It’s that time of year again for the best night in Paris. For the last four years in Paris we’ve been lucky enough to attend the famed Dîner en Blanc (Dinner in white) event, which is a massive flash-mob like dining event held in a unique and amazing location each year in the city. The event is traditionally held in early June, with its exact location kept secret until minutes before you arrive onsite. Even the date is mostly under warps except to those invited.
I’ve written about it the previous times we attended – and this year will be no different. In many ways this post is more for my long-term archival of the event than anything else. Something that someday myself and The Girl can look back on. It forces me to edit photos and put something to paper…err…digital paper.
The event starts off months in advance with securing a slot to the event. It’s incredibly difficult and there’s no entry form. You have to know someone that’s been invited in years past and remains in the good graces of the event for not violating any of the various protocols.
Then at noon on the day of the event you’ll receive a text with the initial meeting location to arrive at 8PM. This location is in the general ballpark (within 800-1,000m) of the final location. Because there are some 6,800 other people (this year) at the event, these locations are spread across the city around the undisclosed final location. Ours was essentially atop a Velib station:
It’s here that you’ll start your festivities with getting early liquids in. Most of these waiting spots are adjacent to bars and cafes. Then at 9PM you’ll receive another text with more specific details on where you’re going. Before that point you don’t know the final spot – it could be anywhere. In our case that meant about an 8-10 minute walk to the evening’s grounds – Hôtel de Ville. In French, Hôtel de Ville means the town/city hall (it’s not an actual hotel). In the case of Paris, there’s massive grounds outside it that host events year round (many of which you see in my posts).
Once you arrived, you must quickly setup your tables. With Dîner en Blanc – you bring everything in – including tables, food, glassware (no paper stuff allowed), and decorations for your table. Likewise, you take everything out afterwards as if nobody was ever there.
In our group (10 couples), we go with a shared family-style dining approach. Each couple brings 1-2 dishes to share amongst the entire group. Plus each couple usually brings a bottle of Champagne (or wine)…or two bottles depending on the after party situation. Can never have too much Champagne.
Shortly after setup, there’s the ceremonial napkin twirl. Our group was in the middle of resolving a land dispute with an uninvited palm tree, so I had to settle for a cell-phone photo here.
Then it’s onto enjoying the food. Luckily our group is full of foodies, that includes chefs/bakers, and other foodie type folks. I mean, just look at these dishes!
Don’t worry, this was just one-half of the cheese selection for our table:
All of which ended up on my plate:
A couple of notes on attire and such. Everyone is required to wear white everything. Ideally upscale/semi-formal white something. As noted, the specifics for bringing your own table and chairs are very detailed – down to the allowed sizes (so that everyone fits). Plus things like cutlery (not plastic), plates (not plastic), and even trash bags (must have) are dictated. For The Girl and I, we find everything in this world seems to be becoming increasingly more and more casual, we enjoy having some fanciness every once in a while. So we ask each year for our group to make their best efforts on the fancy front, and once again our friends came through dressed to impress.
Going over the top is welcomed here. Our table brings fresh cut flowers (we actually cut them down to size with butter knives at the table in fact), as well as candles.
Other tables will bring entire candle holder center pieces. Or elaborate lighting systems. As long as it looks nice and adds to the night – all is welcome!
Oh – and since everything had to be in white…don’t worry – I brought out a white watch for the occasion. The Suunto Spartan Ultra:
And if you need water refills? Don’t worry – the city has you covered. Parisian municipal water is some of the best in the world, and it’s available from these taps across the city. In both still and sparkling varieties. This one happened to be in the middle of the rows of tables:
One minor sports tidbit is all of the Paris 2024 Olympic bid related goods were on display, seen here in giant banners on town hall:
Mid-way through the evening just after dark (around 11PM) it was time to light the sparklers, which are provided by the event. It’s the only thing provided by the event (which cost $3 per couple, much of which benefits charity).
This year was unique in that we managed to get ourselves atop a gigantic crane that was being used for photos of the event.
While we had to wait in line a little bit – it was definitely worth it for the 30 seconds we got up top!
For anyone trying to do a headcount here, this year there were 6,800 people at Dîner en Blanc, slightly up from 6,400 people last year. Two years ago there were 10,000 people and then 13,000 people the year before. While you see the majority of the people in the photo below, there were also folks across one of the bridges crossing the Seine leading out to the right (click to expand).
After getting back from our crane-based aerial adventure (as drones would be illegal in Paris proper), it was time to cut the cake and dig into dessert:
In addition to cake, Sudeep brought some of his pralines – which are awesome sauce. Like others in our group, he’s been spinning up a boutique – À la Louisiane – making high-end pralines, all from a bit of Louisiana heritage (where he’s from).
Like any high-end food item, these are best eaten same day. It’s never a disappointing day when he swings by the Cake Studio/DCR Cave with treats!
After that, there was more picture taking…
As well as a bit more music and dancing…
And some more drinking. Lots more drinking.
Then as the clock strikes midnight everyone starts to pack back up again.
And by pack-up, I mean do justice to any remaining bottles. Don’t worry, a certain someone took care of that here with gusto.
Before you knew it, it was empty in the square – left just as it was a few hours prior. Folks are great at respecting the location and being sure to clean things up and ensuring all trash is ported out of the area.
Luckily for us this year we only had a short few hundred meter walk home. Remember, we’re trucking our tables and chairs, as well as glassware and plates. Phew!
With that – thanks again to Roger and crew for hosting an amazing event. And of course, to everyone in our group for making yet another incredibly memorable night. See ya next year!