Diner en Blanc: what to pack in your picnic basket?

You may not know the location of Diner en Blanc yet, but you’ve got your snazzy white outfit and “tablescape” planned for Friday night’s big outdoor feast, to be held somewhere in West Palm Beach.

But here’s the question: What kind of food does one pack for an event that’s part pop-up dinner, part synchronized picnic?

Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during the 2015 Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

We attended last year’s secret, massive affair and have few tips to share on the topic.

READ: Nine things to know about Diner en Blanc

First, keep in mind this is an outdoor event, which means it’s vulnerable to the elements. Second, keep in mind you may have to lug your supplies for many yards.

With those two things in mind, here are five ideas on what to tuck into those picnic totes:

1. Cold or room temperature and crispy is fine: think crisp veggies, good crackers, breadsticks, even room-temp fried chicken. Hot and crispy, not so much. Your crispy duck might not survive the schlep, neither will your warm, toasty garlic bread.

2. You can’t go wrong with fancy charcuterie.

A charcuterie and cheese board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)
A charcuterie board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s how: Pack great cheeses – oozy ones, sharp ones, aged ones, even beautifully stinky ones. Tuck in some fine Spanish ham, Italian salumi, hot mustard, elegant jams or honey. Add baggies of fresh fruit and nuts. After you set up your table, you can arrange them on a nice platter with those crispy crackers or hearty bread.

3. Whip up some sophisticated chilled soup, like Chef Michelle Bernstein’s White Gazpacho.

Michelle Bernstein's White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)
White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Here’s how to make it: In a high-speed blender, add 1 ½ cup Marcona almonds, ½ teaspoon fresh garlic, ½ tablespoon peeled shallot, 2 cups of peeled and chopped English cucumbers, 2 cups seedless green grapes, 1 tablespoon fresh dish and 1 ½ cups cold veggie broth. Puree until very smooth. With blender running, add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry sherry wine. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup quality extra-virgin olive oil. Blend for at least 4 to 5 minutes, until velvety smooth. Chill until ready to sip. Garnish with sliced grapes, crushed almonds and dill. (Recipe serves 4.)

4. Rice salads (or other grain salads) served room temperature can be luxurious.

Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)
Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s a variation: Make a pot of your favorite rice. Separately, sauté onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until just tender, adding a sprinkling of curry powder or ground turmeric and ginger. Add the rice to the sauté by the spoonful, tossing to coat the rice in the aromatics. Add a handful of frozen peas and stir. Shut off heat and allow mixture to sit until the peas are tender. When cool, add your choice of raw, chopped veggies, like diced zucchini, seeded tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs. You’ll have a mix of textures and flavors in one hearty bowl.  If you prefer a hot meal, pack soups, stews or chili in Thermoses.

5. The takeout option: Order dinner from your favorite West Palm restaurant and pick it up before you get to the meet-up location. Once the location is announced Friday afternoon, you may have a better idea of nearby restaurants. You’ll only have to bring your dinnerware and table setting.

Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

It may sound like a mission – and it can be, depending on how you take on the night. But relax. It’s a party. It’s a picnic. Pack what you love to eat in your fancy duds. If that means Fritos in a martini glass, rock on!

9 things to know about the secret dinner tonight in West Palm Beach

Part pop-up dinner, part synchronized picnic, Paris’ Diner en Blanc is headed to West Palm Beach — and it’s a massive undertaking.

Dubbed “World’s Largest Dinner Party,” the famously secret dinner is happening Friday, Nov. 4 at an undisclosed West Palm venue.

photo diner en blanc
Samantha Bense, right, of Palm Beach, arranges flowers at her table during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Here are 9 things to know about the secret dinner that’s a cult favorite across the globe:

ONE: The location is a secret

The dinner location is not revealed until moments before the event starts. Guests are transported by charter or public shuttle to the event site. Each table has a leader who assigns seating arrangements.

TWO: You must wear white

Yes, even after Labor Day (not that Floridians should care about such things). This alfresco dinner is less about food than it is about aesthetic impact on a public space. As a Diner en Blanc guest, you are part of a grand, moving and breathing art installation, one where order and a sense of style and symmetry are important. A signature part of the choreography: Once all tables are set up and seats taken, guests swirl their crisp, white napkins in the air to signal the start of the meal.

RELATED: Check out the photos from West Palm’s Diner en Blanc 2015

THREE: Your table must wear white

You must bring a nice, white tablecloth to cover your table. The table itself does not have to be white, but it does have to be square, foldable and easy to carry, as you will be toting it across the public space to your designated spot. Tables must measure between 28-inch by 28-inch and 32-inch by 32-inch. Dining chairs must be white as well.

photo diner en blanc
Examples of table settings for Diner en Blanc WPB were on display at a pre-event party at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Tuesday, October 20, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

FOUR: Bring a well-stocked basket

For the table, the Diner en Blanc International website asks you to bring a picnic basket filled with “quality menu items and china dinner service” and “proper stemware and flatware.” Translation: no plastic or paper goods. (Food can be ordered from an official online shop before the event for delivery during the dinner.)

FIVE: Leave the booze at home

Wine is available for purchase from Diner en Blanc’s official online shop. You pick up the wine when you arrive at the secret location.

SIX: You must bring a date

Registration is taken for two people at a time. But as the Diner en Blanc site points out, your date can be a friend, a partner, a relative, a spouse, or “even a blind date.” The event seats men on one side of the table, facing the women, who are seated on the other side of the table. “Same-sex couples are not requested to follow this guideline,” says the website, which explains the gender lineup this way: “Le Diner en Blanc is a highly photogenic event. Color, style, but also the symmetry of men and women are important components of (the) aesthetics.”

Participants have a seat at their decorated tables during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Participants have a seat at their decorated tables during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

SEVEN: Ladies get a better view

This is thanks to the event’s orchestrated seating. “There is always a guest perspective which is more pleasing to the eye than the other. This first perspective is always given to women,” according to the website.

EIGHT: Once you confirm, you must attend

Or prepare to be blacklisted by the white party. “Once confirmed, the presence of each guest thus becomes essential and mandatory, whatever happens and regardless of weather conditions,” state the event rules. Speaking of weather conditions, guests should prepare for rain by bringing a white raincoat or a transparent poncho, or a white or clear umbrella. Diner en Blanc does not look kindly upon guests who are spooked by the weather. Those deterred by “ominous clouds” won’t be invited to future events and their names and email addresses will be placed on a black list that bars them from registering again.

NINE: Diner en Blanc has humble beginnings

In 1988 Frenchman Francois Pasquier organized a casual dinner party to reconnect with old friends after having spent several years abroad. But his home garden could not accommodate all who wanted to attend, so he asked friends to gather at the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris, and he asked them to wear white (so he could find them). “Bring a meal, and bring a new friend,” was his request that year, according to the event’s website. The concept endured and evolved into what Diner en Blanc is today. It has been replicated in some 60 countries.

Twitter: @LizBalmaseda

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‘World’s largest dinner party’ returns to secret West Palm Beach location

Diner en Blanc in full effect in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Diner en Blanc in full effect in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Diner en Blanc, the massive secret picnic that invaded the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront last year, will return to an undisclosed location this fall.

The mega event, which is more “flash mob” meets “white party” than a foodie feast, returns Friday, Nov. 4, organizers announced Tuesday.

The location will not be announced until the day of the event, but Diner en Blanc West Palm Beach organizers say the new outdoor venue will accommodate more than 1500 participants.

“For this new edition, we have once again searched the city high and low to find a venue that will ‘wow’ and render this night unique and magical as well as welcome more guests,” Nora David, one of the event’s co-hosts, said via news release.

Revelers in white set up their own tables and fancy food at last year's inaugural Diner en Blanc West Palm.  (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Revelers in white at fancy tables at Diner en Blanc WPB 2015. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Dubbed the “world’s largest dinner party,” Diner en Blanc follows a tradition launched in Paris in 1988 as a casual picnic for friends to reconnect. It has now been replicated in more than 60 countries.

Attending this synchronized fashion spectacle is not as simple as purchasing a ticket. You must be invited to attend. You can get yourself invited by following the local Diner en Blanc folks in social media or schmoozing up a committee member or event volunteer.

Then there’s a labyrinthine registration process, which happens in three phases. And yes, even if you are approved, you pay an admission charge. (See details below.)

Finally, you must pack a full, formal picnic, a table, chairs, and table setting, all of which you must schlep into the venue. (Shuttle buses to the venue are available for registered participants.)

Diner en Blanc is a rain-or-shine event. Those who attended last year were greeted by a deluge of rain, which cleared and ushered in a pleasant night. And for all the stated formalities, the event itself turned out to be far more relaxed than anticipated, in terms of fashion and food.

 

Dressed up for Diner en Blanc WPB 2015. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
All glammed up for Diner en Blanc West Palm 2015. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

DINER EN BLANC WEST PALM

The details:

When: Nov. 4

Where: Secret location, to be announced Nov. 4, shortly before the event. Participants will meet at an assigned location and will be escorted to the outdoor venue by a Diner en Blanc volunteer.

Registration: Visit westpalmbeach.dinerenblanc.info/register to register. This is a three-phase process. Phase 1 is for those who attended last year’s event. Phase 2 is for new guests who are referred by Phase I people. Phase 3 is for those who sign up online by Oct. 21 to be on the waiting list.

Small print: Once you are confirmed, you must attend (or you will be barred from future Diner en Blanc events). It’s a rain or shine event.

Dress code: “Elegant and white only,” organizers say. “Originality is encouraged as long as it is stylish and tasteful.”

Table setting: Must be all white. You must bring a table with two white chairs, white tablecloth, stemware and white dinnerware, a picnic basket packed with “fine” food. Only wine or Champagne are permitted (must be reserved through online e-store). No beer or hard liquor. Organizers ask that guests refrain from bringing their own alcohol.

Catering option: Will be offered onsite for a charge. This option can be reserved through the website.

Clean up: After it’s over, take everything with you – including litter.

Info: For more details, visit westpalmbeach.dinerenblanc.info/about. On social media, follow updates at Diner en Blanc – West Palm Beach,  @DinerEnBlancWPB, dinerenblanc_wpb. Hashtags: #dinerenblanc #dinerenblancWPB #debwpb16. To read about Dîner en Blanc and see photos from its events around the globe, visit dinerenblanc.info. 

 

Diner en Blanc: Why you may not get into exclusive secret dinner event

Diner en Blanc began in Paris as a picnic among friends. (Contributed by Diner en Blanc International)
Diner en Blanc began in Paris as a picnic among friends. (Contributed by Diner en Blanc International)

Don’t buy those fancy, white duds just yet. Your invite to Diner en Blanc may never come.

The massive outdoor dinner, to be held Nov. 10 at an undisclosed public space in West Palm Beach, can accept 1200 guests. So far, there are 3000 on the waiting list.

Designer Nora David, one of the event’s three local organizers, explains the complex, three-phase invitation process in MyPalmBeachPost.com.

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

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