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You know an idea has merit when somebody copies it. In May, a group did just that with a concept called Dîner en Blanc, bringing their Le Dîner à San Diego to America’s Finest. It created a bit of controversy from those behind the former, especially since organizers of the latter utilized Dîner en Blanc imagery to promote their almost completely identical event. To be fair, they did disclose the fact their event was inspired by Dîner en Blanc.

Great, but what's Dîner en Blanc?

That’s what I wondered when news of Le Dîner à San Diego came to me circuitously via a press release. Sitting in a room full of chefs, I ran down the details to them—pay a per-person fee to come to a picnic with your own food and drink. Huh?

We all agreed we could probably negotiate the simple process of planning a picnic on our own without paying for the privilege of participating in a flash-mob/pop-up version of an outdoor meal. Especially since there were a lot of rules—dress all in upscale white, observe the most stringent rules of decorum at all times, bring vessels for carting home any waste.

Where do I sign up?!?!

Even with Dîner en Blanc picking up steam throughout the country—it was recently the basis of a challenge on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters—I still don’t really get its appeal. I understand that it’s designed to bring together adventurous diners in an atmosphere prime for foodie exploration and appreciation, but even as obsessed with food and drink as I am, I struggle to muster much enthusiasm for it.

The opportunity to meet, conversate, and break bread with people who share my love of cuisine and the culinary arts is one that can’t be overlooked. But I can’t reconcile accessing that opportunity by paying $25 for the address and access to the mystery venue at which it will take place. Throw in the added cost of purchasing white pants, something I’ve never worn and will probably never wear again (by the way, whose idea is it to dawn all white post-Labor Day…even an uncouth slob like me knows that’s taboo), and I’m even more confounded.

Maybe I’m just a fuddy-duddy and my inability to get behind Dîner en Blanc indicates I am, as I’ve suspected for some time, devolving into an old crank, but I have to think there are others who probably view this the same way I do. Maybe I should go and check it out before I knock it—always good practice.

One thing is for certain—the spreading of Dîner en Blanc from its Parisian roots, plus the mounting success of subsequent events throughout the world, proves there are plenty of people who are into this phenomenon. If you are among them, you can vie for a spot at San Diego’s Dîner en Blanc.

That’s right—I said, vie. Don’t run out on that white-out shopping spree just yet. Again…there are rules! In order to get in, one must be invited by someone who has been a guest at a previous Dîner en Blanc event, or sign-up on DEB’s website to be placed on a waiting list. On the plus side, I recently learned food-filled baskets, chairs and tables will be available for rent on-site...a nice little plus.

Good luck, you sophisticated, forward-thinking epicure, you.

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Ian Pike Sept. 27, 2012 @ 11 a.m.

I also find this perfectly ridiculous. It just goes to show the normal course of events whereby pop-up events (and any other phenom) go from obscure new hotness --> wildly popular fad --> oversaturated and overcapitalized nonsense.

+1 for using the verb "conversate" though! If "floordrobe" gets to be in the dictionary, I believe conversate should.


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