Diner en Blanc started almost 30 years ago in Paris. François Pasquier, the founder, started this dinner tradition with a bunch of friends and now it is running in numerous places worldwide. The concept was to bring a meal and bring a friend. When the dinner was created, the venue was too small for the growing attendees and a public location was chosen. To find all the guests, they were told to wear all white. The tradition continued and now it has thousands of guests from around the world. To participate in this event, you would have to dress in all white, bring a table, chair and sometimes food. It is challenging to get an invite and is a bit expensive to attend. So why would you go to this event? Here is my take on it and you can make your own judgement.
The first time I witnessed this event was when Bob Blumer attended this event. It was aired on the Food Network. As a foodie, I thought it was a neat concept. Bring a friend, wear white, have dinner and enjoy the company. The other neat part was the location was kept secret until the day of the event so that meant you would not know where it was taking place. You would need to bring all necessary items with you and leave the public location as clean (or cleaner) then when you arrived. You must respect the concept and philosophy.
Diner en Blanc Vancouver started 6 years ago. I discovered that it had gone international when the dinner was right outside Science World. I knew I wanted to go so I signed up for the waitlist. To be invited to this event, you would either need to be a member or invited as a sponsor. Since I didn’t know anyone at the time, I opted to sign up for the waitlist.
Registration: The year I registered for the waitlist (about 3 years ago), I was placed in Phase 3. Registration happens in three phases. Phase 1: members and close friends of the organization; Phase 2: friends recommended or sponsored by members; Phase 3: the guests on the waitlist. Tickets are first come, first served, therefore making it limited to the majority of the people on Phase 1 and Phase 2. By the time it got to Phase 3, no tickets were left. The next year was the same, tickets were limited and I could not register. Finally after waiting patiently, I managed to climb my way up and become a member. I was able to register in Phase 2. During that year, I was close to registering but was not able to attend the event due to conflicting commitments. I opted to remain a member and pay the yearly membership fee. *Sigh* another year of waiting. This year, I received an unexpected email saying that I was in Phase 1. I was thrilled! Having the chance to experience this event for the first time, I decided to share it with my twin sister. It was a great way to celebrate our birthdays by attending a foodie event.
Buying the tickets: As soon as Phase 1 started, I was on my computer and registering for tickets. The registration was confusing and a bit complicated. You would have to include your guest information, choose food, wine and your group leader.
Choosing the group leader was probably one of the hardest things since you want someone who is accommodating and is all about creating a good atmosphere for new and experienced guests. I recommend choosing someone who has one or two years of experience since the travel was the most stressful part of the event. You should also consider where you are meeting the group leader since there are multiple meet up spots. I would choose ones that have a good variety of parking or easy to transit since you do not want to be late meeting your group. Other things to consider, is your walk to and from the event. You are able to choose a bus transport or walk. I chose bus because I was worried about carrying all the items with us.
After choosing your group leader and meet up spot, you get to order your food. This is optional since you are also welcome to bring your own food with you. Since this was my first year, I chose a catered meal. I didn’t want to have to deal with carrying around extra items or worry about what food to bring. The food choices was limited but contained salad, mains and dessert. I chose two meals that was roughly between $45-60 each. There was also a large variety of wines you can purchase as well.
After entering all the information and choosing your meal, the total cost was about $205. This included 2 participation fees (2x$40), 2 membership fees (2x$9) and 2 meals. I didn’t get any wine so if you include wine the cost would be higher. Off to an expensive start.
Preparations: Since it was our first year, we started from scratch. The first step was to find a portable table and chairs. We scoured the internet and the discussion boards for where to purchase the table. Our goal was to find a portable folding table that was not over budget. My sister purchase the folding table from Canadian Tire. It was meant for camping and was really portable and came with a convenient bag. She also got white fabric to make a table cloth since the table was not white.
I already owned white folding chairs so that was checked off our list. Other items included white dishes (which we both owned), lighter, cutlery, cups, table decor, candles and a water bottle. I purchased new cups, fake flowers, white napkins and a water bottle from Winners. I also found a great white basket from a dollar store. My sister managed to get battery powered candles. We were pretty set for the dinner.
Now for the outfits. Knowing my wardrobe, I was not known to wear white often. My clothes consisted of black, neutrals and blues. I had to go shopping for a new white outfit.
I found my top at Zara. It was white flowing shirt. The skirt was purchased at The Hudson Bay. I thought it was an elegant white outfit. I also hoped that I wasn’t colour blind and that I purchased white clothes and not off-white which is prohibited at the event. They recommended to try you white outfit in natural light but that is impossible while in stores. My recommendation is to find a white piece of paper or card and use that as a white guide in stores. This way you can tell if the item is cream or off white. I also needed white shoes. I lucked out and found some cheap ones from Payless! They looked great with the outfit.
Knowing that there would be people who go to the extremes, I decided to make some flower crowns for the event. I went to a dollar store and picked up a bunch of white flowers. I hoped they would be ok since some of them were slightly off white. My sister and I are set to go for the dinner!
The day of the event: A week before the event, we received an email providing us we information about the event. We were told what items to bring and when to meet your group. On Aug 24, 2017, we arrived on time to meet our group leader. As we walked to our meet up spot, we noticed a lot of other people wearing white around us. They were heading in all different directions. That was the neat thing with the event, there were many meet up spots and no one knew where it was taking place. We walked to our meet up and found our group pretty easily. There was a clump of people dressed in white. The tricky thing was to locate your group leader in the mass of white. I recognized him from the registration page.
Our first impression of our group leader, David, was that he was not very organized. He had to borrow a pen from my sister to cross off our names. He gave us wristbands and told us that he would provide us with a passport on the bus. The passport had a list of the different items we ordered and was required when we went to pick up our food.
We waited while David continued to check people in. While waiting he became really distracted with his friends who were also in our group. A while passed and we had not gotten on the bus. Over hearing some conversation, it sounded like David was waiting for someone who was late and couldn’t find parking. It was almost an hour since the meet up and most of us were itching to get going. Another group was already starting to get on their bus.
By the time David decided to get the group moving, he noticed there were no buses available. We waited. He made a phone call and talked to a lady who seemed like she was in charge of the buses and they told us that the bus was stuck in an accident.
During the bus ride, David handed out our passports. The passport showed us the items we needed to collect from the site. On the back of the passport was a map that showed us where we were located. David also told us we would be at Harbour Green Park down at Coal Harbour. This year there were two locations and the second location was Devonian Park also at Coal Harbour.
At the location, we followed David and the group to our designated spot. We set up and began to look for where our food was suppose to be picked up.
The venue was fun. At the entrance there was a row of cars and models. There were booths, entertainment, and also large way finding balloons. We spotted the “food” balloon and we went to get our catered food. The line up was not very long but we decided to take a picture at a photo op before getting our meals. Once back in line, the caterer said we would need to come back. They had run out of our food and more was coming from the other site. How can they run out of food if we ordered it ahead of time??? That was insane. We were not impressed. We explored the area. About 20 minutes later, we came back and luckily the food was there.
The catered food was in large boxes and we began to carry them back to our table. In the boxes there was menus and food portioned into containers. One of the boxes was a catered menu from Vital Supply. It was called Champ de Mars. The other box was from Cocktails and Canapés and was called Le Grand Cru.
At the table, we weren’t sure if we should portion out our food. We were not certain when the official napkin spin was. This was a tradition at Diner en Blanc to start the dinner. Having a bit of time we decided to go take a walk to view the other tables, clothing and site. Some diners had fancy tables. We thought they must have been donors or VIP guests. They seemed like they had caterers right next to their tables.
Some other tables had overhead lamps, gorgeous flower displays and unusual table decor. Many people were dressed in elegant cocktail attire. Some dressed in costume. It looked amazing to see everyone and everything all one colour.
We headed back to our table to set up our food. We divided the food our plates and there was a lot more of it than we thought.
At about 7:30pm, we thought we saw people spin their napkins. In a confused state, our group also spun our napkins. It was a false alarm. A couple minutes later, an official on the microphone announced the napkin twirl and everyone participated.
Dinner was officially served! We dove into our food. It was cold but that was to be expected. First couple of bites and we found the food was not as spectacular as we would have liked. The potatoes were cold and bland. The pasta was hard and unpleasant. The salad was alright but we didn’t like the dressing. Overall the meal was not very good and not what I would have expected when I spent $$$. We hoped that at least the dessert was good because how can dessert be bad. Boy, were we wrong. The chocolate espresso pot de creme had a very strange tasting cashew yogurt. We did not like the taste of it. The chocolate dessert jar was a little better but it had a jello consistency which we did not expect. Dinner was not very good. Next year (and if I attend next year), I plan to bring my own food.
After eating our disappointing meal, we went around to check out the entertainment. There was many different things to see. A group of ballerinas danced the night away. They traveled throughout the venue entertaining guests, stopping for pictures and enjoying themselves.
In a corner of the venue, there as live painting. A couple of artists were stationed and painted. We watched them for a couple of minutes, admiring their work.
Nearing the end of the evening, we headed back to our table. We wanted to make sure we were there for the sparklers. This was another tradition for the dinner and it makes a pretty great photo. David handed out the sparklers to the group and then we waited.With lighters in our hand, we lit the sparklers and posed for pictures. It was such a wonderful moment. The whole venue was lit with sparkling magic.
Right after the sparklers, we began to pack up. It was time to leave. We stuff all our garbage into a bag we brought and folded up our table. As we looked around, the party was still going. The music was playing and the dance floor was crowded. I would have liked to stay but we had to go and catch a bus back to our drop off location. My sister drove her car and we had to go and pick it up. That was the other unfortunate thing about not knowing the location. For the future, if you plan to drive make sure its easy to transit to. This way if you plan on staying, you can easily get back to it.
Walking out of the venue, we noticed that guests were not very respectful. They threw out their trash at the first garbage can they saw. It was brimming with bags of trash and I wish I documented the horror. Finding the bus was also a pain. We were given the wrong bus number but ended up on a bus heading to the same location. Thankfully there was a bus. We finally arrived back to our drop off and walked to car carrying everything.
Overall, I did have a good time. It’s always great to hang out and share the special memory with my sister. The venue, atmosphere and uniqueness was what made the event memorable. Thanks Diner en Blanc!