Picnics are one of those civic birthrights that redeems living with traffic snarls on the 405 and celebrity divorces superseding the one minute of world event coverage on the evening news. The very bones of the tradition forged by myriad outdoor spaces, summer events and consistently genial weather can lend to various ways of enjoying food al fresco. The problem is that it opens up a wide range of options: beach or park, Bay Cities sandwiches or homemade versions, blanket or none.
Take the following (mostly unscientific) multiple-choice quiz to figure out your picnic mojo:
1. Where in L.A. (within closest proximity) do you call home?
a) Downtown L.A.
b) Culver City
c) Santa Monica
f) Silver Lake
2. What do you like best about the city?
b) Art scene
d) Entertainment community
f) Urban farm movement
3. Which would you choose as your favorite watering hole?
c) Copa d'Oro
d) The Well
4. If you're hosting guests from out of town, where would you take them?
a) Bar crawl starting with The Edison
b) Museum Row
d) Walk of Fame
5. What annoys you most about L.A.?
a) You can't ride the Metro everywhere
b) Stereotype of L.A as a city without culture
c) Air pollution
d) Early last calls
e) Westside bias
f) Lack of cyclist safety/rights
6. Other Angelenos tend to associate your neighborhood with:
e) Rose Parade
7. What is your must-have accessory?
b) Reusable bags
d) Digital camera
e) Banana Republic anything
f) a Clare Vivier clutch/well-worn tortoise frames
8. What is your favorite neighborhood eatery?
a) Wood Spoon
c) Plan Check
e) Euro Pane
f) Mohawk Bend
9. If there is one thing you wish you could stop, it would be:
a) lack of a nearby Trader Joe's or Whole Foods
b) outside companies bidding to drill Inglewood Oil Field
c) traffic jams at the most inconvenient hours
d) bars more interested in bottle service than service in general
e) popularity of mediocre restaurants
f) possible draining of the Silver Lake Reservoir for 18 months
10. What is your favorite city resource?
a) L.A. Times
b) L.A. Weekly
c) Los Angeles magazine
f) Your barista
Tally up your choices and find your picnic style according to the letter that appears the most frequently in response.
Park Picnic: Keep it classic at Grand Avenue Civic Center Park, which opened July 28. The latest park to join the 150-plus across the city is a proper setting for a meal composed of finds from nearby Grand Central Market. Take a stroll along Spring and Main between Sixth and Second for a late-afternoon bar crawl that can begin at The Falls, Spring Street Bar or Silo.
Necessities: Thin blanket; cash for subsequent crawl.
Potential pitfall(s): Ambitious ants and over-amorous couples who have forgotten they're in a park full of kids.
Outdoor Concert/Film Picnic: The concert series at the Hollywood Bowl might come to mind first for outdoor events, so ingrained it is in our summer life. It shouldn't preclude your choosing other options like the Boulevard Music Summer Festival or Twilight Dance Series. Take a pre-ordered picnic box — a luxury less about convenience than it is about readymade showmanship. Requiring an advance order, most boxes from bakeries and restaurants like Clementine's, Susina and BLD come in courses.
Necessities: Bottle opener, seat cushions, and perhaps a fleece blanket bodysuit.
Potential pitfall(s): The self-portrait snapper sitting in front of you whose many shots of herself holding a plastic wine glass and you in the background will inevitably end up on Facebook.
Beach Picnic: Head to El Matador State Beach, away from the teeming tourist throng in Santa Monica and Venice with everything kept to one knapsack. The simpler the better, as the energy that has you carrying all the comforts of home peters out quickly after a few hours of lying out in the sun. This requires calling upon a spot like Poquito Mas, where burritos are grilled and sealed off to minimize sticky-handed fuss. Pair with sliced peaches or watermelon from home and chilled refillable bottles of water.
Necessities: Beach towel, hat, water-resistant sunblock.
Potential pitfalls: Speedos worn and/or seen.
Canyon Picnic: You may not know it by name, but you'll recognize the part of Griffith Park known as Bronson Canyon from your viewing history. It has supported numerous films and television shows as the setting for sorcerers, starships and scorpion kings. Stop by the Oaks Gourmet to pick up a sandwich or salad along with lavender chocolate for the hike. Eastsiders can check out Eaton Canyon in north Pasadena and pick up victuals at Julienne, Porto Via or Nicole's Gourmet.
Necessities: Study hiking shoes and bug repellent.
Potential pitfalls: It's closed for filming (Bronson). It's packed with weekend crowds (Eaton).
Garden Picnic: Just off the 210, Descanso Gardens has a way of signaling the fresh starts so popular for weddings. Most likely meant to keep this alive and well, the garden has designated specific spots for picnics. Whereas gardens tend to evoke afternoon teas, there is comfort in fuller meals like roasted chicken with sides. Choose from one of several homegrown spots dotted across the Southland like Zankou Chicken and Pollo a la Brasa. Zankou also offers vegetarian options like its hummus, mutabbal and a falafel plate. If time is limited, Descanso also has a cafe on-site.
Necessities: Wet naps and a camera to capture all the mental snapshots you've already taken.
Potential pitfalls: Odds are you may make like Owen Wilson's John Beckwith and drop in on a wedding that is undoubtedly taking place there.
Reservoir Picnic: There may be no shortage of bodies (of water) beside which one can dine, but none has a meadow where the inactive are celebrated. No dogs or sports are allowed. The Silver Lake Reservoir may face possible draining, but that has yet to become reality. Until then, bring to the adjacent meadow a packaged lunch, snack or dinner from Trader Joe's. The precut cheese tray, hummus with pita chips and trail mix packs hint Hollywood Bowl, but they are just as fitting for a reservoir-meadow picnic.
Necessities: A book or two; iPod radio.
Potential pitfalls: Once outside the meadow, the steady stream of dog walkers, strollers and joggers.
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