The Only 10 Things You Need for a Successful Dîner En Blanc

A little photo booth fun at Baltimore’s first Dîner en Blanc

A few weekends ago, I kicked off Dîner en Blanc season by attending Charm City’s very first event, which was held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. It had been a while, since New York City three years ago actually, that I’d attended a dîner as a guest rather than a volunteer. Just showing up with my chairs, table, food, plates and flowers seemed so easy, but that’s because a) I’ve attended quite a few diners by now b) I’m usually responsible for getting 250 people from their meeting location to the diner venue and making sure they set up properly once on site 😉 Just showing up and having people tell me where to go was a nice change of pace! I do totally get that, for newbies, getting ready for the event can seem overwhelming though. Especially since participants no longer have the option of going through an official renting company for certain items. So I thought I’d break down all the items that you actually need to attend Dîner en Blanc, as give as give you a couple of tips if you want to take it up a notch or two.

1. A table – this is a strict BYOT(able) affair! But not just any table will do…. it should measure between 26-32″ and since you have to carry everything yourself, sometimes on the metro, I definitely recommend a roll up table. The table will be covered by a tablecloth so it’s actually one of the few items that does not need to be white. I recommend this one. 

2. Two folding chairs – the lighter the better! These are fine and these will work too. If you already own folding chairs but they’re not white, don’t sweat it but do cover them with an extra table cloth or white bed sheets. 

3. A white tablecloth & two napkins – I suggest you opt for a 72×72 tablecloth like this one since you’ll be using the space underneath your table to store everything that doesn’t need to be on top of it. A 54×54 is fine as well just make sure it’s white! As for the napkins, they’re really important. You’ll be waving them in the air at the beginning of the dinner so paper won’t do. Cloth napkins can be hard to find in twos so you might have to buy a pack of twelve and share with other friends attending. 

4. Two white plates, glasses and a set of cutlery – the plates have to be white (here’s a good one) but your silverware doesn’t (here’s a set). For the glasses, think of what you’ll be drinking (Champagne? Wine? Water? All of the above!) and get what you’ll need. Tumblers or stem glasses are fine, and you probably can get away with GoVino glasses too… If you’re planning on purchasing a bottle of Jacquard champagne for the diner, you can also pick up a set of flutes and a champagne bucket in the Dîner en Blanc store. 

5. A centerpiece for your table – you can go all out on this one (see my friend’s Jade fancy sail from last year) but you can also just keep it simple. This 15″ Eiffel Tower with some lights or a simple bouquet of white flower will do the trick just fine. For Dîner en Blanc in Baltimore I actually had small bouquets of fake flowers to make it easier on myself. The key is to remember that you do have to carry everything and that you can take a few shortcuts. Flowers are nice but the above mentioned champagne bucket from Jacquart can totally double up as a centerpiece too! Ditto for a cake stand like this one. And since you have to bring lights too a fancy candelabra like this one can totally serve dual purposes!

My friend Jade put a lot of work into her centerpiece last year!

6. Lights – While the dinner kicks off around 6:30PM, eventually it will get dark and you will want to have a little extra lighting. You can use a candelabra, votives (paired with flameless tealight candles) or LED string lights(they look great in a vase!) , just remember to keep it on the fake side (yep, no fire!!)

7. Water – You can purchase some  “summer water” through the Dîner en Blanc online store, but you’ll definitely want some real water too! It’s HOT in DC at the end of August. Some ice wouldn’t hurt either. All alcohol purchases (and there are some great options this year!) must be done through the online store due to city regulations.

8. Food – You have the option of purchasing one of Mike Isabella’s six unique picnic baskets (I’ve got my eyes on the one from Kapnos myself!) but you can also bring your own food of course. 

9. Trash bags – Dîner en Blanc aims to leave the site of the event as pristine as it found it and that means guests are responsible for not leaving anything behind, and that includes trash. For this reason, pack a white trash bag or two.

10. A white bag/basket – All this stuff needs to go into something. I’ve seen people lug those white picnic baskets around (very elegant!), a large tote or basket works as well. Some participants go the suitcase or the grocery cart route. I’ve never been a fan because you have to store everything under your table and it gets crowded down there really quickly. A folding cart can definitely help with the chairs, but isn’t required.

Of course, you also need to be dressed in white from head to toe.

Typically you have a little leeway when it comes to footwear and accessories. But don’t go crazy… we’re talking gold or silver jewelry, nude shoes and the like. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead too…. if it looks like rain is likely, you’ll want to add a white (or clear) umbrella and/or rain poncho to your shopping list. Dîner en Blanc will happen rain or shine. And on that note, I’d love to add a bonus item to my list:

An open mind and positive attitude – Part of the fun of Dîner en Blanc is that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you’re an intern on the hill, a doctor, a teacher or a partner in a law firm, you still have to carry all of your stuff, in the DC-in-August heat, to the secret location. The metro may not cooperate (I mean, does it ever?) and it might rain (fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened so far) but that’s part of the experience and everyone has to through it. If you’re not willing to kind of go with the flow or are upset because you don’t get to sit next to your friends, you’re probably not going to have a great time at Dîner en Blanc. But if you bring a little extra food to share with your neighbours, you might make some new friends…. and you can still meet up with your old friends on the dancefloor! If you take everything in stride, like, if metro shuts down the escalators again, then you’ll definitely have a great time at this exceptional event. I can’t wait to see you all in your chic-est white outfits somewhere in the city on August 26!  If you’ve attended a Dîner en Blanc before, care to leave some tips in the comments?

ps: If you’re looking for a one stop shop option, this blog post from last year goes over all the items you can find at Ikea. I also have a nifty little public list on Amazon to help with the basic like table, chairs etc. Finally, if you’re trying to decide whether to BYOF(ood) or not, The Hungry Lobbyist has a great post recapping all of the options this year. They look delicious!

Diner en Blanc by the Lincoln Memorial

The very first diner en blanc took place in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne in the 1980s and has popped up in some of the most iconic locations around town since then, like the Champs Elysees, Notre Dame or the Place des Vosges to name a few. While I loved Washington’s first two diners en blanc, the sites (Navy Yard Park in 2014 and the Carnegie Library in 2015) had lacked a certain wow factor. This year, however, the organizers really delivered that only-in-DC magic as 3500 white-clad diners descended on Henry Bacon Park for an over the top, elegant pop-up picnic in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

Diner en Blanc, Washington DC

Getting so many people, slugging their tables, chairs, decorations and for many food, to an undisclosed location and setting them up at the site is always an exercise in organized chaos, but it always all comes together beautifully in the end.

Diner en Blanc at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial

Photograph by Vita Images for Diner en Blanc Washington, DC

The diner has many detractors but, as I mentioned to the Washington Post for an article on the event, one of the reasons I keep getting involved in Diner en Blanc is the camaraderie and the creativity. For all the talk that it’s a pretentious, posh, exclusive event, with a restrictive dress code and many strict rules, it’s actually one of the most inclusive and diverse I’ve ever attended in the city. Whether you’re a chief of staff in a congressional office or an inter, a lobbyist or a student, a lawyer or a bartender, everyone is equal for one night. I’ve never heard anyone ask someone else the dreadful “oh, what do you do” question at Diner en Blanc. Instead it’s compliments on fun angel wings, a sparkly beard, original outfits or crafty centerpieces. Everyone is treated the same at Diner en Blanc: everyone has to drag their stuff across town, no one knows where they’re going to end up setting up and everyone is given the same blank white canvass to work with. And they are free to get as creative as they want… well, as long as you keep it white 😉

Diner en blanc Washington DC

Diner en blanc Washington, DC

Some of my friends express their creativity through their outfits, others go all out on their table scape. Check out this sail my friend Jade made! It was amazing!

Diner en Blanc at the Lincoln Memorial

Some get creative on the dance floor too ! I usually focus on my menu but this year decided to spend some time and energy on a homemade flower crown instead. And I had a pretty simple but stunning table design planned that involved massive white balloons (inspired by this pin) too but that was thwarted by the National Park Service rangers who apparently disapprove of balloons… womp womp. We still got a few good pictures with them though!

Photo by Jai Williams for DCist

Photo by Jai Williams for DCist

Picture by Vithaya Phongsavan for DC Modern Luxury

Picture by Vithaya Phongsavan for DC Modern Luxury

Again, it was a wonderful evening, spent laughing, eating, drinking champagne and dancing under the stars with old friends, and strangers alike, in one of those truly only-in-DC moments. I only wish it could have lasted longer…

Diner en blanc 2016

 

 

The Best Ikea Products for Diner en Blanc

I’ve been combing through the new IKEA catalogue since it came out last week and re-designing my apartment in my head ever since. Because I’m in a Diner en Blanc state of mind right now, putting the final touches on my tablescape etc. I’ve been paying particularly close attention to anything white that I could possibly hack for the event or use as a fun little additional design piece. And guess what, you can pretty much find everything that you need for your table at IKEA. So if you don’t have all of your stuff for #DeBDC16 yet, check out these pieces:

Ikea Table - Diner en Blanc

Since the table has to be covered by a cloth, it doesn’t need to be white and the askholmen table folds easily for transportation to and from the secret location. The Gunde chairs are equally convenient and you have all your basics covered for less than $60. 

Now for all the stuff that goes on top of the table… Of course you can go for a more elaborate tablescape but your basic pieces are:

  • napkins
  • plates
  • glasses 
  • silverware
  • lights.

I would add a cheap place mat to add a little “color” and the pretty 3-tiered kvittera serving plater to use as a functional centerpiece. You may also need a wine cooler if you’re having champagne or white wine (and of course, Ikea’s got you covered for that too). The skurar lantern (and all of the skurar series) can be used either as a vase or pot for flowers or for some dim dinner lighting. Altogether, we’re looking at $70 for all the dining elements. 

Everything you need for Diner en Blanc

If you’re headed to your first diner en blanc soon and are looking for a one-stop shop, Ikea basically has you covered. And if you’re veteran diner, you can still pick some super cute pieces to add to your table design without breaking the bank.

Save the Date~Two Fabulous Champagne Lanson Events Coming September 15th

Just last weekend I was dressed in white from head to toe and appropriately sipping some Champagne Lanson Brut White Label NV at Washington’s second annual Diner en Blanc. 

Champagne Lanson Diner en BlancDiner en blanc dc


Champagne Lanson Diner en Blanc

You can read more about DC’s 2015 Diner en Blanc here (and here and here and here.) If you missed Diner en Blanc or you just want to relive a part of this magical evening, the House of Lanson is coming to town and hosting two events in the District.

The first, more casual, is a tasting of the entire champagne house portfolio at one of my go-to wine shop Cork and Fork (always trust a wine shop owner whose grandfather ran the Champagne Veuve Clicquot vineyards) between 6-8PM on September 15 (Tickets $20).

Champagne Lanson, Cork and ForkThe second is a wine pairing diner at 701 near the National Archives/Navy Memorial also on September 15 (starting at 7:30PM, $100 not including tax and gratuity). Executive Chef Benjamin Lambert will prepare a five-course feast while Enguerrand Baijot, the director of Champagne Lanson North America, will orchestrate pairings of Champagne Lanson, including Black Label Brut NV, Rose Label Brut, the White Label that was served at Diner en Blanc and a “Gold Label” Vintage Brut 2002. The Young Winos of DC have complete menu for you here and you can book your spot for dinner by calling the restaurant at 202-393-0701. 

Cheers!! 

ps: all pictures from Diner en Blanc included in this post were taken by my very good friend Cecile. You can read her take on Diner en Blanc right here.

Dîner en Blanc – Part Deux, DC Edition

When Washington played host to its first Diner en Blanc last year, the main complaints from participants concerned the location. Yards Park in Southwest DC was a beautiful venue, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t strike anyone as particularly iconic. Compared to some of the other famous locations where the all-white diners have popped up across the globe — Lincoln Center in New York, the Trocadero with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop or on 6 bridges over the Seine in Paris, Covent Garden in London, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles to name a few — the 42-acre development on the Anacostia River waterfront was a bit lacking in Washington monuments and recognizable sites. It was also a bit out of the way, with few passers-by likely to stumble upon the scene. With that in mind, the organizers sought out not only a more central location, but also one that felt more-DC. And that location was the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, a 1900s beaux-arts building in front of the more modern Convention Center. 2,700 revelers, all dressed in their best whites, squeezed into the park around the former library for an evening of eating, drinking, dancing and of course, instagramming 😉

This was my second Dîner en Blanc of the summer. In New York last month, I got to experience what it was like to be a care-free guest at the event, showing up in Manhattan just hours before the start of the diner. Yesterday was a completely different story! I started the evening in Dupont Circle, where 500 of the guests met one of 10 different group leaders that would whisk them to the secret location — part of the concept of the flash mob dinner party is that guests only found out where it is being held at the last minute. The logistical challenge for the organizers is to get everyone onsite in a timely and orderly fashion, while they’re lugging their table, chairs and food. On the metro. The DC metro. Once my five groups had left Dupont Circle with their leaders, I hopped in an uber to beat them to the location, so I could be onsite to welcome them and help them set up in a pre-determined spot on the lawn of the Carnegie Library. The few quiet moments I got to spent before the storm of white-clad guests descended upon Mount Vernon Square were some of my favourites of the diner. 

Diner en blanc DC 2015

Diner en Blanc at the Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square ~ Enjoying some quiet moments before the groups arrived.

Then the groups arrived from the 8 different meeting points scattered around the city and Northern Virginia. The Convention Center and Chinatown groups arrived first obviously. The Dupont Circle groups arrived last which led to a somewhat frantic setting up. Before we knew it, it was 6:45PM and the second edition of Diner en Blanc DC officially kicked off with the traditional waving of the napkins. Finally, it was time to relax and eat! 

DC's 2015 Diner en blanc at the Carnegie Library

Rather than order from the catered options available for purchase, I had prepared a simple cold diner that was heavy on prosciutto: spiced watermelon soup with prosciutto, prosciutto wrapped melon (with additional hors d’oeuvre sized ones to pass around the tables) and a spinach-prosciutto quiche with a green salad. I had picked up some shimmery vanilla macarons at Olivia Macaron, the Georgetown shop had made them especially for the occasion and they looked so pretty on my table (in addition to being delicious of course!)  

diner Macarons

Bonus, like in New York, Celebrity Cruises also passed around some white chocolate dipped macarons and my friend Cecilia of OneVanillaBean had made all sorts of delicious desserts like a raspberry-rose roll-out cake and caneles, which she was kind enough to share with the people sitting next to her. By 8PM when the sparklers were lit and the jazzy background music that accompanied diner turned into more upbeat sounds spinned by DJ Sabeel, I was ready to kick-off my shoes and hit the impromptu dance floor set up on the stairs of the library!

Sparklers at diner en blanc DC

At that point, all of the stress I experienced in the early evening was long gone (copious amount of Lanson Champagne definitely helped with that as well!!) As I danced with old friends and new friends alike, 2,700 strangers from all walks of life who came together to share a magical moment, I remembered why I love this event so much and why I’m so proud to be involved with it. Because you have to bring basically everything with you, you can really express your creativity at Diner en Blanc, whether you express it through your outfit, menu or tablescape. My friend Sandy made this crafty #DEBDC sign, which was quite a hit! My friend Xionara had a bird on her head. Felicity Amos, my Dupont Circle co-group leader, had an elaborate table display, complete with a white bust of George Washington. 

My friend Sandy made this crafty sign! #DEBDC

The fact that I was able to walk home in less than five minutes made it only better 😉 

Dîner en Blanc – New York Edition

Last night, I joined 5,000 revelers at Pier 26 in Tribeca for the fifth edition of New York’s Dîner en Blanc. Being involved with the DC event, which this year will take place on August 29th and involve 2,500 guests, I can appreciate the sheer logistics of getting all of us, carrying our own tables, chairs, tableware, centerpieces and food, there!

Diner en blanc New YorkWashington Square Park

Diner en blanc Washington Square Park

 

Our evening started at Washington Square Park, one of 24 meeting spots throughout the city. Well, really it started on a bus to New York… but let’s not go there 😉 Following a quick glass of rosé on tap at Claudette (no it wasn’t weird at all to show up there with 2 chairs, I swear…), my friend Caitlin and I met Katie, our very organized table leader, as well our 48 diner mates.

Part of the concept of Dîner en Blanc, which originated in Paris (I mean where else??) is that the location of the diner is kept secret until the very last minute so we had no idea where we were headed. Previously, Dîner en Blanc New York has popped up at Bryant Park, the Lincoln Center and, more recently, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at Battery Park. It took a good hour and a half to get from Washington Square Park to being set up in our designated area on Pier 26. With only two entry points to get 5,000 people in and out of the site, it was definitely a challenge to get everyone there and ready for diner, but the end result was worth all the sweating and slugging of white chairs in the metro and 33 degree heat!

Diner en blanc new york

Diner en blanc new York

Diner en blanc at Pier 26Despite being so close to last year’s location, which was a little disappointing, the backdrop of this year Dîner en Blanc – the Hudson River, New Jersey City Skyline and the new One World Trade Center – was absolutely stunning! You could even see a small  Statue of Liberty in the background! The site will be converted into a mixed-use recreational facility soon so this was the very last event held on the empty Pier.

Diner en blanc New YorkDiner en blanc New York

Caitlin and I opted to skip the picnic baskets provided by Chef Todd English and brought in our food, sushi from Beyond Sushi and macarons from Mille-Feuille.  Per New York regulations, we did pre-purchase a bottle of champagne to pick up on-site, from Dîner en Blanc New York sponsor Perrier Jouet.

Diner en Blanc New YorkDiner en blanc new York

One of my favourite element of the diner, which I hope we will have in DC too, was the Celebrity Cruises volunteers who not only had the cutest outfits as they held signs indicating the different rows of tables but also handed out white chocolate dipped macarons to all of the guests toward the end of the dinner. I cannot wait to see what they have planned for the event here in Washington, which they are also sponsoring!! 

Celebrity Cruises at diner en blanc new york

Have you ever attended a Dîner en Blanc event before? When? Where? Are you planning on attending one this year? I’d love to hear!!