Diner en Blanc 2012 – Elegance beneath a full Moon

If you were walking by the Olympic Cauldron last night, at 7:45pm, you would have seen a mass sea of white napkins being waved in the air. Contrary to the conception of waving white flags, this wasn’t for some foodie surrender, rather, it was for the commencement of Vancouver’s inaugural Diner en Blanc.

Diner en Blanc is an event that began in Paris twenty-five years ago and made its way over to Vancouver, with 1,200 guests attending, for the first time this year. What is it? A city wide, pop-up picnic; all in white, of course. This is not your average picnic of gingham blankets and local parks – it is a classy feast for all the socialites at heart with a French feel down to its core.

More than just a gathering of individuals dining together; the allure of this event began much earlier than when those lucky enough to be in attendance began to nibble on their baguettes and cheese. In the spirit of a surprise flash mob, the guests of the event were not privy to the location of the picnic. Groups gathered at 6:00pm in different meeting spots around the city while some took chartered buses. From these meeting spots guests played a game of follow-the leader to a still surprise location. In a world drenched in social media, the fact alone that the location was withheld until the final moment when groups arrived at the designated spot to set-up is the most endearing (and eagerly anticipated) part of the whole evening. And it was with those initial meetings that the magic began.

Hoards of people dressed completely in white, with little tables, chairs and picnic baskets making their way through downtown Vancouver to a surprise spot – seeing this, no one could help but become enamored by the charisma it exuded. The sheer randomness of it was making drivers stop and ask what was happening and passers-by stood on the street stood aghast at this sea of beauty. The picnickers? In all their class, they were walking towards an unknown location with gusto.

This event is not for those fearful of preparation. Diners set up their tables and chairs while taking out centerpieces of vases, candles, and other décor pieces. The Jack Poole Plaza, which was just one hour ago a mass public space, was now a space filled with community, beauty and class – all to the soundtrack of fitting French melodies. With the beautiful surroundings of the water, mountains and elegant diners; attendees unpacked their baskets of bread, cheese, wine, and bubbly water with excitement as they saw their preparation come to fruition. Those who did not pack food pre-ordered it, available on-site from Top-Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay.  And with that, diners waved their white napkins in the air and the head to toe white picnic commenced.

Diners feasted, chatted and mingled while musicians played – all fittingly under a full moon. The city space transformed can only be described as extraordinary, chic. The concept is simple, but surrounded by the buzz of surprise and community you couldn’t help but feel you were taking part in something magnificent. As the dining portion came to an end, enacted with all levels of decorum, guests were given a sparkler to light and hold up to signify the end of dinner. If only all family dinners were this epic. You can only imagine how romantic this moment of enchantment may have looked, with over a thousand diners holding up sparklers towards the starry night sky, against the backdrop of Vancouver’s mountains and towering city buildings. To share an evening with strangers in this manner instilled a sense of familial camaraderie.

It was then the party truly began. With lighthearted music that perfectly embraced the French joie-de-vivre, even the most arrhythmic could not have resisted dancing with the rest of the crowd. The dance party was the final portion of the evening (finishing around 10:45). After enjoying an outdoor dance with fellow Vancouverites, guests packed up their items and hauled them away leaving the plaza as if it had never been struck with a glow reminiscent of court society and a spirit of mystery and spontaneity.  Guests, who attended however, know otherwise.

From tail coats to suspenders to hats and fascinators, this event was a spectacular anomaly and one event (finally!) where brides can re-wear their wedding dresses. Magical from beginning to end Diner en Blanc is absolutely an event to check out for next year, where I recommend you allow yourself to get lost in the simple joy of outdoor eating and aesthetics par excellence. Now the question to be begged is, what iconic Vancouver location will be chosen for next year?