For years now, I have been dragging my supportive husband to participate in Le Dîner en Blanc, “The White Dinner” pop up, which celebrates its 31st anniversary in Paris this year. Alas, we have not been going to Paris. But we have been fortunate to attend the first even ever held in Miami, as well as attending in NYC with a great group of friends, where I also served as a Table Leader for the event.
Much to my sweet husband’s chagrin, DEB is a formal dinner party where you bring EVERYTHING yourself. Including your table and your chairs. Everything needs to be fancy- no paper plates allowed! It’s not a picnic. We show up with all of this “stuff” (including all food, unless you pre-purchase a meal served at the event) at a meeting place- which is NOT the location of the dinner, dressed in crisp white from head to toe. From there, you find like-coiffed people, and are lead by your table leader to the actual surprise pop-up location. I can tell you as a past table leader, even I did not know the location until I was expected to lead a group of 50 people there… on the New York City Subway… dressed in white… carrying tables and centerpieces and hot food. It was… well… an adventure! And loads of fun if you let yourself laugh at it all!
My first trip to DEB was in Miami Beach, at the grounds of the New World Symphony. It was the first time the event was held in Miami, and also happened to be my first January living in the city. The tablescape was created largely from a trip to Ikea and from Christmas decorations that I kept out when I packed up the holiday. As we had to purchase our table and our chairs this first time around, I was being a little extra frugal in other spending. Pro-Tip: Table in a bag is KEY.
2015 DEB Miami has the unique distinction of being (at least until that point) the only DEB ever canceled due to weather. The event takes place rain or shine. But when Miami rains, it RAINS. And it thunders. And it lightnings. And yet, the even was not cancelled. So dressed all in white, we braved the rain and took the Miami Metro Mover to our meeting location, where we boarded busses to the mystery locale. It was not until our bus was 1/2 way to the beach, that the City of Miami Beach canceled the event, due to safety concerns. The bus looped us back and we commuted home in a heavy downpour. But we did not give up! A few weeks later we attended version 2.0, which found itself in the new Arts District, near the Midtown-Wynwood area of Miami.
This DEB took place in December 2015, a month after my wedding, so I had light up white birch trees and all new white dish ware to use, though we decided to use a lot of our old pieces, to lower the fear of breaking our new dishes in transit. It was a mild night, with lots of fun in our section. Fun Fact: Our neighbors at the table next to us were on a first date, swiped right on Tinder. He had tickets, looked for a date to bring. She got champagne, dinner, dancing, and a whole party for meeting #1. They seemed to be having quite a nice time….
Late summer 2016, Dave and I had moved back to NYC, and I was excited to experience le dîner New York style. As I mentioned, I volunteered to be a table leader, which meant I organized a group of 50 participants and led them to the secret location. Among them were 7 of my friends, including that ever-patient, table carrying, gem of a husband. The weather that night was absolutely perfect, and the FDNY fire boat paid a hello to the festivities.
To set the table this time, my group of friends collaborated to plan a menu that consisted of fruit & cheese, our chicken entree and sides served in individual white take out boxes, salad, bread, pudding parfaits, and melon cups. Everyone added something to the meal, with the bulk of the cooking done by the fabulous Timothy Booth and Michael Stiver. A lot of wedding gifts came into play again, bringing out our water pitcher, ice bucket, and even my cherished cake stand. Yes… all carried on the subway.
I created our main centerpiece with some branches that I picked in my parents’ yard, and spray painted white. A trick learned in my youth from my grandmother, who created beautiful holiday displays with her garden club. I folded paper cranes in different shades of white, silver, and gold paper every night as I relaxed and watched a little tv before bed. I bought scrapbook sheets of paper from Michael’s, and cut them into different sized squares, creating many different sized cranes. The different patterned and hued white paper created a subtle detail not seen from far away, but really pretty sitting close at our table. The hardest part by far was not breaking the dry branches as we schlepped through the subway system. A few cranes were lost to the gutters of NYC that night.
I also had my first foray into floral design, and created a wreath to wear as my headpiece. I went to our local florist and picked out a bunch of individual white flowers. I bought some floral twine and tape, and just started with one stem, and added on the next, and the next, until I had a circle. It was probably heavier than a more skilled hand would have created, but I was actually very pleased with the result, especially since I had no back up plan or experience constructing a wreath from scratch before. And at le Dîner en Blanc, you go big, or you go home!
2017’s Dîner found me extremely pregnant, and 2018 I had a baby and a trip to DisneyWorld to attend to. Hoping to get back in the coming year! –Kelly