I can’t recall the last time I went on a picnic, but it was something that my family and friends did regularly when I was growing up. Back then, however, our idea of a picnic was a barbeque at the beach on a hot summer’s day. But that’s Australia for you.
Anyway, the night before the picnic, my parents would always make a huge effort with the food, from making salads to marinating the meat for the barbecue and preparing dips and other delicious snacks and sweet treats. This, of course, was always done in careful collaboration with the friends who would be joining us, all of whom had been assigned various responsibilities when it came to who was bringing what in the F&B department.
The next morning, we’d load up the car with a few cooler boxes stuffed to overflowing with food and drinks, a variety of balls, cricket bats, Frisbees, towels and everything else we needed for a long day of fun and alfresco eating in the sun.
There’s something about a picnic that makes you feel so much more carefree and I think that it may have something to do with being in the great outdoors and being active, which definitely helps to make you hungrier. Or so they say.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much spare time on my hands to plan and prepare for a picnic like my parents did when I was growing up. But that doesn’t mean my daughter and I have to miss out, especially if somebody can prepare the food for us. Sure, there’s all manner of easy picnic hacks out there, such as raiding the ready-made sandwich section at Spinneys or Carrefour, or even buying a roast chicken, a few salads, some hummus and flatbread for an impromptu alfresco meal.
But then I heard about the new picnic bag range that was being offered by PAUL and thought it might be a fun way to spend a weekday lunch outside with my daughter while she was on her mid-term break from school. As Murphy’s Law would have it, we picked the worst week to do it in – torrential rain for a couple of days last week meant sodden grounds and by the time we reached the park on the public beach at Al Mouj Muscat, it was already beginning to rain. This meant a quick dash home and making do – indoors. It’s not quite what we’d planned, but still, it was fun having a picnic in the great indoors.
There’s a choice of breakfast or lunch picnic bags (for two or four people) and we opted, of course, for the midday meal. The picnic comes complete with napkins and plastic cutlery and is contained in a stylish PAUL cooler bag.
Unpacking it, we discovered a host of choices: a fresh orange juice and lemonade, two salads, one with just lettuce leaves, the other a Waldorf-style with chicken, a huge dieppois sandwich stuffed with turkey, lettuce, sliced cornichons and a touch of mayonnaise, two sweet pastries and two different dressings.
We kicked off with the turkey sandwich, which we split. The bread was deliciously chewy on the inside, while the outside was crunchy. The turkey was tasty, the lettuce fresh and the cornichons added a zingy pop against the creamy mayonnaise.
Next up were the salads and the standout here was the Waldorf-style salad, which was a mélange of colours. The tender chicken strips had a lovely herby flavour and went well with the crunchy green apple slices, earthy walnuts, plump raisins, carrot, cheese and crisp lettuce leaves.
I’m not a fan of sweets, but did try a bite of the tart – sweet, juicy strawberries sitting on a soft bed of creamy vanilla custard and encased in a crunchy, golden brown pastry. It wasn’t too sweet, which was to my liking. I left the chocolate éclair to my daughter, who said she loved the chocolate sauce (or was it a mousse?) squeezed between the delicate choux pastry halves.
In the end, it was too much food for us both. But that could have had something to do with the fact that it was raining and we weren’t as ravenous as we would have been if we’d been outdoors. Next time, we’ve vowed to pick a better day!
A convenient, healthy alternative for picnic lovers
City Centre Muscat
Tel: 2455 8664
Opening Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 8am-11pm, Thursday-Saturday 8am-12am
Muscat Grand Mall
Tel: 2200 9583/84
Opening Hours: 8am-12am
Picnic for two: RO17.9