This time last week I was embarking on the dining experience of the year- part flash-mob, part gourmet picnic, Dîner en Blanc was a spectacular affair Washington has been ready for. DC’s inaugural event has been 3 years in the making and took place during the 25th anniversary year of the storied French tradition.
Originally a French affair among friends, the experience has morphed into an exclusive event held in over 50 cities world wide. The basic premise: participants register through an exclusive system, don all white, and descend upon a secret location to dine on gourmet food and wine.
The rules are strict- diners must adhere to guidelines regarding attire, table size, and more. The event is not without some major effort on the part of participants (just try schlepping a table, 2 chairs, a 4 course gourmet picnic and table setting on the metro during rush hour!)
However, the end result is a one of a kind evening that balances food, wine, music, dancing, and camaraderie among friends.
- Cheese Plate (from Sona Creamery)- this was great to share with friends!
- Chilled Gazpacho topped with feta
- Baby Arugula topped with seared sirloin, Parmesan, aged Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Macarons (from Sweet Lobby)
(If you’re counting, yes, that’s five types of cheese;)
Bon Vivant Tips for Enjoying Dîner en Blanc:
- Bring a container to keep your wine chilled
- Bring ICE and lots of it. The wines that were supposed to be chilled were not even remotely at serving temperature. Most of my ice had melted by the time I arrived.
- Bring shoes for walking- I changed into heels after arriving
- Once you’ve signed up with your “group”, there’s no changing it!
- If you have a request or an accommodation, be NICE to the organizers. They receive dozens of emails a day with people making various requests or even complaining. I’ve heard that many of these emails were not so nice. Remember the old adage about honey catching more flies than vinegar!
- Do a set up dry run. Once I figured out how to assemble my table it was a breeze, but it took a while to initially figure out and I saw others struggling the evening of. I also downsized to smaller plates and a lighter vase after my dry run. I cannot emphasize this tip enough!
- Consider purchasing or renting a luggage carrier. Although my trolley toppled a few times due to escalator bumps or curbs, it was collapsible and fit under the table, per DeB regulations.
- While keeping things light and compact is key to successful schlepping, I was happy I packed a few of my favorite pieces to make my table a bit more elegant. I compromised by renting lighter chairs, and chose to bring a silver champagne bucket and marble cheese board.
- Things not to forget: hand sanitizer, bug spray, shout wipes or a tide pen, wine key, water, trash bag for clean up, portable cell phone charging device.
- Depending on where you’re coming from, getting there can be a hassle. Keep a positive attitude and relax. The schlepping was more than a bit of a nuisance, but the pay off upon arrival was outstanding.
- It’s great to sit with friends and be able to share food and wine, but remember to branch out and meet new people as well!
- If you’re unable to register during the initial stage, reach out to an organizer to get on the official waiting list and monitor the message boards. There are always cancellations and if you are vigilant, you will be able to purchase tickets from someone who is unable to attend.
Things I wish I’d done differently:
- Prepared earlier. This event happened to take place during a very busy period of work for me. Day of, I was rushing around like a mad woman! I definitely brought some of this on myself by not ordering a catered food basket.
- Purchased a larger table. I went with the Coleman Compact camping table, and at 27.5 inches square, I was wishing I had splurged on a 32 inch version (the max size allowed) to better accommodate my spread.
While I already owned most of the table decor, I did spend a considerable amount of time and money purchasing items from various vendors. All told, I visited 8 brick and mortar establishments and made 2 online purchases to assemble everything I would need for the evening. Although I likely could have rented or borrowed many of these items, it made sense for me to purchase items I plan on re-using since I plan on attending in future years. When possible I took advantage of sales, but definitely splurged in other areas (namely: that cheese plate!). When possible, I purchased from local small businesses.
While some don’t understand the concept of paying to attend an event where you bring all your own supplies, food and wine, I feel that the $70 registration fee is quite reasonable given the permits, lighting, and particularly the entertainment.
Have you attended Dîner en Blanc? What are your favorite tips and tricks?