Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one Blue Mountains deli owner was lucky to see one couple on a 'mystery picnic' a fortnight, but these days about 15 or 20 guests are coming by regularly every week to sample the charcuterie and fill up their baskets.
The mystery picnic is a self-guided food experience with a difference - you choose a destination and use your smartphone to solve clues and riddles.
Because the event is a mystery, we don't want to spoil the surprise and reveal who that deli owner is (or the other businesses taking part locally), except to say he is part of AmazingCo's Mystery Picnics - date night or Saturday brunch event re-imagined. The picnic means you can easily be socially distant and out in nature for a good part and it's the perfect antidote to a pandemic, while still supporting a few local businesses.
As their website says: "Your journey will take you to local artisan producers where you will collect delicious picnic ingredients, ending at a stunning secret picnic spot where you'll enjoy your food."
Destinations range from wine regions to cities. Expect the option of wine, chocolate, gourmet bread and deli goods and a few ideas for local bushwalks.
The company is now global, but was formed in Melbourne five years ago. It started with an idea that at "a time when digital addiction is leading to a lack of human connection, we embrace the best of technology to make your real-world experiences even better, and full of moments of connection".
Co-founder Nick Brozovic said AmazingCo "began in kids party entertainment, and eventually expanded into wine tours and self-guided experiences - mystery picnics. Today we have thousands of experiences across 60 cities worldwide".
"The concept was built around finding a fun way to spend quality time together, both for celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries, as well as just a day out catching up with friends. We wanted to help people spend their leisure time in a more meaningful way, because that is what we were looking for ourselves," he said.
Mr Brozovic said the picnics had been popular across Australia during 2020, "particularly in recent weeks with low case numbers and eased restrictions".
"They are the perfect way to spend time with loved ones while outdoors and socially distancing as we find our way to a covid-normal. As restrictions have eased and covid cases have dropped across the country, we're seeing that lots of people are excited to get out again."
The company also has a range of 'at home' experiences for those stuck in lockdowns.
Mr Brozovic said most people who go on an experience, end up gifting one to someone else - something this writer is also considering. Apart from a non linear journey and an historical inaccuracy in one of the clues, the culinary scavenger hunt is a fun and intimate way to enjoy the Mountains and the perfect gift.
- A mystery picnic costs $120 a couple and takes about four hours. You need a car. The Gazette was a guest of the company.