The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Evening en Blanc event. Michael Murphy Photography.

Picnic Paris-style

If you’re looking for an opportunity to show off your picnic flair, check out the Evening en Blanc event in Concord on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 6 to 10 p.m. This posh picnic dinner party hosted by Concord Hospital Trust will be held at a secret location in the city that will be revealed two hours prior to the event. Attendees are asked to arrive dressed in all white with their own well-stocked picnic baskets in hand for an evening of food, live music, dancing and socializing.  
The concept is inspired by the Diner en Blanc events that have been popular in Paris for over 25 years.
“Three hundred to 400 people dressed in white, sitting under the stars at banquet-style tables with white tablecloths — it’s visually stunning to see,” said Sharon Sweet, Concord Hospital Trust events manager.
Past Evening en Blanc locations have been a parking garage rooftop, a riverside parking lot and in front of the Statehouse steps, but Sweet said this year’s “could be the best location yet.”
Guests can bring any kind of picnic they want and are encouraged to get creative.
“The picnics can get incredibly elaborate,” Sweet said. “People bring beautiful pasta salads, things like beef tenderloin, and some even bring flower arrangements and candles. But I’ve also seen people bring very simple meals, so it runs the gamut.”
In addition to dinner, guests should provide their own plates, cutlery, napkins, drinking glasses and beverages. Wine is the common choice for an Evening en Blanc.
For those who don’t want to pack their own picnic, there will be preassembled picnic totes available to order and pick up at the event. The totes will include white bean dip with crackers and cheese-stuffed prosciutto-wrapped dates for the appetizer; a main course of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, herbed cornbread and sweet potato salad (a vegetarian option is offered with marinated grilled vegetables served on a bed of lettuce greens with balsamic vinaigrette); and a petit four sampler for dessert. A napkin and flatware will be provided.
Evening en Blanc is a fundraiser to support low-income, underinsured and uninsured patients of the hospital. Tickets cost $60 per person. Preassembled picnic totes cost an additional $25 and are ordered online with the ticket purchase. Visit

Pick your picnic
Tips for planning your outdoor meal

By Angie Sykeny

 Whether you’re planning a family lunch on the beach or a romantic picnic dinner with your significant other, check out these tips to help you make the most of your al fresco dining experience.

Picnic by the sea
For Denise Nickerson, owner of The Bakeshop On Kelley Street in Manchester, the beach is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch, and her customers seem to agree. This summer, The Bakeshop has been offering assembled lunches to go, complete with a sandwich, side, cookie and a water, and Nickerson said they’ve been especially popular among beachgoers.
“Food just tastes better when you eat it outside,” she said. “I think at the beach, it’s the fresh air, the breeze, the blue sky and seeing all the fun and activity around you. Something about that whole combination seems to increase your appetite.”
When packing a beach picnic, pick foods that are easy to eat. Nickerson suggests chicken salad or egg salad on a wheat or lettuce wrap or, for sandwiches, a classic ham and cheese or a veggie-lovers with a hummus spread and vegetable combo of your choice.
For sides, a regular potato salad is always a winner, or you can spice things up with a broccoli salad with almonds and red peppers.
For the kids, Nickerson suggests something simple and ready to eat.
“It should be things they can eat in one or two bites,” Nickerson said, “like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into smaller pieces or a fruit kabob, which is an easy way to eat fruit when it’s hot.”
A beach picnic can be more frustrating than fun if you don’t prepare for the elements, so be sure to bring a large tablecloth with plenty of space to keep sand away from your food, and don’t forget to weigh the corners down. Sandwich bags filled with sand will do the trick.
Lastly, Nickerson said, it’s imperative to pack your food with plenty of ice or ice packs. Frozen water bottles make good refrigerants, too, and stay cool for a long time.
“You have to keep this food chilled,” she said. “You want to keep it out of the ‘danger zone,’ which is between 40 and 140 degrees.”
Picnic with class   
While a beach picnic is mostly about functionality, romantic or formal evening picnics like Evening en Blanc (see box below) are all about style.
Trade in the pb & j’s for more sophisticated fare like a cheese plate with grapes, dried fruits and nuts, which Nickerson said “is a must,” or a Waldorf chicken salad with grapes and apple slices. For the main course, you can’t go wrong with a chilled soup.
“Chilled soup is definitely thought of as fancier than hot soup,” she said. “You could do a vichyssoise, which is pureed leeks and potatoes, or you could also do a shrimp cocktail on top of a nice cool gazpacho, which is a tomato-based soup with raw vegetables served cold. I’ve even seen a cold black cherry soup.”
A multi-colored meal always looks chic, Nickerson said, especially at a picnic like the Evening en Blanc where everyone is dressed in white and the color will pop in contrast. Try a regular salad with a variety of vegetables, or throw some veggies in a pasta salad to give it some color. For a trick that’s trendy and practical, pack your salad in a mason jar.
“You can layer up the different colors for a neat effect,” Nickerson said. “Then you just eat it right out of the jar. It’s easy to transport and you’ll have a festive, colorful dish that you can see through.”
Finish strong with a dessert like fresh fruit, truffles or a salted caramel brownie. If you want to get really classy, try some Champagne cupcakes.
“Yes, it’s actually cake made with Champagne,” Nickerson said. “It’s a little different, but super moist and delicious.” 

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