How to Throw a Memorial Day Picnic with a French Twist

By Vicki Denig

Memorial Day Weekend and picnics go hand in hand—and best of all, these seasonal gatherings mark the unofficial start to the summer season ahead. While MDW gatherings are synonymous with American snacks and traditions, adding a tinge of French flare to your picnic promises a delightfully tasty twist. Interested? We here at Taste France Magazine have put together a list of seven easy ways to bring a bit of France to your first summer gathering of the year. Get your picnic baskets ready! 

Picnic with French Twist

Pack the Perfect French Sandwich 

Forget turkey and swiss or PB&J. When it comes to sandwiches on the go, the French know what they’re doing—and it doesn’t even take much effort. Simply head to your local bread purveyor, grab a crusty baguette, layer on some butter and ham, and voila, you’ve got yourself a classic, boulangerie-inspired jambon-beurre. Believe it or not, over 3 million jambon-beurre sandwiches are sold every day in France! When crafting your jambon-beurre at home, we recommend springing for extra salty butter (Grand Fermage and Beillevaire are two classic brands), and if you’re really feeling crazy, throw on a slice or two of emmental (Swiss) cheese for an extra layer of flavor.  

Assemble a Versatile Planche  

Cheese and charcuterie boards are essential when it comes to French-inspired snacking. Although usually consumed on sun-drenched terrasses, assembling a flavor-packed planche for your upcoming Memorial Day Weekend picnic is as easy as throwing some basic staples in your basket. Head to your local cheese shop (or simply check out the extensive counters found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other supermarket chains) and grab a versatile selection of offerings—we generally recommend sticking with a tomme, a chèvre, and a pungent blue cheese for a savory, versatile board.
Post cheese aisle, be sure to include some crunchy crackers or grissini, as well as a couple of charcuterie options, and you’re well on your way to enjoying a bistro-inspired planche outdoors. Pro tip: Don’t forget to bring a few utensils or cheese knives, as diving into your favorite dairy products sans cutlery can be rather messy! For an even more authentic touch, throw in a mini wooden board to set your goodies on to bring your planche to live.  

‘Tis the Season for French-Inspired Greens 

Late spring / early summer are synonymous with a variety of fresh produce, and no MDW picnic is complete with a seasonal salad. Rather than preparing a simple mixed green or caesar, level up your greens game and prepare a French-inspired salade niçoise. Hailing from the southerly city of Nice, this heartier salad option is made with crisp greens tomatoes, potatoes, tuna, and eggs. To prepare your salad, whisk oil, vinegar, and mustard together to create your dressing. Add salt and pepper, whisk together again, then lightly dress the greens to create a foundation for your toppings. Place each component atop the greens for a robust, delicious addition to your MDW picnic. 

Swap the Burgers for Poulet Rôti 

OK—we know that burgers are sacred for MDW picnics, so if you’d rather not swap, simply include this flavor-packed French protein option alongside your favorite American staples. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ve likely experienced the enticing aromas of poulet rôti roasting at boucheries (meat shops) along the street. Take a note from the boucher’s book and prepare your poulet at home—and be sure not to skimp on the fresh herbs and spices. We can’t tell the future, but we’re pretty confident that you may just become your friends’ favorite host, should you whip up this savory protein alternative pre-picnic.

Spring for Authentic Sweet Treats 

Although macarons are the stereotypical French option, those who have visited the country know that most French people actually don’t enjoy these on the regular. Rather than playing into stereotypes, stick with authentic French sweet treats for your MDW picnic—and trust us, there are plenty. For fans of fruit-based desserts, pick up a tarte aux fruits or tarte aux framboises. For chocolate lovers, moelleux au chocolat or opéra pastries are excellent options. For those who prefer a simple cookie, grab some Petit Ecolier biscuits or buttery madeleines—bonus points if you try your hand at making them yourself!  

Don’t Forget the Rosé! 

Wine and boozy beverages may just be the most important picnic staple of them all—and no style of wine is better for ringing in the early days of summer like a classic bottle of French rosé. Crisp, acid-driven, and seriously refreshing, this food-friendly style of wine is ideal for pairing with a variety of picnic fare, from sandwiches to salads to cheese boards and beyond. While Provence is undoubtedly the most famous French region for rosé, there are so many other regions to explore, too. Look to expressions from the Loire Valley and Burgundy for uniquely delicious expressions, as well as the dark-hued bottles from Tavel, which are perfect for red wine lovers skeptical of drinking pink. For an additional layer of complexity, grab a bottle of rosé bubbles from Champagne for an extra special pink to pop!  

And the Most French Step of Them All… 

A good old game of pétanque, of course! Similar to Italian bocce, this classic outdoor ball game is the perfect pastime for enjoying amongst friends and family members. Simply launch the cochonnet (the small ball) about 6-10 meters (approximately 10 to 30 feet) from where both teams are standing. From there, each team alternates throwing their balls, with the goal of getting them as close to the cochonnet as possible—and knocking the other team’s balls out of the way is completely permitted! Generally speaking, balls are launched via the wrist, with the palm of your hand facing down, and remember, both feet must be firm on the ground when throwing the ball. The team with the closest ball to the cochonnet is the winner of the round. Allez! 

From our Taste France Magazine family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and French-inspired Memorial Day Weekend!  


The French touch you need in your inbox

Please complete this field
Your registration is confirmed