Entertaining, Holiday, Seasonal

Bringing a Spring Picnic Indoors: 8 “Pardee” Tips

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It’s about this time of the year when cabin fever sets in and the first blush of spring makes us yearn to get out and about; hosting a gathering of friends is suddenly a top of the list priority. And since Easter is so early this year, perhaps consider this party idea in place of the traditional Easter lunch? There are fun ideas, tips and timesavers here that might inspire some creative thinking – for different reasons than you might originally have imagined. Your invitation awaits you…enjoy!

French Picnic

Pardee Tip #1:  Think outside the box

What inspires you, puts a zip in your step? Or, as the French would say, what is the “raison d’etre”? Come up with a simple theme for this get together so guests can savor the anticipation…and you can have a focus for your planning.

Right now for me it’s a picnic, with its outdoor connotation. But the twist is that it’s brought indoors (at least up here in the north).


Pardee Tip #2: Put the focus on easy

You’ve been taking it slow throughout the winter so no need now to take on a time-intensive exercise. In fact, what’s easier than a picnic? Count on the majority of your menu to be out-sourced; items like charcuterie, special cheeses and a loaf of French bread; sausages – all in theme and a snap to pull together.


Pardee Tip #3: Make it a buffet

A buffet is really a picnic, and vice versa.  It’s easy on you and easy on your guests. Put out the food and let guests help themselves when they’re ready.

Treat your buffet table like a picnic spread with an assorted selection of tasty foods. This assures that no one will go hungry if they have allergies but also introduces an element of discovery as guests go around the table. And don’t forget two considerate buffet details…fork-only menu with foods that can be served at room temperature.


Pardee Tip #4: Plan your menu to reflect the Country French theme


Chilled Aperitifs of Vin Peche and White Wine
French Tarts with Chevre, Herbes, Caramelized Onions and Olives
Kale and Arugula Salad with Cranberries, Apples and Pistachio
Artisan Cheeses Fresh with Aged Saucissons, Grapes and Cracked Walnuts, Cake Sale
Chicken Breasts with Basil and Goat Cheese
Provencal Potato Salad with Haricot Vert and Hazelnuts
Spinach, Leek and Gruyere Timbales
Roasted Figs with Prosciutto
Dates wrapped with Bacon
Mini Croissants and Sliced Baguettes
Rustic Pear Galette with Crème Fraiche

Pardee Tip #5: Don’t underestimate the value of presentation

We take our first taste with our eyes. Use serving dishes and accessories that fit the theme, flowers that repeat the message, tabletop linens that suit the theme’s informality. Look around your home and pick out items you might never have thought of using for food presentation; it’s part of the fun of prepping for the party.

Petit tip: Put the collected serving pieces out on the table, ahead of time, just to double check placement.


The casual country French theme is carried out with a large antique tole tray (usually displayed over a shelf in the kitchen) for the charcuterie spread…

French Picnic

A large rustic stone pot, lined with a glass dish, for the Provencal potato salad…


A wire flower basket holds the mini croissants and French baguette slices…

French Picnic

Another antique painted metal tray, with scattered paper leaves, presents the small tarts and fruit.


Pardee Tip #6: Make a statement

Reinforce your theme. Everyone is keen to see flowers at this time of year so make them a special focus of the party.

Design your picnic buffet table like a vignette in a French flower market stall. Containers of different sizes and shapes  hold a riot of flowers in the Provencal colors of yellow and blue; emphasize the height so that this “tableau” can be seen at a distance, always reiterating the theme.


Yellow is also carried into the kitchen where guests will surely end up at some point.

French Picnic

Pardee Tip #7: Create different spots in which to dine

Helping guests feel comfortable is a goal of any host. While the casual note of a buffet usually means dining in your lap, wherever or whenever possible set up card tables, even small side tables, as an alternative. Keep the sense of “picnic”(foregoing formal set tables).

Also, guests are probably going to be lingering a bit longer if they haven’t seen each other in awhile, so this also provides them the flexibility of moving around, from group to group.


Pardee Tip #8: Consider this indoor picnic party as an alternative to the traditional Easter “celebration.”

With its flexibility, this casual entertaining choice suits many lifestyles…small apartment dwellers (like young adults who are working far from home and family), empty-nesters who have “retired” from years of hosting large holiday events and others who just wish to get together on a holiday but are looking for a “refreshed” version of the traditional Easter lunch approach.


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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Bringing a Spring Picnic Indoors: 8 “Pardee” Tips

  1. Good morning Bettie,

    I love your blogs they are very useful to me. I love the step by step photo’s, is there a chance you could give tips on where to purchase the items your featuring?

    Have a wonderful Easter!

    Thank you for sharing,

    Warm regards,


  2. Such a nice read with my first cup of tea … as I’m looking out over an unwelcome fresh drifting of snow. Thank you for sharing such lovely ideas and photos.

    1. Thank you Nancy, I hope there’s an indoor picnic on your upcoming calendar. Such fun!

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