Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Picnic Basket Rentals in Houston? A Great Way to Enjoy Local Food and Open Space

Belle Isle's Grand Canal: Early 1900's - Wikipedia Commons
Now that the weather is a bit warmer, Houston is primed for picnics. There are more places to picnic now than ever, and who can turn down a romantic meal on a blanket in the middle of a beautiful Houston park? (I proposed to my wife during a picnic in Houston's Herman Park, so picnics have a special place in our hearts.) Picnics are a great date idea and allow for flexible timing for conversation without feeling rushed out by waitstaff. Also, it's a small way to reduce the amount of paper and plastic typically associated with to-go meals, which is thrown into our park's trash cans, or that ends up polluting the urban landscape.

During a trip to Michigan last week I was reminded by my parents of the grandeur that once accompanied afternoon visits to Belle Isle, Detroit's-once-crown-jewel of a park, situated in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Canada. It was once the destination for picnicking in Detroit. Then, this week I learned that Rose's Fine Food, a Detroit made-from-scratch diner, is planning on supplying picnic baskets for rental, equipped with a meal, blanket, and real silverware and dishware, attempting to restore picnicking on Belle Isle (Eater Detroit). (We know the all-too-familiar story of plastic cutlery breaking or paper plates folding under the weight of hearty servings.) If restaurants are still apprehensive to supply real cutlery and dishware, environmentally friendly options are available, and a meal can be wrapped up for transport in a reusable grocery bag (assuming it would then be emblazoned with that restaurant's logo.)

A new mural on the side of Gelazzi in the Houston Heights
Hearing this, I began to be curious if Houston restaurants are in the market for providing something more upscale than a carry-out meal wrapped in paper? A quick search reveals a ranking of Houston's 10 best places for picnic provisions, as well as Houston's best places to picnic, but there are limited results for more upscale restaurants with picnic basket packages. Picnic, a University Place neighborhood restaurant specializing in box lunches, is about as close as we get here in Houston. Prepared picnic baskets are quite popular in New York, ranging from simple to an extravagant, $2,000-priced basket, and Austin's Antonelli's Cheese Shop has prepared picnic baskets for rental.

This concept might work very well with Houston's hotel restaurants, especially those located near parks, much like Hotel Zaza or the Hilton Americas, as well as higher-end local restaurants that specialize in craft foods, much like the Heights neighborhood's Revival Market. There is a seemingly low overhead for restaurants, and a picnic lunch is a great way to enjoy the cuisine of Houston in one of our city's beautiful parks. So, are there any restaurants that actually do this type of thing in Houston?

***Update, August 5, 2015 - (Rose's Fine Food rents picnic baskets in Detroit. Check out their information here.)