Picnic Posh: Le Dîner en Blanc
Lately, Saturday nights consist of yoga pants and fuzzy slippers. Time to confess- I’m a homebody by design. Being such doesn’t mean that I don’t fancy a night on the town. Pas de tout! Nothing tickles me more than an elegant affair. Last week, I was thrilled to ditch my hoodie and finally attend Boston’s Le Dîner en Blanc (Dinner in White), a worldwide mass pop-up posh picnic. The thrilling affair promises the utmost of French high society decorum- an enchanting evening noshing on gourmet food, dancing, and mingling with friends in the city’s most fashionable location.
The picnic and its concept originated 1988 by a Frenchman who just wanted a nice, outdoor dinner with friends. The group organized an evening party to meet in Paris’ famed park, Bois de Boulogne, dressed in all white as to easily spot one another. The event has since steadily evolved into one of the most coveted global dining events. Currently, Le Dîner en Blanc (DEB), spans across six continents! Paris’ 25th anniversary celebration hosted upwards of 15,000 participants alone in 2013, shattering previous attendance of 10,000.
This swanky soiree is invitation only, and to participate you must be a member or be sponsored by one. After previous years on the Boston wait list, I finally made the cut! Now I’m a lifetime member, and as a member, I’m able to both bring my own guest [waves to le mari] and also sponsor another guest who is also allowed to bring a guest. That’s the other thing- once you’ve become a member, participation is mandatory, and DEB is rain or shine. Miss the event? Au revoir! You’re out!
Every summer, members await their invitations, only with one colossal catch- the location isn’t revealed until a minute before the dinner. That’s right- it’s a secret! Guests are able to prepare regardless, as the simple, yet explicit, guidelines make the flash-gathering a success. First, everything- down to the napkin- must be white and elegant. Second, you have to bring your own supplies. When attending you must at least bring your own folding table, two chairs, two plates, stemware, napkins, centerpieces, water, and trash bags. Silverware is permitted, but plastic utensils are strictly prohibited. Don’t even try it. Guests have the option of bringing their own food or pre-ordering from one of the several scrumptious caterers provided. Due to regulations, Boston prohibits guests from bringing their own alcohol, but they are able to pre-purchase from the event website prior for pickup at the dinner. Food and wine prices range from somewhat reasonable to astronomical, so the range accommodates a variety of tastes and budgets.
Now for the fun part- le dîner! When the invitations are sent, guests must select a pre-arranged meeting location with a corresponding group leader, which are scattered around the city. Once selected, the group leaders send guests meeting instructions, keeping in mind that the actual DEB location is still a mystery! On DEB day, everyone congregates to their meeting point. When it’s time to dine, the groups depart from each location, usually on foot, to the secret location. I opted for Christopher Columbus Park in the North End as my meeting location, since I knew the area, and most importantly, I could park at a nearby garage for convenience. When the time came for the big reveal, our group of ten (or so) proceeded to grab our supplies and excitedly march onward; though, the thrill of the mystery was somewhat deflated when we arrived at the secret location merely two minutes later. To our surprise, the location was in front of us the entire time- the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which lies across the street from the park.
We weren’t disappointed. The Greenway, as it’s known by locals, is gorgeous- lush green grass and the Rings Fountain added to the unique ambiance of the evening. A part of me was actually relieved that I didn’t have to trek across the city with all of the picnic gear.
The event is meticulously organized to the table. Once we were directed to our spot, everyone started setting their spaces. Elaborate centerpieces, charcuterie trays, and fine linens began to drape the Greenway’s periphery. Not knowing what to expect at a DEB, Le mari and I opted for minimalism, pre-ordering a picnic basket and wine. No appetizers. No desserts. Our little centerpiece consisted of a faux white rose arrangement that I found as an impulse buy at our local discount home decor store. We dressed the rest of the table with a few battery operated candles, since real candles are prohibited.
The food was delicious. The wine was even better. The crowd was wonderful. DEB has major potential for snobbery, given the nature. Guests were astonishingly kind and generous. We were offered appetizers from other tables- guests were more than happy to share their feasts with everyone else. There was no shortage of willful pleasantries either- the compliments were sincere and abundant, rightfully so. Everyone stunned. Gowns. Fascinators. Dapper suits. Many of the centerpieces were lavish and artful, truly testing various kinds of creative boundaries. When dinner proceeded guests happily danced in the fountain- a brave choice given the white attire, but nonetheless, a testament to the dinner’s immense pleasure!
Le Dîner en Blanc was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I wore a fascinator! Maybe the DJ was playing a Pitbull remix, but all I could hear were the delicate strings of a Versailles harpsichord. Next year, le mari and I are scouting more friends to join our group to create an unforgettable dining experience together- a greater feast of friends! Top hats! Candelabras! Centerpieces! Crudités! Cheese boards! Tarts! Spare no detail!
I went to an event that necessitated a fascinator, and it was magical. Nearly a week later, and I’m still basking in the splendor.
À la prochaine!
Join the Fun: https://boston.dinerenblanc.com/