Dîner en Blanc
One of summer’s most welcome events
story and photos by Stephanie Arsenault
Fact: there are few things better than a good dinner party. The friends, the food, the wine... throw in some fantastic
music and conversation (aided, of course, by the wine), and you’ve got yourself an evening for the books.
Now just imagine you have all of the above, but the dinner party is outdoors. With gourmet food, incredible wine, and live music. Also, everything is white; white table linens, attire, and décor… Oh, and there are a few thousand of your closest friends in attendance.
Enter: Dîner en Blanc. Now in its fourth year in Calgary (it started in 2013, offering a much-needed evening of escape for many flood-affected Calgarians), the notso- secret secret party has quickly become the event of the summer.
Dîner en Blanc began back in 1988, when a Parisian named François Pasquier wanted to host a dinner party. His small apartment couldn’t accommodate all of his guests, so Pasquier asked his friends to meet him at Bois de Boulogne, a large park that runs along the edge of the 16th arrondissement in Paris. He also requested that they all wear white, so that those who hadn’t previously met one another would know they were part of the same party. Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and the once tight-knit dinner has evolved to take place in more than 70 countries on six continents, with tens of thousands of participants. It may not be as intimate now as it was originally, but it has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it so special.
It might be the image of a sea of people dressed beautifully in white, carrying tables, chairs, and picnic baskets through a busy, public space. Perhaps it’s the thousands of hands waving napkins high in the air, signifying the beginning of the event, or those same hands lifting bright sparklers in the dark, signifying the opening of the dance floor (when the party really begins). Maybe it’s that low light of late summer evenings, or the conversation and laughter lubricated by French music and too much wine. Whatever that special something is, it’s dreamy.
What to expect… Want to take part in the world’s biggest pop-up, alfresco, flash mob-esque dinner party? First, register on the wait list at calgary.dinerenblanc.com, once registration is open. Invitations are then sent out in three waves, via e-mail, and once you’ve been invited, you’ll need to register yourself and a guest. Payment includes the fee for the evening, and a membership, which gets you priority access to registration for the dinner the following year.
Sorting out the details… When you sign up, you’ll specify which area of the city you’re coming from, whether you’d like to take the chartered bus or public transit (the location of the event will not be revealed until moments before you’ve arrived!), and then you’ll choose a table leader. Next, you’ll decide whether you’d like your meal catered or will bring your own food. If you want a catered dinner, you’ll be provided with options from the participating restaurant, from which you can choose. If you’ll be bringing your own food, it must be a multi-course gourmet meal for two, so get creative. At this point, you’ll also order your wine, which you’ll pick up at the event. No beer or hard alcohol is allowed, and while you can purchase wine on site (just in case you didn’t initially order enough), you cannot bring your own.
What to wear… As the name implies, you must wear white. Not cream, offwhite, or anything along those lines; simply wear white. Don’t worry about overdoing it, attendees tend to go all out. You’re most definitely going to find more than one wedding dress, elaborate hat or headpiece, and an assortment of stunning accessories. As long as what you’re wearing is elegant, you’ll be fine. That said, it can be surprisingly tough to find an all-white ensemble, so start planning as soon as you can. Also, make sure you bring layers and an umbrella (clear or white), as fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions are nearly guaranteed; it is Calgary, after all. Lastly, opt for comfortable shoes, especially if you plan to take public transit. Ladies, if stilettos are non-negotiable, throw a pair of flip-flops in your bag for the trek.
What to bring… You’ll need a folding table between 28 and 32 inches square, two white folding chairs, a white tablecloth, white cloth napkins, silverware, white dishes, clear wine glasses, a picnic basket (full of your gourmet meal for two, unless you opt for the catered dinner), white or glass table décor (flameless candles, white flowers, etc.), and a clear or white garbage bag. If you’re having a hard time finding the right-sized table and matching chairs, take a look on kijiji; you may have some luck finding sets being sold by previous attendees.
This might seem like a lot of work, and it may sound a little pretentious, but the effort is worth it. Dîner en Blanc really is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s an exclusive event, yes, but it’s also an evening unlike any other. Santé, friends. Dîner en Blanc One of summer’s most welcome events Fact: there are few things better than a good dinner party. The friends, the food, the wine... throw in some fantastic music and conversation (aided, of course, by the wine), and you’ve got yourself an evening for the books. Stephanie Arsenault is a writer and photographer, eater and drinker, adventurer and cookie monster.
Get in touch at globaldish.ca. Get more information and register at calgary.dinerenblanc.com
Read article in the digital issue of City Palate.