On Thursday August 16th, 2012 the spectacular Places des Arts in downtown Montreal was taken over by a sea of white for the annual Diner en Blanc dinner. Originally started over 20 years ago in Paris by François Pasquier, this elegant event is a must attend for anyone searching for a truly unique experience. What began as a dinner among friends has grown into a world renowned soirée spanning from New York City to Singapore, and had it’s first event in Kigali, Africa this year.
The highly secretive event takes places only once a year, rain or shine, in the city’s most elegant and prominent outdoor spaces. To garner the chance to attend you must either be a member, be sponsored by a member or be on a wait list where thousands anxiously await that precious message informing that they have been selected to attend. Once a member, you may decline to attend future events, but will always be asked back should you pay you member dues.
There are two options for transportation to the event, the metro or or a hired coach. To experience the event in it’s fullest, many people choose to take the metro and are lead through the city’s underground network by a handful of leaders who receive instructions to the venue only at the very last moment. Once there, everyone is to set up in a calm and relaxed fashion consistent with the event’s elegant charm. All seating is assigned and tables are arranged by group in long, dramatic lines side by side.
Guests are asked to either bring a gourmet picnic or order from the exquisite Club St. James. All meals are to be server on the finest of china complete with white table cloths and elegant accessories. Guests are encouraged to bring wine, champagne and other fine refreshments to be enjoyed throughout the evening.
A wave of white napkins signals the beginning of dinner that is set to the intoxicating sound of an opera goddess and an eclectic quartet with a sitar and didgeridoo that alludes to a far off place. As dinner comes to an end and the festivities begin to unfold, each guest is given a sparkler and white balloon. The lighting of the sparkler signals the start of the party and as the fires slowly burn out, the hot embers are used to cut the cord on the balloons sending them up into the night sky turning the summer venue into a winter wonderland that looks like a shower of snowflakes. As thousands of balloons ascend into the sky, the dancing begins and the revelry unfolds
The event itself is breathtaking, like nothing I have ever seen before. Attracting over 4,000 attendees, the entire square of Place des Arts was transformed into dreamlike sea of white. To keep the prestige of the event are a few simple rules; everyone must dress in white, along with tables, chairs and linen. You may not be late and must stay right to the end. The event will continue rain or shine, should you choose not to attend, you will not be asked back again. And in the interest of being green, everyone must leave the site as they found it, clean and orderly with a great respect to the venue that has allowed this event to take place. The food from the ultra elite Club St. James was divine. Our menu consisted of a delicious Alsatian Gazpacho, a mouthwatering grilled chicken wrap with red peppers and hummus, a pasta salad with pesto and pancetta and assorted cheeses with olives and a divine tapenade. The menu in its entirety was amazing and left nothing to be desired, not like many on site catering companies.
All the guests were warm and friendly and many went all out, as the event’s coordinators encourage everyone to be chic and classy, yet flamboyant at the same time. Hats, gloves, fasteners and tuxedos the order of the day with the more extravagant the better.
An amazing time had by all, and by the end of the night the party was still going strong and no one wanted to head home. Friends were made, memories were had and the countdown for next year begins. For more information, visit their website at http://dinerenblanc.info/
Alexis Green is a Toronto native living in Montreal and has been in the food, beverage and entertainment industry for over ten years. She is also the owner of AG Design specializing in graphic design, event planning and consulting.