Inside the World’s Largest Secret Pop-Up Picnic: Dîner en Blanc
To most people not in the know, the phrase “Dîner en Blanc” probably sounds, at best, vaguely familiar. For others, it’s a desirable annual event whose members share the wink and nod of playful exclusivity. Dîner en Blanc has gained renown worldwide through loud whispers and social media posts as what may be the world’s largest exclusive pop-up picnic. The annual event takes place in 60 cities and draws thousands of participants who must dress in all white to enjoy the high-end soiree.
Take away the pomp and circumstance, and Dîner en Blanc is a giant pop-up potluck dinner where members must dress in all white (shoes, purse, and accessories included); bring their own food, tables, and chairs to a designated secret location; and pay an entrance fee to enjoy the jovial atmosphere. There are wild costumes, Champagne, and dancing. This year’s New York Dîner en Blanc took place on Pier 26 facing the Hudson River with more than 5,000 participants. To get in, you either must have participated last year, received an invitation from someone else in attendance, or be selected from the long waiting list. For the 2015 event, New York participants could pay extra for a picnic dinner by celebrity chef Todd English.
Thousands of guests decked out in their all-white Sunday best (with a few masks, angel wings, and Marie Antoinette wigs thrown in to spice things up) dined on cheese platters, salads, and whatever else they were able to lug onto public transportation. Before the evening began, participants were divided into small meeting groups and told to convene at a specific location to travel together to the pier. Dragging their tables, chairs, and munchies, the white-clad groups had no idea where they were going until they arrived.
The concept of Dîner en Blanc began 27 years ago in Paris, explains co-founder Sandy Safi, when her partner’s dad held a lunch in the park with friends and friends of friends. They all wore white to identify each other.
“It’s quite magical,” Safi told The Daily Meal. “In 2011 we did our first one in New York, and from there, people from all over the world started hearing about it and we got requests from cities in five continents. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your background is; everyone loves a good picnic.”