Having heard of the Diner en Blanc events a couple years ago I considered going to last years for the first time it was happening in SD but ehh was too lazy and ended up not committing. This year we bought tickets fairly early on and I have to say it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be back next year!
Diner en Blanc started in Paris 25 years ago and now its hosted in cities around the world, everywhere from Quebec to Cote d’Ivoire to Singapore. Basically the premise is that all these people dressed all in white (nicely I might add) bring their own tables, chairs, table decorations and food to a spot. Although mind you, you can also rent tables/chairs from them and purchase a multi-course meal as well if you are not inclined to make your own. After meeting up everyone gets on buses that will take you to an undisclosed location where the thousands of people that participate in these events will set up their tables, chairs and food and have a giant open-air dinner party. They have taken place in the Place Vendôme at Paris and they shut down Rodeo Drive last year for the one in Los Angeles. In SD last year it was at Harbor Island and this year it was in a lovely courtyard in Point Loma.
The meet up spot was at Balboa Park and when we arrived I was happy I wore a nice white dress because people go all out for this. Floor length dresses, all white suits, parasols, carnival masks, boas…you name it. Apparently there is an award for best-dressed person as well as best-decorated table. Originally I thought this was a more casual affair and so I was glad that I was informed that yes, you have to dress nicely and no, you can’t just eat on a picnic blanket.
So the only downside is having to carry all your stuff everywhere. Its not too bad but we did have some pot de creme desserts that tipped over and made a bit of a mess. As well as I had trouble carrying our table from the car to the bus but I would blame this more on a personal shortcoming of having the upper body strength of an 8 year old.
The bus took us around a bit, going on the freeway and then back off, around downtown, stopping in a random parking lot (psyche) and then finally to Point Loma. Although initially I was unimpressed by the location once we were in the courtyard and everyone was set up it looked beautiful. The courtyard around us also handily sheltered us from the wind so that both girls in skimpier dressing as well as tall flickering candles were well protected.
Once tables are set, dinner starts with a napkin waving thing. It was nice chatting to the tables around us and although we were definitely on the younger side of attendees it was cool to have a good mix of all ages and both couples that came alone and huge groups of people attending together.
We went with simple but elegant for our table and a bottle of rosé for libations. Also although organizers say you must purchase alcohol from them and not bring your own, EVERYONE brought their own and lots of it. Next year we will definitely be smuggling some more wine in with our food.
For our first course I made crostini with truffled ricottas and mushrooms. When you are cooking you kind of have to keep in mind that all this stuff has to be transported and also that it will most likely be served sort of closer to room temperature, unless you have a nice insulated mode of food transportation like I did not (does a Trader Joe’s bag count? I thought not).
For the second course I made a caeser salad with caeser-basil dressing. Also known as, I made a caeser dressing and added basil to it because why not.
The entree was roast chicken with Meyer lemon + roasted potatoes. I followed Kenji’s recipe from Serious Eats for a perfect butterflied roast chicken with quick jus. This was awesome. And I roasted the chicken on top of a wire rack with the potatoes underneath so that the chicken spices/juices/fat/everything dripped on the potatoes and they were sooo flavorful. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, dropped them in a pan with cold water + rosemary, Meyer lemons and salt over medium heat until they boiled and then threw them in with the chicken in the oven. They were the best roast potatoes I have ever made. No lie. Sadly not as good served room temperature but will definitely repeat this recipe.
For dessert we had dulce de leche + coconut pudding with strawberries. This was also great and I want to make it again but with more coconut and a chocolate sauce.
So after dinner there is dancing and we were thinking of just leaving early because we are the lamest 23 and 25 year olds on the planet and have work really early. But the DJ who was playing mostly oldies throughout the dinner sneakily got people on the dance floor with the Cupid Shuffle and from that went to more upbeat music. By the end of the night people were dancing in the fountains, there was a guy running around with a bubble gun and when we snap chatted a picture of the event to a friend she thought we were at Sensation White (the rave).
Being used to going to loud bars/clubs that mostly have just people your age and that play mostly EDM all night it was super fun to dance around to songs with WORDS that everyone knows the lyrics too. It was also great seeing people of all ages dance and even better to see both 20 year olds and 60 year olds dancing inside the fountain!
We stayed until the very end and of course the very last song they played was Journey. I don’t even have to tell you which one. Great experience and can’t wait to be back next year! Hopefully with leak-proof containers for the dessert and someone else to take up table-carrying duties 🙂
For more info on Diner en Blanc: