NOT A FASHION POST!
Okay – I have had the information to write this article for a month now, but I have been extremely selfish and oh so hesitant to share anything about the white cloak-and-table event that you are about to read! I absolutely want to hold every glorious, delicious detail wrapped up in my very own alabaster damask tablecloth, secret and close to only my heart forever. Alas, my better self knows that our world is short on upbeat community building events, therefore I will shout from the top of a glistening, snow capped Mt. Rainier so the world knows about the whimsical event known as Le Dîner en Blanc.
I’m a sucker for everything new, untried and unknown – especially when it comes to enjoying gourmet food and spending time with acquaintances, both new and old. So, when my friend, Cristy Carner, owner of the super hip Cristy Carner Salon in Fremont, mentioned that she was invited to the first edition of the global phenomenon Le Dîner en Blanc Seattle, I was intrigued. I raced straight to my computer and began researching what I soon found out is a highly sought-after “secret” pop-up picnic, and I knew that I needed to attend. Le Dîner en Blanc, or DEB for those in the know was founded nearly 30 years ago, in Paris by a gentleman named François Pasquier. Pasquir had been living-abroad, and when he came home to Paris he wanted to reconnect with old friends and did not have a yard big enough to host a reunion picnic. He told his guests to meet at a public park and to wear white so that everyone could find each other. Now, decades later François’s Paris picnic is 10,000 strong and has spread like a fine white tablecloth to 70 cities across the globe with 150,000 members worldwide.
Seattle’s Dîner en Blanc was brought to the emerald city by three dynamos; Lars Johnson, Erica Snow and Kelly Soligon. I asked Lars how he first learned about DEB and he told me that he “lived in Paris for several years in the late 2000s. One evening, while out on a run, he stumbled into the Paris event. Ever since seeing the beauty and elegance of Le Dîner en Blanc, he’s had a desire to bring this tradition to Seattle, his hometown. Upon moving back to Seattle, he researched how to bring Le Dîner en Blanc to Seattle.” Lars immediately thought of Kelly Soligon. Lars told Kelly “about his goal of hosting the event in Seattle and asked if she would be interested in co-hosting, given her background in Public Relations, Social Media, and Marketing Communications. They then reached out to Erica Snow, a friend of Lars’ from high school. She is an event management professional and they asked her to join as a co-host.” Voila the very first Le Dîner en Blanc Seattle was born.
The momentum moved at lightening speed and the Seattle DEB dream team was fortunate enough to enlist the help of some amazing local partners: CRG Events, J wines, and Matisia Consultants. As well as the national partner Evian Badoit water, plus a long list of fantastically talented individual contributors.
All of the above information about DEB you can easily find on the web with a smattering of other details. What you will absolutely not find is the exact location where each cities' picnic will be held, or how you actually get to the event. After you sign up online and pay a nominal fee, you receive a welcome email with a link to your very own DEB web portal where you find out your bus leader. Here you can order wine at special prices as well as catered meals for pick up at the event. Only by talking to friends did I learn that there were buses in the neighborhoods of Capital Hill, Ballard, and Queen Anne. There could have been more, but again there were very little specifics, other then strict rules around wardrobe. Including the fact that everything you wear must be pure white (NOT off white or crème), you may not wear shorts, flip flops, baseball-hats, or sneakers. Hallelujah for an event that understands the import of protocol.
When the night of DEB Seattle finally arrived my husband and I donned our snowy, snappy outfits and began our unchartered adventure. We arrived at a middle school in the neighborhood of Queen Anne, and as we were looking for parking, slowly started noticing random groups of milk dipped people navigating their way through the streets with chairs, tables, and huge coolers. All the while gaining increased notice of passers-by. In the distance we spotted two huge coach buses and began our journey into the unknown. As we moved towards the designated pick up location, what struck me more than anything was the sense of community among strangers. All of the DEB guests around us politely introduced themselves and kept a keen eye for any fellow diner in need of help. My husband lent a hand to two women with their ungainly cooler. I took photos for a lovely couple on a date. Everywhere around me random acts of kindness were occurring. That was just the beginning of the instantaneous sense of community that carried on through out the enchanted evening. Once everyone piled on the bus the crowd was abuzz with curiosity, making random guesses on where DEB was going to be held. I was amazed that the clandestine location had been with held from over 1000 people until moments before the event.
The curiosity did not have too much time to build, as our bus journey from Queen Anne hill was less then a mile. The wait was over – the inaugural DEB Seattle was to be held at Myrtle Edwards Park, a 5-acre public park on the Elliott Bay waterfront two miles north of downtown Seattle. I asked Le Dîner en Blanc Seattle host Erica Snow, about the location choice and she said; ““Seattle has so many picturesque locations; it was hard to choose the venue for our inaugural Le Dîner en Blanc in Seattle. Ultimately, we selected Myrtle Edwards Park. With its waterfront location and views of Mt. Rainer, it was the ideal setting for our elegant pop up picnic in white. Thank you to the Seattle Parks Department for their partnership.” Thank you Erica for your impeccable manners giving a shout out to the hard working people at the parks department, and of course for choosing such a fantastically perfect spot.
My husband and I, joined by our new 1000 DEB friends, paraded towards a picturesque grassy area demarcated with 25 string lines, soon to be 25 banquet tables ready to be set for forty achromatic diners. There were guides giving directions on where, and how we were to set up our individual tables. All the while the upbeat tunes of DJ Bamboo Beats’ Seattle Bride Magazine’s “ Best DJ for a reception”, serenaded the crowd. In a matter of minutes, Myrtle Edwards was transformed into one of the most elegant, snowy white dining halls I have ever seen.
I could yarn on and on about the rest of our evening but the magic of Le Dîner en Blanc is in the experience and the unknown – so I will leave you with photos of the exquisite evening and compel everyone to learn from this event and create sparkling, non-stop kindness in everything you do. Plus, you may want to race to sign up in hopes of being part of Seattle’s Le Dîner en Blanc 2018 and look for my menu ideas perfect for a DEB picnic.
After the enchanted evening I reached out to Kelly to see how the team felt about the dazzling affair “We are beyond thrilled with Seattle’s response to the first ever Le Dîner en Blanc. The event sold out, with over 1,000 attendees, enjoying the beauty of Le Dîner en Blanc at Myrtle Edwards Park. The response from guests has been overwhelmingly positive. People loved the experience and can’t wait to attend next year!” Lars, Kelly, and Erica thank you SO very much for all of you’re hard work on this ever so refined pop-up epicurean event and please sign me up to host a Magnolia bus next year!