Appetite: Pick Up a Picnic at Alexandria’s Jackson 20

Appetite: Pick Up a Picnic at Alexandria’s Jackson 20

Forget freeze warnings and sweaters: The picnic season is finally here. And amid all the world’s plain sandwiches and lackluster spreads, Jackson 20 Chef James Hudson aims to improve your standard picnic basket with a new al fresco menu perfectly poised for lunch alongside the Potomac.

It all started with some bicycles. The Alexandrian hotel purchased some new bikes for guests to use, and Hudson started thinking outside the box — or restaurant, as the case may be — in terms of menu items to pair up with the new two-wheelers.

“They’re really cute and really nice, and we wanted to provide something for our guests and the public at large something they could take down to the waterfront, to one of our local parks … and have a nice day outside,” Hudson said. “… We actually produced the menu right about the same time the bicycles came.”

The picnic menu itself is teeming with al fresco favorites such as a take on chicken salad, turkey sandwiches and a fruit and cheese plate, as well as some not-quite-famous picnic items such as field pea hummus and a camembert-and-apple sandwich.

“Our hummus is really strong and always goes really, really well with anything. I wouldn’t call it a classic picnic basket item but I think in a modern sense it kind of is,” Hudson said.

But some classics do shine through, too — including a chef favorite.

“My personal favorite of course is the chicken salad,” Hudson said. “I just really think it has lots of nice fruits and nuts and isn’t your average white chicken breast with mayonnaise.”

The logistics of the menu are a bit more time-intensive than just popping into the restaurant for a meal.

“It’s not a grab-and-go — we’re requiring about 4 or 5 hours of advance notice,” Hudson said. “We’re customizing it to the specific order of the client, and that takes a little bit of time.”

What customers will find as a final result is an already-packed basket filled with the results of their order — including a bottle of wine if they so choose, also available for purchase alongside the food. The baskets themselves fit conveniently within the baskets of the Alexandrian’s new bicycles, making for easy transport.

“It’s a great opportunity for a snack and hopefully a good possibility for outreach into the community as well,” Hudson said.

Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at Email her any time at