Los Angeles weather is at its true sweet spot right now: the perfect temperature for a light jacket, not so hot that you'll get overly sweaty playing croquet. The powers that be have placed National Picnic Day this weekend (April 23), so it's practically a law that you have to eat outside. Cobble together a picnic at one of the following gourmet shops, and pretend you're in a Jane Austen novel.
Gjusta is something between a food hall and a deli, a sprawling concept that assaults all your food lust receptors at once. A long glass case runs the length of the room, and behind it there's a world of cooking and baking and activity, along with a small army of service folks who will take your order once your ticket comes up. As you walk down the expanse of the case, you're first attracted to the cakes and pies and pastries, and then jars of deep pink pâté catch your eye, and then you get absorbed by the glistening hunks of smoked fish. Look up, and on the back counter sit slabs of roasted meats, ready to be shaved and stuffed into sandwiches. Wander a little further down, and you'll come across puffy personal pies and platters of vibrant salads. You've yet to even really consider the lists of options on the menus (broken into meat sandwiches, fish sandwiches, rotisserie plates, other plates, salads, soups, meat pies, etc.) above the counter — and you already have four or five lunches in mind. —Besha Rodell
320 Sunset Ave., Venice; (310) 695-1748, gjusta.com.
At lunchtime, there may be no happier place in Los Angeles than Annie Miler's cheerful takeout cafe, located across from the Westfield Century City shopping mall. It's home to Southern ham biscuits, carefully composed roast vegetable salads and grilled cheese sandwiches crisped in an Italian sandwich press. The Angelina-style hot chocolate is a local legend.
Two Westside locations. clementineonline.com.
The Oaks Gourmet
The Oaks is a gourmet's convenience store, where you can pick up a four-pack of Chimay, a duck confit and caramelized onion pizza, Cake Monkey's version of a Hostess Cupcake, and a Cuban cigar. On a TV in the corner, Giada lays thin slices of strawberries on Nutella-filled madeleines. Along the back wall is an aquarium of coffee beans, where customers can pick out raw beans and have them custom-roasted in-house. The beer, wine and booze selection is not surprising but good enough to outfit the average Eastside shindig, and an intriguing contraption near the door chills a bottle of wine within minutes, for those heading straight to dinner parties. If you were lucky enough to score tickets to a summer show at the Hollywood Bowl, stop by the Oaks on your way down Franklin to fill up your picnic basket and pick out a bottle of Bordeaux to go with it. —Erica Zora Wrightson
1915 N. Bronson Ave., Hollywood; (323) 871-8894, theoaksgourmet.com.
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Cheese Store of Silverlake
Normally I can't abide a business that spells Silver Lake incorrectly, but this place is a legend and the sandwiches are excellent, so it gets a pass. The staff is quite generous with the cheese samples here, the better to perfectly curate your platter. Or let them do it for you: It's more expensive, but it will look gorgeous. And have just the right ratio of cow to sheep cheese. There's a daily menu of European-style sandwiches: just a few ingredients but each one perfect. You'll be able to round out your feast with chips, cookies, spreads, crackers, little candies, whole salamis, pâtés, dried fruit ... they pack a lot of delicious into a tiny little store.
3926 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 644-7511, cheesestoreofsilverlake.com.
Nicole's Market & Cafe
No part of South Pasadena could honestly be confused with France, but if you were going to try your very hardest to pretend, your best bet would be at the corner of El Centro and Meridian Avenue. On the corner is Bistro de la Gare, a standard (though no less admirable for it) French bistro owned and operated by a genuine Frenchman, and just down the block are a dozen umbrellas stretched out over a long, narrow swath of tables sitting in the space between the sidewalk and the street, right in front of Nicole's Market & Cafe. Sure, it's a rough approximation of France, but the intent is clear. Inside, there are some items to take home, sausages, frozen ravioli, a scattering of cookbooks and a nice selection of cheeses in a case near the register. The sandwich menu is a sort of French-Italian hybrid, with a croque-monsieur and a Caprese, a pâté and a prosciutto di Parma, and many of them come with Continental flourishes such as European butter or fleur-de-sel. They sit on the simple side of things, but they're straightforward and well-made, with quality ingredients and focused flavors. Each sandwich has only a few substantial toppings, but that only enhances their charm — it's nice sometimes to be able to actually taste the olive oil on your sandwich, to notice the arugula, to appreciate the rosemary in your ciabatta. —Ben Mesirow
921 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena; (626) 403-5751. nicolesgourmetfoods.com.