Even though the summer has technically been in full swing for a while, cold weather and rainy days in Paris have suppressed the always anticipated picnic season. Fortunately, temperatures are creeping up high into the 70s F (wow!), teasing locals back out to the banks of the Seine and to parks with promises of wine and cheese al fresco.
With some time to kill before sunny picnics again become status quo, why not reflect a bit on how to fill your picnic basket? Skip the costly foie gras and pricey pre-made salads, and get hands on with a trip to the local boucher-charcuterie, or butcher. Stock up on some cold cuts à la française, the perfect picnic partners for a few baguettes, a few slabs of cheese, and some summer apricots and strawberries (you know, for you vegetarian friends).
Here are some suggestions for which meats to pick up for the perfect Paris picnic:
For those who love tuna and chicken salad, nothing could be better on some fresh French bread. But the idea of sitting outside all day with mayonnaise-laden meat soaking up the sun is not as perfect – in fact it’s not an option. Instead, order up some rillettes at the butcher; pork, chicken, or goose meat shredded and cooked in its own fat. It’s best to keep it refrigerated, but it won’t get gross when/if temperatures start climbing – if it lasts that long.
A portion of 100 grams, enough for two or three small sandwiches, should cost just a few euros.
Cold cuts aren’t a specialty in France, though some sliced meats are easily attainable. The dried sausage – saucisson sec – is one of the most prevalent, gracing counters of butcher and cheese shops across Paris. Try the many varieties including those with spices, notes, or even Roquefort cheese infused with the dried meat.
Have it sliced thinly and you won’t need to worry about taking off the skin, but if you decide to buy a whole sausage, consider peeling off the wrapping first before eating.
Sure it’s an Iberian specialty, but the French love a mild chorizo, akin to pepperoni, and every charcuterie will serve it up in thin slices. Rolled and layered atop a good hearty baguette, chorizo adds just enough spice to your picnic’s palate.
The chorizo’s less picante cousin, the rosette sausage from Lyon is another great option. Like chorizo, this pork sausage is best sliced thinly and eaten alone or on a sandwich. By ordering just a few pieces of these meats at the butcher, you can end up paying less than at the local grocery store even though the prices per kilogram might seem hefty.
Jambon de pays
A famous French variety of which is called Jambon de Bayonne, country hams are a great solution to those wanting to garnish a picnic with some lunchmeat-like protein. Thinly sliced, they are ideal for sandwiches or alongside some light goat cheeses and summer fruit.
Don’t leave the ham in the sun for too long though, as they can get slightly greasy when heated. Have the butcher slice you up as many pieces as you’d like and prepare to spend some pocket change for this French cousin of Prosciutto.
Your favorite meats?
What other carnivorous favorites top your picnic shopping lists? Tell us in our comments section.
Also in our guide: If you’re heading to Paris and still searching for an affordable hotel, be sure to stop by our Paris guide, where our editors have visited, inspected and reviewed their favorite budget hotels in Paris.