This post originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributing writer.
July is National Picnic Month, and Chicago's parks and beaches are the perfect spot to spread out a blanket and unpack a meal. But before you load up a basket and find a fresh patch of grass, you have to stock up on some al fresco essentials. Here are five places that make planning a fab summer picnic in Chicago easier than ever.
Goddess and Grocer (Multiple Locations)
This gourmet neighborhood café (pictured at top) offers "Pack a Picnic" - an a la carte to-go option for one-stop packing. Choose your favorite deli, prepared food and specialty grocery items and they'll all be loaded in a convenient box to take on the go. Don't forget to include a locally made chocolate bar or a house baked cookie or cupcake for dessert! Pack a Picnic is the price of your meal plus a $2 charge for the picnic box. Bring the box back after your picnic to any Goddess location and you'll receive 10% off your next to-go order.
Toni Patisserie (65 E. Washington St.)
Conveniently located near prime picnic spot Millennium Park, Toni Patisserie is a French-inspired café that serves breakfast and lunch items, coffee, handcrafted sweets, savories and more, all of which can be easily packed up into a picnic basket. The wide range of Parisian-style baguettes and quiches are especially perfect for pique-niques, or pick up some indulgent pastries and add champagne for a dessert picnic made for a Millennium Park concert under the stars. Pique-nique boxes may be pre-ordered for lunch or dinner by calling 312-726-2020. The café also offers a great selection of alcoholic beverages to go, including six different beers to red wines and chilled white wines.
The Florentine (JW Marriott Chicago, 151 W. Adams St.)
The Florentine's baskets bring a taste of Italy to your picnic. Two baskets are available: The Ciao Bello Date Basket comes complete with a selection of Italian apps, roasted pollo al Mattone, biscotti, and your choice of red or white wine. The Summer in the City Basket features chicken peperonata panini with smoked mozzarella and basil aioli, spinach sald, homemade rosemary salt chips, panna cotta for dessert and a choice of bottled water or Pellegrino sparkling juice. Call the restaurant directly at 312-660-8866 at least 3 hours prior to pick-up.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago (401 N. Wabash Ave.)
Leave it to the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago to turn a picnic into a luxury beach experience by offering deluxe beach services that outfit guests with plush Trump Chicago beach bags filled with sunscreen, deluxe beach towels, fresh fruit and bottles of water, arrange for beach chairs at Oak Street Beach complete with an umbrella and bring picnic goods from Oak Street Beach - Food & Drink straight to your chaise lounge. For more information, visit trumphotelcollection.com/chicago.
It's not a true picnic without libations, and Cocktail Courier brings the bar to you. Just place your order online and drinks crafted by Chicago's top bartenders will be delivered to your doorstep in a single box with all the accouterments, including the liquor, pre-measured syrups and even the garnish. Picnic-goers can choose from the website's curated list of cocktails including the Paloma Diabla from Paul Sauter of Tippling Hall or the Northside Collins from David Perez of Dolce in The Godfrey Hotel. Prices start at $8.99 per cocktail.
Photos: Goddess and Grocer; Toni Patisserie; The Florentine; Trump International Hotel & Tower