It’s magical, the way it happens. One minute there’s an open field or plaza with nothing there, and the next minute, there are hundreds of people, dressed in their best white finery, sitting at tables decked out with white linen and white china, eating splendid foods. Within the span of a few hours, they dine, they dance, and then they disappear, leaving no trace they were ever there.
It’s called Dinner En Blanc and it’s a trend that started in 1988 in Paris which has since traveled the world. A local version is occurring on Aug. 30 in the Niagara region of Ontario in a location that is — as tradition dictates — undisclosed until moments before the event occurs.
“Everything has to be white,” explained Steven Hellman, owner of Foodies on Foot, who is coordinating the event through Dinner En Blanc International.
Guests are asked to bring their own table and chairs, tablecloth, food, and table wear, along with table decor that might include candles, flowers or balloons.
The evening begins when guests meet at several sites in the Niagara region of Ontario, two sites in Niagara Falls, Ont., and one site at Niagara-on-the-Lake. They get onto a bus and are transported to a beautiful unknown location where in a matter of moments after they arrive, they have tables set up and the celebrating begins.
The last time a Dinner En Blanc was held in the region, it occurred at Niagara-On-the-Lake, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in both 2013 and 2014. The chamber then changed the event to the “White Effect Dinner” because they had run out of options to surprise people with in the village. “The marvelous effect that you see in other cities where everyone’s converging on a site ... we just don’t have those options,” said Janice Thomson, director of the chamber. “But, it’s a terrific event and people love it.”
The dinner, which is open to anyone who registers beforehand and buys two tickets at about $40 each, is created to be visually appealing. “Everyone places their table side-by-side and has to bring a guest so there is someone sitting on each side of the table,” explained Hellman. After dinner, the guests light sparklers and then dance to live music before the evening ends at around 10:30 p.m.
Agatha Podgorski of Toronto, a manager at the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance has never been to a white dinner, but she’s been to a dinner where everyone dressed in black — the Harvest Noir in Ottawa. “It was just so much fun. You get this sense of community. During the preparation beforehand, me and my friends were all talking about it. On the day of the event, we were talking about who did it better.” She’s looking forward to attending Ontario’s Niagara region event. “I’m super excited, especially for the sparkler party afterwards. How often in life do you get to have a sparkler party? It makes me feel like I’m five years old again.”
This year, there will be 60 Dinner En Blancs throughout the world. The event in Paris attracts as many as 15,000 people, according to the international website. For more information, visit www.dinerenblanc.info.