On my way home from the Eurostar last night I found myself smack dab in the middle of the twenty-sixth annual dîner en blanc. This pop-up dining event secretly planned and held al fresco in a predetermined place which is kept secret from attendees until a few moments before it begins, is definitely on my bucket list of things I hope some day to be invited to.
This year’s by-invitation-only-soirée took place over six bridges throughout Paris. Dressed in all white and eating only white food (no vin rouge allowed), over 12,000 people participated in this posh version of a flash mob.
From talking to friends who have been a guest at this feast in the past, dîner en blanc seems to be a highly codified event. There are “team leaders” who are responsible for the invitation, organization and behavior of each small group. In addition to the white dress code, white food, and white wine or champagne (beer and spirits are prohibited), you must also bring your own table and chairs (white, bien sûr), white tablecloths, and dishes. Some diners go as far as bringing white flowers in vases, candles, and center pieces. The most important rule is that everyone disappears before midnight and leaves their dining site undamaged and spotless—under threat of being blacklisted for the following year’s festivities.
Last night there were lots of extravagant white hats and pearl-buttoned gloves, and when the Eiffel Tower sparkled, the revelers did too—producing long sparklers lit up on cue like synchronized swimmers in an old MGM film.
It is an elegant affair, and possibly the one-and-only time of the year that you will encounter so many happy, smiling and relaxed Parisians. Furrowed brows, downturned lips and icy stares, all disappear for a joyous but respectful evening. It is also the only day of the year that Parisians stow away their all-black wardrobes and slip into something brighter, whiter and lighter.
It is a lovely change. Hmmm…maybe dîner en blanc ought to be a monthly event?
al fresco: in the open air
dîner en blanc: white dinner, dinner in white
vin rouge: red wine