Pittsburgh Citipark Picnic
Picnicking is my favorite pastime. I love preparing a spread of food, being outside, and exploring our city’s parks. My parents have always been big on picnics, and I’ve taken nearly all the people close to me in my life on them. I love feeding people, showing them my favorite spots, and spending quality one-on-one time.
Feast on Brilliant helped me prepare this amazing spread. They are a specialty food market located in the charming Pittsburgh neighborhood of Aspinwall. When I walked into Feast on Brilliant, I was in awe of all the options they had. Their staff was extremely helpful, and had the best recommendations.
I have outlined exactly how to embark on your own picnic this summer. From where to get your picnic basket, to the best dessert you can bring, to where to lay out your blanket, I have a complete guide for you!
Picnic Basket: Having a real picnic basket is not just for show! Well-made, lined, and insulated baskets should keep ants out and food dry. Some even come complete with utensils, plates, and napkins. I’ve had this picnic basket for years, but there are similar options here, here, and here. They can be quite the splurge, but are so worth it!
Cheese Boards: You can use a plate, but it really helps to have some sort of communal board or platter to eat the appetizers/snacks from. It’s much easier to divvy up food this way. You can use plates for sandwiches or single serve food already divided. There are tons of options at Home Goods!
Cheese Knife: Plastic knives cannot accomplish anything. Cheese knives aren’t particularly sharp, but they are sturdy, and they will cut through sharp cheddar or waxy gouda. My knife is an antique, but this option at Williams & Sonoma is exactly what you need.
Small Cooler: I like my drinks super cold, so a cooler is a must. You can use ice packs instead of real ice if need be! This one is super affordable and tiny!
Food Tent: I found this adorable tent at Home Goods, but there are even some with retractable nets (perfect for traveling) like this one. I love the outdoors, but I’m a baby when it comes to bugs, so I do everything I can to avoid them!
Books/Instruments/Radio: I always bring a poetry book with me on picnics. I also bring either my ukulele or harmonica, but you can also bring a radio/speaker to play music.
Cheese Plate: Depending on the amount of people pinicking, I normally pick two-three cheeses, a variety of meat, and some nuts and dried fruit. As many of you know, I am generally dairy-free, but I always make an exception for picnics. Feast on Brilliant gave us a Drunken Goat Cheese, a sharp cheddar infused with chive, and an amazing blue brie cheese. I like selecting several very different cheeses. I usually select a sharp cheese (like cheddar), a buttery soft cheese (like brie), and a goat or sheep’s milk cheese that has either a nutty or tart flavor. I selected a variety pack of specialty meats. I always go heavy on the meats, because I actually prefer meats to cheeses. We had a prosciutto, capicolla, and peppercorn salami. Getting a freshly sliced salami is also a great option. (We paired the plate with some dried apricots and some wet marcona almonds. I cannot say enough about these almonds! They’re unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. You need them on your cheese plate.
Sandwiches: You can certainly make your own sandwiches, but I highly recommend ordering them prepared. It is generally much more cost effective in allowing everyone to have exactly what they want. Feast on Brilliant prepared gorgeous sandwiches for our picnic that were delicious. Their sandwiches were packed individually in foil, and can be stored in the fridge and eaten up to two days after they’ve been made.
Dessert: I always vote going simple here. Not only will you be full from a cheese plate and sandwiches, but dessert can also be a sticky, melted, mess quickly depending on what you bring. We went with a Lux Chocolate Bar, complete with pistachios and pieces of fig. The texture was out of this world, and the taste was nutty, fruity, sweet, and balanced. They are a local Pittsburgh artisan chocolate maker!
Beverages: These Red Ribbon sodas are incredible and worth every calorie. They use pinpoint carbonation which makes the bubble smaller, and the whole drink is more crisp and flavorful. My favorite is the Cherry Supreme, but the Rootbeer, Almond and Mint Gingerale are also delicious! Put the drinks in your cooler to keep them ice cold.
THE PERFECT SETTING
I consider late May/early June to be prime picnic season, because the heat and sun are bearable, and you rarely have to worry about being chilly. However, I’ve been known to picnic into October and as early as April. You should obviously check your local weather radar. Not much is worse than having the food you bought absolutely ruined when it rains. (I’ve been there, not cute.) I also recommend going at a time when it hasn’t recently rained, or it can be a muddy mess.
As for your location, Pittsburgh is a city of many parks. Here is the website for all them. I’ve picnicked quite frequently in both Riverview Park and Schenley Park. Schenley offers a gorgeous view from Overlook Drive, and Riverview Park offers the most gorgeous scenery, and for me, a slice of home.
Selecting a spot once you arrive at the park can be fairly tricky, and a lot of it depends on personal preferences. I was never one to desire tons of shade (I love soaking up the sun), but if you are, I highly recommend Riverview Park. There are plenty of trees along the loop. Since I love high ground for picnics (mainly for the views and direct sunlight), I chose to layout my blanket at the top of Riverview park by the historic Allegheny Observatory. If you want sunlight that’s slightly in between, I recommend the Schenley Overlook. The sun doesn’t come down quite as harshly at the top of the hill, and it shifts throughout the day. I also make sure that the grass is fairly dense (but not too high) wherever I select. Bugs don’t get to you as quickly, and there is more cushion.
Check out my IGTV video here for a mini documentary on my family connection to the park. I learned how to drive at this park, played at the playground when I was little, and have some amazing memories here. If you love Riverview, please visit this park often. Let the city know we need and love this park.
BONUS PRO PICNIC TIPS
PRO TIP #1: Carry talcum powder in your basket and sprinkle it below your blanket, especially around the perimeter. This deters ants from visiting!
PRO TIP #2: Oftentimes, especially living in Pittsburgh where it rains the majority of the time, the ground is wet. Doubling up on blankets can help, but when you put pressure on the blankets, dampness can soak through. I highly recommend breaking down an old large box and putting the cardboard underneath your blanket.
PRO TIP #3: Always bring a towel. You never know when you’re going to need one! Spills, unexpected rain, shading something from the sun, using as a pillow, etc.
PRO TIP #4: Make note of where your nearest restroom is before you set up your picnic. It will save you from having to search for it later on.