On Saturday, 1000 Haligonians were transported to Paris for a night at the white wonderland that is Diner en Blanc.
Started in Paris in the late 1980s by Françoise Pasquier and a small group of friends, Diner en Blanc is now hosted all over the world in over 40 cities where thousands of people meet up for an evening of food, fabulous fashion, and dancing. The location of the event is always kept secret and the gourmet picnic and dance party ascends onto this location for one solitary evening, only to leave it exactly as they came upon departure. Saturday evening’s party was Halifax’s first Diner en Blanc, but believe me, it won’t be the last!
When I first told Adam about the event he was a little skeptical (mainly because he wasn’t thrilled about wearing white pants) but as the day grew closer, we had a lot of fun getting our outfits ready, hypothesizing about the secret location, and snapping a few photos before we set off for the evening.
As we walked to our meeting spot, (one of many across the city from which guests are led on foot or by bus to the secret location) the anticipation grew; people even stopped Adam and I on the street asking us questions about why were dressed in white and where the party was going to be!
Arriving at the meeting point, I was surprised and delighted to see a large group of fully blanc-clad people. Because Halifax hasn’t had an event like this before, I wasn’t sure how enthusiastic people would be about full white outfits, but everyone was stylin’ in white! Men in full white suits, shiny white patent shoes, women in long fancy white gowns, I even saw a woman with her hair spray-painted white!
And onto the buses we went, only to travel a few minutes down to the south end to King’s College, where everyone came together in the square to set up and get the party started!
There was a frantic excitement as partygoers set up their table settings and food. All attendees are in charge of bringing their own settings and fancy picnics (traditionally people are also required to bring their own tables and tablecloths, but for Halifax’s first event, these were supplied). I found the loveliest ornate clear plates at a second hand shop for our spot, and with crystal votives, a bouquet of lilies, and food mis-en-place, the table was set!
The wine for the evening had to be purchased ahead of time through Diner en Blanc and was provided by Bishop’s Cellar who selected the wine especially for the event. Adam and I chose the Domaine de Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc, but there were also a few reds and even Veuve Cliquot to choose from.
And with the wave of 1000 white napkins, the meal began.
We began our feast with brie and baguette, and quickly moved onto our appetizer: prosciutto skewers with fresh mozzarella, basil, and melon.
For our main course, Adam and I made carpaccio with an arugula and parmesan salad with truffle oil. It was delicious.
Dessert was mini-cheesecakes with Reese Peanut Butter Cups as the crust. I was sad that we only brought two each to dinner. (Don’t fret, the rest were taken care of later that evening)
There were many different types of picnics around, from sushi to gourmet pizza, people went to town with their eats. Ratinaud French Cuisine, Front & Central, and Rousseau Chocolatier also teamed up to make basket meals that you could pre-purchase and bring for your picnic. From foie gras to fish terrine and white chocolate truffles, they had all the bases covered.
The entertainment for the evening was really something special. Swingology brought us into the evening and whisked us off to 1930s Paris with beautiful swing music and singer Cynthia Myers crooning French tunes. Near the end of the meal a group of creepy looking mimes appeared: at first I thought they were really bad mimes, only to discover they were an awesome break-dancing troupe!!
At the end of their performance everyone lit sparklers signalling the end of the eating portion of the evening and the start of the dancing!
Event organizers Michelle Brisson and Dylan Moggey pulled out all the stops for Halifax’s inaugural event, including an amazing light show projected against the main building of King’s campus. Egg Studios’ light show made the building come alive, and with the music pumping and a sea of dancers all in white, the night couldn’t be called anything but a success. Overall the event went off without a hitch, which cannot be an easy feat. Though the line to the toilets was definitely too long, everyone seemed to be having a great time, and magical is the only way I can describe the night.
So what do you need to know for next year’s event? Well first of all, you are going to get a lot of emails about the particulars for the event; Diner en Blanc has a lot of etiquette and rules about what to bring, what to wear, etc. Do not get bogged down by the details. As long as you follow the guidelines you will have a great time. The beauty in the organic and wonderful feeling of this event is that everyone attending works together to make it cool, and it is so cool. A party spontaneously explodes onto a secret location, and for a few hours, it’s heavenly. For next year, get your whites ready, research your picnic recipes, and prepare to be transported to a wonderful world of white. Halifax rocked Diner en Blanc.