Dining Out In White
A sea of more than 10,000 Parisians, all dressed in white, filed one-by-one into the Palais Royal gardens, set up tables and chairs (or stools), laid out white table cloths and cloth napkins, placed white ceramic or glass plates, set the tables with silver, glasses for wine and champagne, dressed the setting with flowers, candles and other adornments, then served up an elegant meal, toasted to the occasion, lit sparklers, swirled their white napkins, danced to music and had a merry ol’ time just for the fun of it.
It was the 27th edition of “Dîner en Blanc” this past Thursday evening, June 11th, this being my second time to have the pleasure.
Getting invited isn’t easy — one must be ‘sponsored’ by one of the organizers, yet this exclusive pop-up dinner grows every year — now with many more than 10,000 participants here in Paris. Every year it takes place in some different spot, and one never knows where until the very last minute. At noon on the day of the event, participants receive an email explaining where to meet at 8 p.m. At that appointed time, as everyone gathers wearing exclusively white from head to toe, the group leader gets instructions as to where to lead the group — so even the group leader isn’t informed until the very last moment. This keeps us all guessing.
With our meeting point at the corner of rues Quatre Septembre and Richelieu at a café, over our first drinks we had a good guess the dining spot would be the gardens of the Palais Royal…and yes, that’s exactly what happened. The throngs of people in white filled the nearby streets, stopping the traffic and causing havoc. With them was everything they needed for a pop-up dinner: folding tables and chairs, rolling carts and picnic baskets — filled with all the ‘accoutrements’ for a great evening. Slowly we funneled into the garden via all of the tiny entries along the side streets.
The organization of the event is amazing. Somehow, it miraculously comes together and takes shape as the groups line up, sets up their tables and dining fair and proceeds to have dinner ‘en masse’ along with the thousands of others all at the same moment.
The gardens of the Palais Royal was as ideal a spot in the City of Light as one could imagine. Surrounded by the elegant buildings and perfectly manicured leafy trees, it was absolutely magical. We were positioned just opposite the Michelin Star Restaurant Le Grand Vefour — a somewhat comical juxtaposition as we set up our dining tables outside of its beautiful walls.
Corks were popped, glasses were filled, trays of food passed around — everyone shared with everyone else as if we were all part of one big happy family. The camaraderie is acute and this is the best event at which to make new friends.
Some created very elaborate tables, with candelabras and fine silver, serving up gourmet fare. Friends seated next to us were passing around foie gras, sushi, eclairs and even Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as other specialities of ‘haute cuisine.’ They were especially well organized, thanks to their table leader who even had menus printed out for each person at their table.
Interestingly enough, there was no police presence, or at least none that we were aware of. Perhaps plain-clothes cops were among us, but we wouldn’t have known it, with everyone in white. And there is no reason for police. In spite of the pop-up nature of the event, it is an elegant a dining experience as one can imagine and the behavior is impeccable, even with so much alcohol flowing.
Over the course of the evening, there was the tradition of lighting sparklers, twirling your white cloth napkins and dancing to music — bands were set up at key points around the gardens. Clearly everyone was in the spirit!
At midnight, like Cinderella, it all folded back up, the garden got cleaned up to the point of leaving no trace and all the folks in white headed out to the neighboring streets to find a way home.
The weather Thursday was predicted to be rainy, but the night stayed warm, cloudy and balmy, with the rain holding off until exactly at 1 a.m. when we entered the door at home.
How perfect was that?
A la prochaine,
The Adrian Leeds Group
(at Dîner en Blanc, Paris)
P.S. Saturday we filmed the closing scene of a new House Hunters International — to be a one-hour episode featuring a full renovation of a luxury Paris apartment. With the talented assistance of designer Martine di Mattéo, owner Daryl B. transformed a centuries old apartment that had been untouched for over a half a century into a bona fide work of art. Stay tuned for when it airs sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile, be sure to watch us on House Hunters International! The next upcoming episode is “Planning a Future in Paris, France” airing Tuesday, June 23rd at 12:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST/PST. Visit Adrian Leeds on House Hunters International to mark your calendar for upcoming shows.
P.P.S. For those of you in the New York City area, who would like to know more about investing in France, I will be available for private consultations this upcoming July 8th and 9th. Consultations are typically two hours, and I will be offering my usual euro fee at the same rate, but in U.S. dollars. Email me personally to make your appointment: [email protected]