Welcome to the sixth installment of Picnic Basket Banter, a weekly series profiling Philadelphians who are participating in Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia. This series puts volunteers and attendees of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia into the spotlight, asking a series of questions about their ideal picnic, favorite places in our amazing city and, of course, what they will be packing in their picnic baskets. This week we spoke with Daniele Thomas-Easton, a Diner en Blanc volunteer.
Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia: What is your favorite spot to picnic in Philadelphia?
Daniele: Your question reminds me of the time when hiking through local woods I came by sheer luck, upon pounds of fresh morels. To each of my gourmet friends asking for the “spot”, I gave a different answer, sending them on a quest for the elusive morel in a radius of 20 miles from Philadelphia. My morel spot, like my favorite picnic location, has remained a secret… doesn’t it remind you of the mysterious location for the Diner en Blanc?
DEB PHL: What’s your perfect picnic beverage?
Daniele: Clairette de Die, unfortunately difficult to find in the U.S., a natural sparkling white wine, a festive beverage with irresistible notes of peach, honeysuckle and rose. The making of the Clairette de Die can be traced back over two thousand years. Roman writer Pliny the Elder was the first one to describe it. And contrarily to what we like to say in France – petit clin d’oeil à Asterix – ils ne sont pas fous ces Romains, ils s’y connaissaient en bonne chère!
DEB PHL: Who would be the most interesting person (famous or historical figure) you’d like to share a picnic with- living or dead ?
Daniele: My husband! After 25 years of marriage, he is still the most interesting person with whom I like to share a picnic and more!
DEB PHL: Do you have a favorite picnic memory?
Daniele: A picnic with friends by the edge of an empty pasture somewhere in the lower Alps. We were drowsy after lunch, fell asleep and woke up, surrounded by dairy cows coming back, late afternoon, to the barn. We followed them, met the farmer and bought some tasty fresh cheese… for the next picnic!
DEB PHL: What will be on your Diner en Blanc menu? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
Daniele: We often cook on the spur of the moment and are inspired at the last minute by ingredients we find at the market. We may poach some chicken breast or fish and serve it accompanied by a light, home-made white sauce with fresh tarragon.
DEB PHL:If you needed to put together a picnic basket for two in less than 30 minutes, what would you make/buy?
Daniele: A pan bagnat as it is called in the south of France (a round white bread sandwich, filled with all the ingredients of a salade niçoise), some ripe white peaches, water, and, maybe, a bottle of Costières de Nîmes.
DEB PHL: What non-food items are always included in your picnic basket?
Daniele: Towelettes, trash-bag, a small spray bottle with essential oils I mix 50/50 – lavender and peppermint – to keep away flies, mosquitoes, spiders. I hate the smell of citronella!
DEB PHL: If you were planning the first Diner en Blanc event in Philadelphia what would be your outdoor public space of choice be?
Daniele: The green area by Walnut and Third Streets… A challenge though, it is part of the Philadelphia historic “shrine” and the terrain is uneven. But, in Paris, we “occupied” the Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, The Panthéon, and a bevy of French historic and cultural shrines over the years.
DEB PHL: What do you plan to wear and what will be the hardest part about putting together your Diner en Blanc outfit?
Daniele: I do not know yet …
DEB PHL: How long have you lived in the Philadelphia area?
Daniele: 35 springs …
DEB PHL: What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
Daniele: The incredible diversity of the city, the wide array of things to do, for all tastes and all purses. The walkability! We have given up our car and can go anywhere so easily.
DEB PHL: What is your favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?
Daniele: For the moment, Kanella and Matyson.
DEB PHL: If you were to plan “the perfect day” of things to do for someone who was visiting Philadelphia for the first time, what would their day look like from start to finish?
Daniele: This is a bad question. One does not, cannot, must not, envisage to spend only ONE day in Philadelphia. There can be dozens of different scenarios for “the perfect day” according to the personality, the interests of the visitor:
– Philly as an art mecca, with the first American museum and academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Barnes Foundation, the superbly renovated Rodin, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
– Philly as a historic pilgrimage, with the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Elfreth Alley, the First Bank, Carpenter’s Hall…
– Philly with its layers of architectural styles
– Philly as a place where so many films were shot.
– Philly through the French lens, Stephen Girard, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Achard de Bonvouloir et Loyauté, Joseph Bonaparte, et al.
– Philly as a place to eat around the world within the city limits.
And so on… Philadelphia is to me similar to a large daisy from which one pulls one petal at a time, discovering with each plucking that it is not love me, love me not, but love me all the time!