Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dîner en Blanc New York: Take Two!

Last year, New York was introduced to the cult Parisian pop-up dinner: Dîner en Blanc.  This is year two for me and will hopefully be a long standing annual tradition. Logistics for the first year was, to say the least, rife with logistical problems.  1,300 available spots and over 30,000 people who logged onto the website to around the same time to register for a coveted spot; which obviously caused the system to crash and angry, confused registrees who were unsure if their spot had been confirmed.  This year's registration process went much smoother with last year's attendees getting first dibs followed by those refunded last year and lastly, new attendees.  To accommodate the demand, the coordinators increased the number of seats to 3,400 participants!

Those who registered for a table for themselves and a fellow diner were given the option of selecting a group leader from various points in the city. Then, you are given the strict list of requirements for the event which was the same as last year. 

Each guest must wear WHITE and only white, no cream or ivory (though plenty of that did abound).  Each table is also required to bring:
  • 1 portable table
  • 2 white chairs
  • White tablecloth & linens
  • Glassware (real glass, no plastic)
  • Dinnerware (real plates, no plastic)
  • Silverware
  • White picnic basket
  • Electric candle
  • Flowers (optional and only color allowed)
Alcohol must be purchased from the provided caterer due to New York State requirements. Some reckless (and smart!) New Yorkers smuggled some of their own alcohol in.  I smelled my neighbors whiskey with a little jealousy. A catered dinner is also available to purchase though you are encouraged to bring your own.  Of course, yours truly provided the bounty for the evening! 

Fully stocked and somewhat more prepared as to what to expect this year, I headed out of the office all dressed in white feeling fresh and summery.  The weather was cooperating with us in New York and it was a glorious 80 degrees Fahrenheit this past Monday. By the time I had argued with my taxi driver for going the wrong way and then missing the turn to the street I had asked to dropped off at (not an uncommon occurrence in New York I must warn you), I was grumpy and slightly sweaty from getting off a block from where I had asked with my rolling cart, portable table, chairs, picnic basket and cooler.  I shrugged it off to adventure and packed everything up to carry the last block and meet my fellow diner, Susan.

After checking in with our group leader and waiting around for the entire group to arrive, we were informed that we would definitely be heading into the subway.  I was still hopeful at this point that it wouldn't happen and we would just walk a longer distance since that was what had happened last year.  Unfortunately, we found hundreds of us descending into the New York subway during afternoon rush hour in Herald Square. Nightmare!  It seemed that various groups had converged in the subway.  So in the melee there was a brief panic as we lost sight of our intrepid group leader in the sea of white and annoyed commuters. 

We all managed to squeeze on to the uptown 1 train and vaguely heard the instruction that we were getting off at 59th St-Columbus Circle. My heart skipped a beat. Yay! We must be heading to Central Park!!  My favorite place in the world. And MUCH closer to home than last year's dinner location at Battery Park City.  After the last struggle of lifting all of our stuff up the stairs and back onto level ground, our group headed off and entered the park.

 We winded our way through the parks on the path...leading right out of the park at 66th St. At this point, we figured the only place that could accommodate our party was Lincoln Center. And this time, we were correct!

With its white concrete walls and modern clean lines, Lincoln Center was the perfect splashy back drop for this magical night.  Last year, we had the New Jersey skylines and sunset over the Hudson River. And it was really beautiful and romantic.  But Lincoln Center had its own charm and quintessential New York.  Larger than life, modern and dramatic. After setting up in our designated areas, diners started pulling food out of their baskets, setting tables and finally wine corks popped (after an hour waiting to pick up in line). 


Then, the real fun began when strangers dining next to you became your buddies and every one started sharing food with each other.  It is when this happens that all of the hassle of lugging your own dining area and food becomes irrelevant.  In a city this big, it is so amazing to find these random connections through one of the city's most unique events.


I admit I had some table envy with what came out of some of these baskets and next year plan on upping the ante a bit despite the annoyance of carrying it.  Below is the my menu for the evening:

Watermelon Gazpacho Shooters with Pickled Shrimp


Chicken liver mousse with fresh bread

Herbed Tomato Tart
Roasted Salmon Stuffed with Preserved Lemon Relish on Bed of Pea Shoots

Assorted cheeses
Fresh Strawberries
Salted Caramel Espresso Brownies (check back on Monday for the recipe!)


As the evening rolled on, the haunting vocals of the French singer changed to an amazing electric violinist and then the DJ came onto the scene, energizing the evening with body thumping music and getting everyone dancing on their chairs and waving their napkins in the air. 

The perfect quote from the night: "It's like we're at a really amazing wedding!"  At one point, a huge conga line even started winding it's way around Lincoln Plaza.  Why is it always a conga line?

All in all it was an amazing night with guests dressed in their finest white attire, some men in dapper white tuxedos and women in white feathered headresses abounded. As diners finished eating, more guests found their way to the sparkling fountain in the middle of the plaza and lounged the rest of the evening, sipping champagne and wine (as we found ourselves). 

Another magical evening in New York.  Good night and until next year!!

1 comment:

  1. Finally...the post I've been waiting for! Sounds like a magical evening. Maybe someday I'll get to experience it. For now this makes me really excited for my trip!