Le Dîner en Blanc

After getting shafted the year before from Le Dîner en Blanc, aka I paid and then received an email basically saying “ooops, just kidding, we overbooked and you’re not invited” I was put on the priority list this year for the event. However the spot wasn’t guaranteed – you just had to get your ass online at noon and hope you could click through the registration quick enough to get a spot. Bonne chance!

Like a sneakerhead camping out for new shoes, I literally watched my phone waiting for the proverbial doors to open at 12:00 and promptly began a clicking and typing frenzy to register Novio and myself for the event. Fortunately this year I got through, received my confirmation email and then all I had to do was adhere to the nazi-esque dress code (or maybe KKK is more fitting)

WEAR WHITE this means no ivory, no cream, or any other color will be permitted. White shoes are highly recommended but not required. Nude or silver is preferred if you cannot wear white.
Dress ELEGANTLY
Optional suggestions: white hat (recommended), white jacket, white mask, white gloves, white wig.
PROHIBITED ITEMS: T-shirt, colorful sports shoes, baseball caps, shorts

and then get the required supplies

The list of suggested items to bring with you is as follows:
– Confirmation of your reservation
– A folding square table between 24”x24” and 34”x34”
– 2 white folding chairs
– A white bag or white picnic basket (or covered with a white fabric) containing:
1. A white tablecloth and 2 white cloth napkins
2. 2 non-disposable white plates for dinner, and 2 for dessert
3. 2 sets of cutlery (NO PLASTIC)
4. 2 glasses (NO PLASTIC)
5. Electronic/flameless votive candles
6. 1 bottle of water, soft drinks (alcoholic drinks are prohibited, unless distributed by the caterer)
7. 1 complete meal for 2 (suggested: 1 first course, 1 cold main course, 1 cheese and/or 1 dessert, 1 bread)
8. Condiments optional
9. 1 trash bag
10. Optional: 1 vase and a bouquet of flowers.

oh and FYI you have to carry all this.

This year’s dinner was held on a Monday, and due to a 5 hour water fight down the Lehigh river in Pennsylvania, followed by a 4 hour bus trip home on Sunday, I was unable to assemble and cook everything the night before, plus I had work in the morning meaning I had zero time to organize all this stuff. Fortunately when I woke up I was able to find my wrinkly white cotton dress, and a pair of white stripper heels (those are elegant right?). I threw those into a big white bag, grabbed 2 white chairs (which I fortunately had around the house) and hoped Novio would pick up a table. Lucky for me, I also happen to work in a restaurant so I was able to borrow 2 white table clothes, linen napkins, cutlery, and plates from work. But seriously WTF is up with not being able to bring plastic plates and cups – oh right, we’re keeping it classy.

Originally promising my friend a menu of shaved brussel sprout salad with sundried tomatoes, parmesan and truffle oil, crusty baguettes and brie with herbed chicken cutlets, I now had to come up with a substitute menu. Thankfully, Taverna Kyclades is down the block and was happy to bring me grilled octopus, pork chops, lemon potatoes and bread to my office.

4:30 rush through my daily tasks and bolt out of my office to the subway and forget my salad in the office fridge

4:50 still looking for parking. My official meet up time is 5:30 in Manhattan. I am still in Queens.

5:05 find parking grab 2 folding chairs, my bag with the linens and tableware, and all the food and start hobbling down the block

5:10 decide it’s imperative for me to jazz up my wrinkly dress by putting a white daisy in my hair and rush into the florist asking for one daisy

5:13 get on the subway while people are watching me lug the chairs, and bags up the subway dressed in all white.  Side note, thanks for offering to help dicks.

5:27 get out of the subway at Herald square, walk up the stairs and 2 blocks over lugging all of the above

5:30 get to the meetup point and find Novio, Kathy and Helena

6:00 still waiting on people. (that’ll teach me to try and be on time for shit)

6:15 leave with a group of 20 people all in white lugging assorted chairs, tables, picnic baskets, cutlery etc etc for the subway

6:40 still trying to get everyone down the stairs and into the subway so our group leader can tell us where we’re taking the subway to. Meanwhile there’s a line of about 50 people backed up behind us going down the stairs since we’re blocking everyone with all our carts…for those that were smart enough to bring carts and not have to drag everything like a pre-wheel caveman

7:00 actually get on the train platform after being told we’re going to Columbus Circle. By this point, I’m thinking wearing hooker heels might not have been the best idea

7:05 pack into the overcrowded train and end up in a car with a homeless lady declaring that she’s hungry and dying of cancer. I feel a bit like an asshole*.

7:20 we start slowly crawling up the stairs with all our stuff.

7:30 we reconvene in Columbus Circle and see a bunch of other groups of people dressed in white carrying everything and the kitchen sink with them heading north-west on Broadway. We head north-east through the park. We still haven’t been told where we’ll be dining

7:35 we head through the park for 10 minutes and then turn back west. A random (but very nice) girl in the park is starting to follow us and tape us on her iPhone because she thinks we’re all insane. My feet are killing me, my shoulder is sore from the chairs etc, and I’m beginning to think Susie our group leader is kind of a jerk.

7:50 we FINALLY make it to Lincoln Center where we see about 2, 980 other people already eating dinner with all their tables and chairs set up. We pass the line that’s about 200 people deep for those who pre-ordered dinner and wine. Kathy preordered wine.

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The scene itself was pretty awesome. Lincoln Center was the perfect venue for the event with its illuminated fountain in the center, and the backdrop of the opera house at the head of the space. Neatly aligned rows of white tables and chairs spanned the length of the courtyard, and the event organizers had provided white balloons for the chairs and tables with “Le Dîner en Blanc” neatly scripted across them. All around I could see candles, flowers, platters of cheese, baskets of bread, salads, charcuterie, wine glasses and people smiling and enjoying the night, which for the record was absolutely perfect…70’s with a light breeze, no humidity. All the guests were in head to toe white, from ball gowns to wedding dresses to masquerade masks, top hats, tailcoats, powdered wigs, white mohawks – the works. There was even a white clad opera singer walking down the aisles singing beautifully, except for her one decision to sing a Celene Dion song (why god? why?!) It was sort of like being at one of those cool themed balls you see in movies and TV minus the creepy “someone’s going to get killed and we can’t identify the killer because everyone looks the same” vibe.

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About forty-five minutes after we get all our stuff set up, Kathy finally came back with her wine which she had almost started chugging in post-line frustration on the walk back from the wine bar. The four of us sat down to a nice dinner provided by Kyclades and Whole Foods, and took in the scenery, because really, how often do you get 3000 people in New York coordinating their clothes and acting in accordance with a set of rules and regulations – Rikers Island doesn’t count.

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Sometime around 9 o’clock the event hosts got on the microphone and told us that DJ Jacque would be coming on and there would be a dance floor in the far corner and everyone, in one of the most trusting gestures I’ve ever seen in the city, got up from their seats, leaving all their belongings unattended and went to go dance. The DJ kicked off the night with “I’m glad you came” and then switched to popular dance songs including, “Alors on Danse,” which weirdly I was the only one who seemed to know it, and a Greek song I hear at Central all the time, and I was also the only one jamming out to that one too. “Call Me Maybe,” was also played (ugh) as was ” Shakira’s “Waka, waka” (double ughhh) and the night ended with “Love is Gone” and “New York, New York,” the Frank Sinatra version.

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At the end of the dance party people started packing up their belongings and dragging them to the subway and into cabs. They announced that there would be an after party at a club across the street, but unless they had a chair, table and dirty dishes check, I didn’t think that was the most feasible post dinner activity. It also seemed that no one had left before they officially announced the close of the party, as people were still crowded in on the dance floor, posing for pictures and relaxing by the fountain and eating their dessert course of cheese and fruit. It was sort of disenchanting to see everything disassembled and see the streams of people in white tipsily walking away from the event, mais c’est la vie. In any case, given the opportunity, I would definitely come back again next year, prepared with a proper picnic basket and an awesome costume. On the other hand, the wait list was 30000 people this year so…we will have to see whether or not I would actually be able to get in. Then again, maybe next year I can catch it in Paris!

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*I apparently felt like enough of an asshole after writing how much of an asshole I am, to make a donation to City Harvest.  Feel free to do the same!

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