of baskets yet.
If you're venturesome, try an imported African, Oriental or Haitian basket from one of the many import stores.
Traditional-minded? There's nothing like a good old-fashioned wicker basket. Lord & Taylor's Chevy Chase store will deck out a country informal ensemble (about $85) starting with a wicker hamper, Katja runner (a mini-tablecloth), two lapkins (oversized napkins), lacquered napkin rings, cheeseboard, bread knife, four teardrop wine glasses, brass corkscrew and complimentary bottle of California wine.
For something more hotsy-totsy, try the Lord & Taylor formal picnic basket (about $150). The same wicker hamper holds a Belgian linen tablecloth and napkins with lace trim, silverplated napkin rings and wine basket, two Waterford or Orefores signed crystal goblets with matching candleholders, sterling silver bud vase with silk rose, and bottle of domestic champagne. Candles and food are not included.
Budget-minded? Try a wicker picnic hamoer with plastic service for eight from W. Bell & Co. Can opener, paring knife, salt and pepper shakers included ($29). Or mail-order a cake and pie basket made of woven white ash from L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine ($9.25 postage prepaid).
Camalier & Buckley offers a traditional plastic-lined British wicker basket with leather straps and handle ($120). Contents include plastic dinner and flatware for six, three food containers, shot flask, salt and pepper shakers.
The French do it differently. Try a wire weave basket ($11.95) from the Design Store. A matching wine basket holds one bottle ($15.95). If one is not enough, take a Japanese open-weave wicker basket with two bottle holders ($20) from Dupont Circle's Nicely Nicely.