Remember when picnics meant two soggy P.B. & J.'s in a paper bag and a can of soda pop? Well, outdoor dining has come a long way. Brush up your pique-nique chic by taking a look at Middleburg tailgaters and outdoor concert bon vivants. Stroll through the parks and see what's new in lunchtime picnic gear.
If the whole clan is gathering for a Fourth of July day bash, Woodward & Lothrop has a collection of colorful plastic, scratch-resistant cups, storage jars, bowls and trays that can be easily stacked and stored in any of their large wicker baskets. The grown-ups can keep their Bloody Marys chilly and coffee steaming with an Air Pot, a pressure-powered automatic beverage dispenser that holds 1.9 liters of picnic potion ($36).
Brooks Brothers, 1728 L. St. NW, has just the thing for the posh crowd - a wicker hamper with leather hinges imported "expressly" from England. Stainless steel place settings for four or six, plastic cups, plates and sandwich boxes for $130 and $150. Hardly a steal, so if you like the Brooks Brothers basket but can't stomach the price, Woodward & Lothrop has an adequate copy for $64.
Take a skip down the yellow brick road with a Miss Gulch basket from L. L. Bean, Freeport, Maine. A "sturdy, handwoven hardwood" walnut stain basket, 21 inches by 11 inches, weighing 3 1/2 lbs., is $11.75 postpaid.
Britches, 1241 Wisconsin Ave. NW, has a picnic basket for chili lovers - a wicker hamper filled with 4 wooden goblets, 4 wooden plates, silverware, 2 jars, salt and pepper shakers, a Clyde's table cloth, a bottle of Clyde's wine. Add to this a couple cans of Clyde's chili and for your $110 they get free advertising.
Want to be campy? Sunny's Surplus, 1415 H St. NW, and other locations, sells a five-piece mess kit for $1.99, a one-quart canteen for $3.99 and a chow set knife, fork and spoon for 99 cents. Shiny aluminum divided plates (99 cents) and matching cups (79 cents) are also a good buy.
Garfinkle's has canvas tote for the disorganized: The outside pockets have all the picnic essentials printed in bold red letters.
Get an office mate or a neighbor and sponsor a Tupperware picnic party. You can get all sorts of essential picnic goodies that even seal the bugs out - cannisters, bowls, beverage sets, salt and pepper shakers, cheese and cold cut storers, whole ham holders, and a 9-inch pie taker that will protect the fluffiest meringue.
Bloomingdale's stocks paper napkins printed with ants, butterflies, grasshoppers, bees and "out to munch." Or if paper isn't your style, Walpole's of 1529 Connecticut Ave. NW will be more than happy to show you a collection of fine table cloths and napkins. Walpole's red and white picnic tablecloth is a bargin at $4. Stuff all this into a basket from Pier 1, 7253 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, and other locations, and tiptoe through the tulips.
How could you forget the cork screw? A must is a Swiss Army knife from W. Bell & Co., 19th & L Streets NW, and other locations. It comes with knives, scissors, toothpick, can opener, bottle opener and cork screw.
People's Drug Store on Dupont Circle advertises a packed lunch - the fast food picnic of your dreams in a brown paper bag. Take it over to Dupont Circle park and share it with the pigeons. However, if brown is not your color, Nicely-Nicely, 1710 Connecticut Ave. NW, will sell you a colorful paper bag with the strings.
Since no picnic is complete without them, but an ant farm from The Most Incredible Pet Store, 6260 Branch Ave Camp Springs, and watch the little devils scurry around trapped under glass. Revenge is sweet.