Oh, what a night. Phil and I had the pleasure of attending our first Dîner en Blanc on August 18, 2016. I was first introduced to the dinner event when we were planning our honeymoon to France, the birthplace of the first white dinner.
In 1988, François Pasquier had returned home to Paris from years of travel abroad and in an effort to reconnect with his friends he suggested they meet at Bois de Boulogne with a dinner picnic in hand, and all white dress so it was easy to find each other in the park.
Years later, the event eventually grew into the dinner it is today with thousands and thousands of individuals dining together in secret locations across the world. Upon receiving confirmation (yay!) we were given the option of selecting our pickup location, dress code guidelines and a list of items we had to pack in advance of our dinner journey including a square folding table, white chairs, white napkins, electric votive candles, matches, white plates, flatware, stemware, and a white centrepiece.
Our departure location was in front of the decadent Colette Grand Cafe, the perfect launchpad to spark this Parisian movement, and as we drove down King Street West, the oohs and ahhs and glamorous guesses of the guests echoed as the secret location narrowed down with each change of direction through the city of Toronto. Finally, we turned onto Parliament Street and the uproar of guests cheered as we headed toward the Distillery District, and as we drove past the Distillery it quieted until we saw it. Large white balloons, white tents, white tables, white dresses and fascinators and slacks and trousers – we were here, we were at the secret Dîner en Blanc location. The bus pulled up and we all unloaded, set up our tables, prepared our first course and poured our sparkling wine with over 2,500 guests in the centre of Corktown Common.
To signal the dinner portion of the evening, at 8pm everyone grabbed their white napkin and did the traditional napkin wave. A sea of white napkins twirled and danced in the sunset as we officially kicked off the 2016 Dîner en Blanc in Toronto, making fast friends with those around us. For dinner, guests had the option to purchase meals from The Food Dudes or make your own elegant meal. Of course, we opted for the latter and were thrilled to design our own French-inspired Dîner en Blanc menu.
For our appetizer, we had mini beet terrines with chèvre, basil and lavender with a side balsamic salad. Our main course kept in line with the French theme as we pulled inspiration from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, making her signature coq au vin. And for dessert, a dairy-free crème brûlée was finished on-site, butane in hand, as Phil caramelized the sugar to create the most incredible and tappable glass crust. I mean, if you’re going to do as the French do, you might as well eat like the French too, right?
To commence the end of dinner, everyone receives a sparkler and at once the ceremony transforms into bursting lights and warm glows. It still amazes me at how sparklers have a way of slowing time down, how in those seconds of flurry people soften and return to a childlike state of excitement and amazement. This moment reminded me of our first dance at our wedding. Phil and I danced in the center of our guests as they surrounded us with sparklers with time slowing down for us in that moment – it was magical.
A post-dinner walk is always a treat, as you tour the venue and take advantage of treats, photo booths and eyeing all the delicious food (and lots of leftovers) of other guests. As first timers, Phil and I were well prepared and portioned our courses to perfection making on-site cleanup easy and at home drunken cleanup even easier. Once everyone tidies their tables, the dance floor opens, popsicles are handed out and the afterparty begins with everyone dancing into the night.
Dîner en Blanc was truly a wonderful experience. All white everything, orchestrated dinner music, and a beautiful city view, was as awe-inspiring as the day we got married. And it really did feel like it was your special day too, as though everyone was there for you and you were there for everyone else to celebrate this momentous evening. Until next year…
Bon appetit and bon nuit,
Chef Sous Chef