Another year, another secret location. Philip and I had the pleasure of attending our 2nd Diner en Blanc Toronto this past week, making us official members of this chic and white picnic. Last year the secret location of the event was Canary District in Toronto's Distillery, and while it was a night to remember, it's very safe to say no two experiences could ever be the same.
While the magic of the night continued through to 2017, the rainy, humid and big haired weather we've had all summer in Toronto didn't stop for Diner en Blanc and made for one hell of a (wet and slippery) night.
In 1988, François Pasquier 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 they could easily find each other in the park.
If you're wondering what all this Diner en Blanc, fancy, all white party is then read about our 2016 experience. If you've already read it, here's a bit of a refresher. Guests travel around the city to a secret location that is revealed to thousands of guests dressed all in white, waiting to set their tables and begin their dinner.
But dinner doesn't begin until the inaugural white napkin wave is commenced, a sea of white swirls dancing in the crisp dusk sky. To signify the end of dinner and the beginning of dancing all guests are provided sparklers that illuminate the then dark skies of Toronto, glowing in the secret location.
Dîner en Blanc Toronto Location
The magic of the evening is kicked off as we wait for the reveal of the secret location. One of our favourite parts of the evening is piling on the coach bus and the oohs and ahhs that come with guessing as the bus drives down Toronto streets. Only this year, we drove west down Fort York Boulevard, past a few streetlights and then pulled down a side street unwilling from the bus.
Walking with crowds of guests wearing white and carrying tables, chairs and bags of food, we saw the white balloons white tents, white tables, white dresses and fascinators and slacks and trousers – we were here, we were at the secret Diner en Blanc location with over 2,700 guests in the centre of Canoe Landing. Diner en Blanc has previously popped up in the Canary District, in the Distillery District, in the historic Fort York and by the Harbourfront.
Last year, we celebrated the culture and cuisine of France serving mini Beet Terrine, Coq au Vin and a Dairy-Free Crème Brûlée for dessert. While we didn't have as much preparation time this year, Philip made magic happen an hour before meeting time and created a simple Tomato & Basil Panzanella appetizer, a deconstructed Mediterranean Cold Chicken Salad with Crostini for our main, and for dessert, a dairy-free Spiked Coffee Chocolate Coconut Custard.
Much easier to pack and carry than our 2016 meal, our menu was simple yet refined and presented itself well with the picnic theme of Diner en Blanc and the homage to European traditions. One concern about our menu: a steak would have been an excellent choice for the mystery surprise below.
An unexpected highlight of the evening was when we chose our "Mystery Wine", and we're not talking about the stuff you drank at parties as a teenager. In 2014, Diner en Blanc Toronto signed Charlie's Burgers Wine Program as it's exclusive wine purveyor. Charlie's Burgers hosts underground dinners in Toronto bringing in chefs from all over the world to cook away from the confines and constraints of their restaurants.
When Philip choose his envelope he grabbed the first one in the basket, selecting a Clark-Claudon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle that will set you back up to $600 in a Toronto restaurant. A $45 chance at a mystery bottle and we pulled the highest and only bottle available during Diner en Blanc Toronto.
The night concluded with guests under umbrellas, wrapped in ponchos and some coverage free dancing on tables in the splash splash of the rain. Wet tables, chairs, and table clothes and dinner plates, wine glasses and candle votives filled with rain water was an epic way to end this magical evening. While this was very different from the blue sky, perfect weather events of our first Diner en Blanc, this year's rain, sparklers and clear umbrellas reminded us of a special event of our own. Find out what we're talking about here.
Bon appetit and bon nuit,
Chef Sous Chef