Last week, I had one of the most unique dining experiences in the middle of New York City! James was picked to be one of the table leaders for Diner en Blanc, a pop-up invitation-only picnic that received a ton of buzz in past years since its inception. I got so excited about the event as soon as he told me way before our spots were even confirmed. I love flash mobs but have never had the opportunity to participate in one, and this one in particular involves dressing up in white elegant outfits and dining in style – I’m in!
Here’s the catch: you bring everything to the event. The table, the dinnerware, the food, the candles and flowers, even the trash bags you use at the end of the night for cleanup. Oh, and everything you wear must be in white, hence the name of the event (en blanc)!
First, we met up with our group at Lincoln Center. All of the attendees were dressed to the nines! Thirty minutes before the event, we found out it was going to be at Bryant Park, so we gathered our group with all of our picnic supplies and took the subway to 42nd Street. As much as we had wanted to throw everything into a taxi and head over there, only public transportation was allowed. Let’s just say there were tons of puzzled looks.
We set up our tables once we got there, and soon after we got a signal to start our first course. The event organizers also arranged for the option to purchase the meal, but I decided to bring our own so that we didn’t have to worry about waiting on the to pick up the basket. The couples next to us ordered their basket and didn’t get it until we were done with our main course!
I brought a cheese plate with smoked Gouda, double Gloucester, and herbed goat cheese. For the main course, I served cheese tortellini with pink vodka sauce (it was delicious but not a good idea since we were dressed in all white!) Finally, for dessert, I made individual dark chocolate hazelnut tarts using this recipe, substituting pecans with hazelnuts.
There were live musical performances (by string quartets and opera singers) throughout the evening, and after the dinner courses, the elegant picnic turned into a lively dance party complete with photo booths and DJ’s. We had so much fun!
To be honest, planning for the event only two weeks beforehand was anything but a breeze. Part of the challenge was the fact that being in New York City, we don’t have access to megastores and a car to pick up everything we needed in one trip. Meanwhile, James and I were planning for our trip to Peru, and we were leaving the morning right after the picnic. To make matters more complicated, James had to work an overnight shift that same evening of Diner en Blanc, meaning we would have to head home immediately after the event, he would have to change into his scrubs and go to work, and I (having the easier job) would take care of the clean-ups, pack my bags, and wait for him to come home so we could catch our flights to Peru – all of that in under twelve hours. Phew!
Did I mention that he volunteered to be the table leader? Looking back, I don’t know how we did it but I’m glad we didn’t give up when things got stressful! The people we met were so kind and generous – everyone was helping each other carry tables, chairs, and picnic baskets up the subway stairs, sharing food and wine and conversations – and most importantly, we got a chance to participate in a very special communal experience in an iconic location in our city.
Have you signed up for the waitlist yet? Just go for it if you have the opportunity – it’s worth it!