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Five reasons to let Picnix curate your Stanley Park picnic

Picnix Al Fresco – To Go has rolled into Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

Welbert Choi

Name
Picnix Al Fresco – To Go
Location
1725 Davie St., Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
Phone
778 889-7706
Website
picnix.ca
Price
wagons, $40 a person; hand-held pickup baskets (coming in July), $25 a person
Rating System
casualDining
Additional Info
Available daily for lunch and dinner, weather permitting. Three-hour rentals. Carts delivered to Stanley Park (lunch at Lot 62 near the Information Centre; dinner by the English Bay tennis courts). Reservations available until 9:30 a.m. (lunch) and 2:30 p.m. (dinner) day of. Mastercard, Visa and Visa Debit accepted.

The picnic is such a simple affair. It's just a leisurely, casual meal enjoyed en plein air, often in a scenic setting. You cobble together a few snacks (ideally, everyone pitches in a little salad here, a few sandwiches there), throw a blanket on the ground, et voilà.

Ah, well it did seem simple until the brilliant Picnix Al Fresco – To Go rolled into Vancouver's Stanley Park and began inspiring picnic envy.

"Oh, look," my friend said as we nibbled on an extravagant spread of cheese, charcuterie and antipasto, all compactly fitted into a handcrafted wooden wagon that conveniently unfolds into a table for two. She peered down her nose at a romantic couple across the lawn who were unfurling a beach towel and unpacking a plain paper bag. "They're having an average picnic."

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Picnix Al Fresco – To Go is the brainchild of Simon Pearson-Roach, a seasoned restaurant server and bartender who got tired of spending hundreds of dollars assembling outdoor meals when trying show off his city every time friends from out of town came to visit.

"One year, I forgot the cutlery entirely; another year, the blankets were ruined," he said. "It can get really expensive when you're trying to make it nice. And it can be such a hassle. I thought, 'There should be a service for outdoor dining.'"

Now in its second year of operation, the picnic service is available for lunch and dinner, delivered to two locations in Stanley Park. The little wooden wagons are fitted with everything necessary to make your outdoor meal convenient, plus a few additions you probably never would have thought to bring. The only drawback is that you might not want to pack up and leave.

These are the top 5 reasons we love it.

1. It's cute, compact and easy to use

The wooden wagons are custom-built to fit the prepared plates of food. They are delivered by van to two locations in Stanley Park: Lunch is served on the eastern peninsula, in the parking lot near the aquarium; dinner service is in English Bay, by the tennis courts. You order the picnic online, pick it up at the allotted time and tow it by hand to your desired location in the park. The three-hour rental costs $40 a person. Each wagon, which unfolds into a table, serves two people, but you can easily fit four around it and request extra food. Each wagon comes with a water-resistant blanket and self-inflating pillows.

2. The food is terrific

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This definitely isn't an average picnic. The amply portioned meals are made from food that is all local, seasonal and house-made or sustainably sourced. Nothing is processed. Each meal comes with dehydrated vegetable chips and spicy corn salsa, two salads (green and Japanese noodle), a dense New York-style cheese spread with fresh fruit and chocolate mousse, pitchers of fresh lemonade and cold water, plus your choice of two main courses: charcuterie meats, artisan cheeses or vegan antipasto. Everything is fresh, wholesome and well balanced in flavour and texture. The fresh burrata comes in a little bowl drizzled with olive oil. The chewy candied bacon is addictive. Even the green salad, tossed with candied walnuts, strawberries and bitter arugula, comes with a really good, deeply umami balsamic dressing on the side. The picnics are far better quality than any other food for purchase in Stanley Park.

3. It's a community effort

Mr. Pearson-Roach works out of Grotto on Davie Street, where he prepares the picnics to order. His mother makes the cheese at Poplar Grove Winery in Penticton. His sister bakes the excellent French bread. A chef at Forage on Robson Street, where Mr. Pearson-Roach works as a server by night, prepares the mustard and some of the antipasto. A friend makes the red-pepper jelly.

4. It's sustainable

The service uses BPA-free reusable plates and glassware. The napkins are linen, the cutlery is washable stainless steel. There is no packaging waste or garbage to throw out. The food is all bought fresh daily, so nothing goes to waste. The delivery van drives only four blocks, so it doesn't create much of a carbon footprint. The charcuterie comes from Two Rivers Specialty Meats, which sources its meat (all free of antibiotics, hormones and chemical-feed additives) from local farms.

5. There are little extras

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For a small cost, you can also rent bocce balls, patio umbrellas, wooden dice or a badminton set. Starting in July, or as soon as the weather warms up, Picnix will be offering a walk-in service with hand-held baskets ($25 a person) that can be picked up at Grotto. Picnics will also be available later this summer for the outdoor movie nights at Second Beach.

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More

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