Remember when a picnic meant throwing down an old blanket and whipping out the ham sandwiches? No more! Picnics were one of the things that transformed during the COVID pandemic. Transformed in a nice way, though. Lots of people decided that if it was safer to eat outside, that’s what they would do—but they wanted to do it in style. And the curated picnic business took off.
You’ve probably seen the photos, because these picnics are highly Instagram-able. Eating outside, on the ground, has never been this pretty.You can do it the simple, straightforward, and charming way, or you can lay on the luxe. There are lots of ways to individualize the experience, and many Tampa Bay companies to help you.
The Perfect Picnic Co. put together our Edible Tampa Bay picnic, pictured here. Owner Alex Gordon started one of the first of the area’s picnic businesses. She says she got the idea for The Perfect Picnic Co. in the spring of 2020, when she and her boyfriend went on a picnic on the Tampa Riverwalk. It was such a beautiful setting that they started dreaming up more spots they thought would make great picnic sites, and a business idea was born.
At that time, Alex says, only a handful of people across the country were doing something similar to what she had in mind. But by the fall, several more picnic businesses in Tampa Bay had thrown their baskets into the ring—and Alex says she welcomes the company. “It’s competition, but the truth is, they are [owned by] individual women or a pair of women trying to build their own business,” she says. “Most of us also work elsewhere, so we wouldn’t have the capacity to handle all of the business ourselves. I hope we can all thrive.”
Each picnic business reflects the sensibilities of its owner, but you’ll find some standard elements, like a soft blanket, cushy pillows or poufs, an elevated dining surface, and pretty table settings. Then, add on the charm factor with candles, flowers, vintage wine glasses, a cute chalk board, and maybe even a gauzy canopy or teepee.
A beautiful charcuterie board is the perfect way to graze casually but elegantly, while taking in the scenery and enjoying the company of friends. Alex often works with Tampa’s Cork & Board, whose grazing boards are almost too pretty to eat.
For our picnic, Cork & Board separated the sweet and savory sections of the board into delightful and distinct culinary adventures. On the sweet side you’ll find cheeses like brie, aged cheddar infused with blueberries, blueberry and vanilla goat cheese, chocolate-covered strawberries, mini macarons, and slices of fresh bread with luscious jam and honey; while the savory side offers cheeses like manchego, Gorgonzola blue, and cheddar, plus olives, salami roses, and prosciutto.
A nice glass of wine or bubbly makes a festive addition to a picnic—or you could take it up a notch with a mobile cocktail bar. One Tampa business, Native Cocktail Events, is able to come to your picnic with an adorable mini-bar, stocked with all the ingredients needed to put together your own personalized craft cocktails. For our waterfront picnic, Native Cocktail Events created a Lilac Spritz, a tremendously photogenic lavender spritz that Native calls “a floral take on a classic lemonade,” made with EG Lavender vodka, limoncello and fresh lemon juice; and a colorful Raspberry Rose Margarita, “a fusion of floral meets fresh with a kick of spice without the heat,” adorned with rose petals and textured pineapple leaves.Owner Mandie Foster puts a lot of thought into making sure that the craft cocktails are designed to match the taste and style of each customer, and are garnished to perfection, creating drinkable works of art.
Picnics like these were made for special events, like elopements, engagements, girls’ brunches, bridal showers or micro-weddings, all of which Alex has hosted. Is your style beachy, boho, or romantic? You can request a picnic experience that matches your desired vibe. “The details are important,” says Alex. “You want to sit down and feel pampered.”
Alex says she loves being part of her customers’ special life moments, and offers this advice to those planning their own perfect picnic: “Have an open mind, and be ready for a beautiful experience.”