Dîner en Blanc Makes its Philadelphia Debut on Thursday, August 23, 2012

 Dîner en Blanc - Notre Dame 2011

One of this summer’s most well-mannered flash mobs is Dîner en Blanc (dinner in white), the Parisian pop-up picnic whose location is being kept secret from its participants until the last minute.  Philadelphia will host its first Dîner en Blanc on Thursday, August 23, 2012.

The Dîner en Blanc event is a viral, world-wide sensation - imported from city of lights, exported previously into American locations such as Chicago and New York City - and the premise is delicious fun. A date is set for a culinary adventure where diners dressed in white and armed with their own tables, chairs, wine and food, meet at an undisclosed public space. An orchestra will play quietly throughout the night. Candles will light the darkness. And together the participants will share in an elegant, secluded, exclusive romantic evening where both intimacy and community is celebrated.

That sounds pretty sexy.

Dîner en Blanc started in June 1988 when François Pasquier returned to his native Paris after traveling for several years, and wanted to throw a dinner party for friends. As the guest list grew to 200 people, he asked that the invited show up at the Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne and wear white so that those friends of his who didn’t know each other would be able to assemble with ease.

Everyone had such a great time that they began to meet at the Bois de Boulogne annually, and by 1991, the party drew 1,200 attendees.  Beginning in 1992, Pasquier and a retinue of co-hosts began to change and conceal the location of the dinner and coordinate the transportation of guests and their accoutrements. By June 2011, the Paris edition of Dîner en Blanc had grown to over 10,000 strong, and is now also held in Australia, Canada, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Italy, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Singapore, Spain, and the United States.

Natanya DiBona, an event planner with ties to the Williams-Sonoma chain, and the co-chair of Philadelphia’s Dîner en Blanc, learned of the all-white affair while visiting her family in Montreal. That Canadian city happens to be the home of Dîner en Blanc International, where the founders' son, Aymeric Pasquier currently resides and organizes events worldwide. “My aunt mentioned ‘a white picnic’ that was held there,” says DiBona. “After I got back to Philly, I Googled and found Dîner en Blanc, and only then learned the full scale of the event and its amazing Parisian roots. I was instantly hooked.”  In that same Google search, DiBona saw a Facebook page for the Philadelphia event, and immediately got involved with its programming.

Since December 2011, DiBona has spent the ensuing months finalizing the minutia of the shining white night.

Dîner en Blanc International provides guidelines about how the event should look and feel. From there, each local team and event co-planners tailor them to their city. “In Philadelphia, we are blessed with so many beautiful public spaces that we began our list with about six or seven great spots for the event, narrowed them down to three and then finally to the spot,” says DiBona, who adds that the City of Philadelphia has been amazing to work with.  They were responsive to her calls, took meetings and listened carefully. “Most importantly, they’ve been very respectful of the fact that keeping the location a secret is essential,” states DiBona.

Participants pre-register for Dîner en Blanc's waiting list (there are 1,350 people on the list at present), then are notified to proceed through the main registration which is now scheduled for July 20. At that time attendees who don’t feel like bringing their own picnic baskets can order a gourmet meal option from Garces Catering.  All they will be told is to meet at 6:30 p.m. at the given location. At that meeting place, the party-goers are met by their assigned “table host” who will then lead them to the secret location.  “They are never told the final meeting spot,” says DiBona. “They just will happen upon it and see their fellow attendees dressed in white approaching from all directions.”  In addition to the event being an opportunity to see-and-be-seen, each city offers prizes for elegance in attire, tablescape, and for those who don’t choose the Garces option, menu.

How an event gets its participants to carry home furnishings, table settings and food through the heat and humidity of Philadelphia in the dog days of August is a testament to the power of Dîner en Blanc. “While I’ve been passionate about this for months, I fully understand that it is not an event that will appeal to everyone,” says DiBona. “Those who do share my enthusiasm don’t think twice about bringing tables and chairs. They’re looking forward to sharing a meal with friends, meeting new ones, and being in on an elegant and memorable evening in a beautiful space.”


For more information on Dîner en Blanc International: http://dinerenblanc.info

For more information on Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia: http://philadelphia.dinerenblanc.info/about.php

Photo ©Dîner en Blanc International

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