Renée Guild, co-owner with her daughter Jessica of The Picnic Guild, fell in love with picnicking after her experiences dining al fresco in New Zealand and Italy.
“I lived in Auckland, New Zealand for four years, as my father is a New Zealander,” Renée said. ”I crewed on a 40-foot catamaran and I would always bring the picnic for the crew. We would tuck into some glorious little cove and have lunch on one of the hundreds of islands in the Hauraki Gulf.”
She also spent time at a rented villa in Tuscany with her family, which included a young Jessica and her sibling. With both children being “as active as children could be,” Renée avoided restaurants and bought food from the local vendors instead.
“Each morning we would go to the local village where I knew enough Italian to chat with the vendors at the bakery, and sausage maker, and cheese market,” she explained. “We would pull together a picnic to be our main meal of the day. We would then wander up and down the Chiantiana (the main expressway through Tuscany) and visit a cathedral or piazza or museum, and then go find a winery or a park for lunch.”
Are you sighing and daydreaming like me? It all sounds wonderful.
But we have some beautiful picnic spots right here in our own backyard. Not to mention some great resources for stocking your picnic basket such as , and .
But if you’re looking forward to a no-fuss, no-work Labor Day—a total kickback day off—Renée and Jessica can set you up with a memorable, gourmet picnic.
Learning a Love for Food and Cooking
Both women have a background in using local ingredients in their cooking, something they bring into the kitchen at The Picnic Guild.
Jessica’s love of food and cooking came from her mother who grew up on a Nevada ranch where her family produced most of their own food, giving Renée the chance to learn preserving and butchering.
“She taught me many skills,” Jessica said. “But most importantly, I absorbed her enthusiasm for cooking and having fun in the kitchen making beautiful food.”
Jessica began cooking the family dinner when she was 8, planning the menu on a $5 budget. After college, she had a stint as a sous chef at a French restaurant in Santa Rosa, and then moved to New Zealand.
“New Zealand had a big influence on my food philosophy and consciousness,” Jessica said. “Living there taught me the value of starting with the very best food ingredients you can find. And I have continued to be very picky about what food I buy and cook.”
The Picnic Baskets
Chicken liver and slivered fig pâte. Grilled shrimp with basil pesto and saffron risotto cakes. Safflower butter and strawberry jam sandwiches.
These are just a few of the delectable goodies available for your picnic basket, all packed “to-go” style in a 99 percent compostable and recyclable box with a handle, and includes plates, utensils and napkins.
The most popular basket is the Three Course Picnic, which includes your choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. Jessica said the favorite choices are smoked trout rilettes appetizer (lightly smoked trout simmered in butter, Chardonnay and fresh herbs), organic smoked whiskey glazed chicken with French red potato salad and, for dessert, chocolate walnut squares made with dark chocolate.
“The menu is a little challenging,” Jessica said, “because it needs to taste really good when served cold or at room temperature, and most food tastes better when heated. It also needs to travel well in ice chests up the long winding roads to the wineries we deliver to.”
How it Works
How do you get your hands on one of those fantastic picnic baskets?
You can place your order any day of the week, either by phone or online. The Picnic Guild requires at least 24 hours notice for parties of less than 10, or 48 hours for more than 10. (They also cater private parties of 10 or more.)
Deliveries are only made Wednesday-Sunday at your choice of one of seven pick-up locations. The Los Gatos locations include , and .
I wondered if people eat their picnic at the winery, or take it with them to enjoy elsewhere?
“The beauty of the idea is that customers can choose,” Jessica said. “Many like to stay in one place, but others find it fun to do a ‘traveling picnic/tasting’ where they have the appetizer at one winery, entrée at another and dessert at the last.
“Our hope is that people are able to make a day of it,” she continued, “and experience the full bounty of the Santa Cruz Mountains wine region.”
And the bounty that comes from The Picnic Guild kitchen to their lovely baskets and, finally, deliciously, to your picnic table.
Buon appetito, amici!