A guide to creating the perfect Valentine’s Day picnic

How fitting it is that creating the perfect Valentine’s Day picnic is all in the KISS principle. Whether you're looking to reignite that spark or make a new partner fall head over heels; these simple steps are guaranteed to impress. 

Nail the invitation

The great news is that Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so there’s no need to run around like a headless chook during the week to prepare. Give your Valentine plenty of notice that you’re planning something special, but keep the details to a minimum - nothing beats a good surprise! Don't forget: you’ll need a few secret solo hours on the Saturday prior to shop and get organised. 

Pick the location

When it comes to picnics, a soft grassy patch with water views is a killer combo. Think Shelly Beach or Shark Island in Sydney or a quiet spot along the Yarra River or the Fairfield Park Boathouse in Melbourne.

Look for a space with plenty of room to lay out a picnic rug (pick one with a plastic underside to avoid damp bottoms). If you're heading to the beach then a large round towel is perfect. If you want to go all out, think about a table, chairs and umbrella. If you live in Sydney you can even pre-arrange it. Where possible, choose a shady spot but if you’re heading to the beach, you may need some pop up your own shade.

We’re pretty lucky that in Australia the weather in February is generally pretty predictable, so as long as you’re monitoring it in the lead up, you should avoid any nasty meteorological surprises. In saying that, it is always good to have a back up plan.

Consider the packaging

If you’re planning something special after your picnic (perhaps a Gold Class movie or something adventurous like stand up paddling boarding), you might prefer a picnic pack that can be discarded, rather than a traditional cane basket or hamper. If the former is your preference then consider packing your picnic in Kraft gable boxes with lovely disposable knives, forks, bowls and plates. But remember, with a beautiful cane basket or hamper comes wow factor. And there's no better day to bring the wow factor to your relationship than Valentine's Day! 

Valentine's Day champagne cheers

Accessorise your hamper

A few must-pack accessories include melamine plates (crockery is even better), champagne flutes (glass is classier), a wine cooler, or ice wine jacket and a damn good cheese knife set.  Stainless steel cutlery is also more refined. Always go cloth over paper napkins (you can use these to protect your breakables too) and throw in some wet ones to avoid sticky fingers for some cheeky mid-picnic handholding. Pack some mints to freshen up before that post-date pash and a small umbrella to snuggle under in case of a rain shower.

Finally, throw in some plastic bags for rubbish and recyclables and to pack away dirty dishes. Insect repellent will also be your saviour on a warm day and will send a strong message to your date that you have in fact thought of EVERYTHING. 

Valentine's Day picnic food

Nail the menu

Your menu should take your lover on a journey. Start small and build but don’t over eat, because nothing kills romance like a bloated tummy. If you’re adventurous in the kitchen then nothing beats homemade, but we’re more inclined to let a gorgeous gourmet deli or specialty supermarket do most of the work for us.   

We recommend going with one of two never-fail themes: European Flair or, as we like to call it, Rustic Simplicity. Pack your food in plastic containers to avoid leaks and spice things up with some salt and pepper.

Try one of these tasty menus to spoil your lover:   

European Flair 

– Cheese and charcuterie, pates and pickles (You’ll find a fabulous selection at any David Jones food court or local deli or specialty supermarket)

– Fresh crusty Mediterranean bread with assorted dips (remember, extra bread to feed the ducks!)

– Tomato, Bocconcini and Basil salad

– Arancini selection

– Pork or chicken terrine or frittata

– Strawberries dipped in chocolate (because what’s a Valentine’s Day without chocolate?) and Baklava 

Rustic Simplicity

– Cold cuts of meat (think ham, beef, chicken) pickles and mustard selections

– Fresh crusty bread

– Coleslaw or potato salad

– Chicken finger sandwiches are always a winner (think shredded chicken, whole egg mayo and chives…yum!)

– Mini quiche selection

– Chocolate dipped strawberries and chocolate rum balls

When it comes to picnic drinks, think sparkles. Sparkling wine (please, nothing under $20) and two small bottles of sparkling water will do the trick nicely.  If coffee is your thing, don’t faff around with a thermos; stop in at your favourite café along the way for a takeaway instead. 

Valentine's Day rose

Set the mood

In addition to your rug or towel, you’ll also need a couple of cushions to avoid any numb bottoms. These backpack/cushion combos are a cute idea. Consider a romantic gesture to kick off the evening, a single rose or a short romantic limerick or poem ending soulfully with, “Will you be my Valentine?”. Hook up your smart phone up to a portable Bluetooth speaker like this one for some smooth and romantic tunes, but keep the music on theme. Think Edith Pilaf, Otis Redding, Etta James or Buena Vista Social Club, or even make a playlist of your lover’s favourite tunes.

Valentine's Day limo

Finally, remember the journey counts

Given the volatility of most city traffic, driving to your romantic picnic spot and then trying to find a car park could quite easily kill the mood or waste precious time. Take the stress out of the journey by booking a chauffeured limousine, or an Uber if you’re on a budget. This no-fuss approach will not only bedazzle your betrothed, but also potentially limit the time your food is unrefrigerated – another important consideration on a warm summer’s day.  

We’re certain these simple tips will lay some solid foundations for what will be a glorious and delicious day with your lover on Valentine’s Day; now it’s up to you to bring the romance. 

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