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Legendary food writer James Beard thought that a picnic should be “a feast for the senses and the emotions as well as for the palate.”
Even if your aim in eating outdoors isn’t quite as lofty — perhaps it’s simply grabbing quick post-work baguette and cheese — a picnic is the perfect way to welcome the warmer temperatures creeping into the Washington area.
Capitol Hill is a picnicker’s dream: From hidden spots on the Capitol grounds to gourmet takeout, the ingredients for a picnic are close by. And whether you’re planning an elaborate outing or a grab-and-go meal, a little bit of preparation can make any Hill picnic a memorable one.
Getting the Goods
• Hill’s Kitchen, 713 D St. SE
For those who want to go pro in picnicking — and we’re sure Beard would approve — a visit to kitchenware store Hill’s Kitchen is in order. There, owner Leah Daniels offers a selection of goods to upgrade your next outdoor meal.
A sturdy, aluminum-framed folding bag (Reisenthel, $40) corrals all the essentials and matches your seersucker in a variety of prints and colors.
Plastic utensils from the deli will seem so pedestrian after you get your hands on the latest in to-go cutlery. There’s an ingenious washable plastic “knork,” a combination knife-fork that Daniels describes as a fork with a “slightly aggressive edge.” The 99-cent find eliminates the need for balancing two utensils, as does a bamboo spork for $2.25.
And it might seem like hyperbole to call SteadySticks ($10.95 for two) the biggest innovation in outdoor dining since the tent, but their ingeniousness makes a serious case for the title. A metal spike with a loop at the top to hold a stemmed glass will end tragic wine spills that can dampen even the merriest outdoor repast.
• Schneider’s of Capitol Hill,
300 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Drinking in public is, of course, frowned upon in certain circles (like among the guys in blue suits with badges and handcuffs). Still, an adult beverage is often the perfect accompaniment to a picnic — in fact, it might even be the only thing on the menu. Schneider’s has a large selection of already-chilled wines and beers, as well as a handy selection of bottle openers and plastic cups, for those who insist on niceties beyond a brown paper bag.
• Bowers Fancy Dairy Products,
225 Seventh St. SE