Diner en Blanc

Last night we attended Calgary’s second-annual Diner En Blanc. Inspired from events around the world, it is a “pop-up” picnic event, where everything is … white.

We had been mulling over meal ideas for the past week, gathering our picnic table, chairs, and various white items of clothing.

Finally, the big night had arrived.

Rushing home from work, we slipped into our white outfits and packed our three-course meal into a beach bag. A little time-crunched, we skimmed the list of essentials, grabbing electric tea-lights and a lighter on the way out the door.

As we made our way down the elevator, we spotted a few individuals cloaked in white and seemingly just as worried about being late. Our group leader had e-mailed us saying we were to arrive promptly at 5:45…and it was already 5:46.

We loaded everything into the vehicle and made our way to the meeting location. All of a sudden we were in the midst of a swarm of white and immediately knew we were in the right spot.

Lining up, we loaded onto our white chariots (really, coach buses) and began to wonder where we were going.

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The event occurs in a random park somewhere in the city – the location of which is a secret until you arrive. It is all very suspenseful and the bus was filled with chatter as guests discussed the possibility of locations such as nose hill, prince’s island park, and edworthy.

Within 5 minutes, we were turning off bow trial and heading towards the bow river. Through a car dealership we drove, before our eyes locked onto at least 10 huge buses similar to the one we were riding in.

We exited the bus and people dressed in all different forms of white started pouring out. Along the path we walked, like pilgrims on a journey. Carrying food, water, blankets, chairs, tables, and any other accessories that might add a little flare to an elegant picnic dinner.

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We were pleasantly greeted by a sign saying “Diner en Blanc” and were directed to our row of seating.

We began setting up our table and chairs – but were distracted by the extravagant outfits and wigs that some people were wearing. Reassuringly, we told ourselves that next year, we would be that much more prepared.

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When I first heard of the event, I was immediately excited. Anything to feel a bit closer to Paris (where it all began). However, it was easy to get discouraged when I realized we needed to bring our own picnic table and chairs (of a specific size), dishes, cutlery, glasses, meals, and a few other items. But as I stood in the field along with over 2000 people, all of whom were dressed in white had made the effort to attend this event, it was easy to regain my excitement and revel in the positive atmosphere.

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After finishing our set up, we had worked up quite the appetite and took out our first course: a charcuterie board.

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The spread was pretty good if I do say so myself – pancetta, porchetta, capocollo, genoa salami, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, manchego cheese, grapes, smoked olives, and strawberry jam. All supplemented by a variety of crackers.

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When I was initially preparing the board, I was a bit worried it would be too much food for four people. Thankfully, it was just right as we munched away remarking about different tasty combinations. photo 3 (8)

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We cheers-ed with our “designer water” and knew the night was off to a good start.

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We glanced around at our fellow diners and appreciated the creativity of each group.

An announcement came on that appetizers would begin in 15 minutes…and everyone laughed as they were apparently just as hungry as us. Instead, the first signature event began, and we all waived our white napkins in the sky.

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The DJ beside us started playing music – which seemed to have a safari vibe. Paul commented how it made him want to eat and we all burst into laughter.

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Deciding to venture around the event, we left our table and headed out for a few photo ops.

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Followed by some more playing with giant white balls…

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After awhile, we returned to our seats for our main entrée. Paninis from the Holy Grill.

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Props go to Anna & Paul as the delicious wraps were their idea. All wrapped up, they were still warm from being freshly cooked a few hours ago.

Stuffed with chicken, onions, peppers, and bacon they were really the size of two sandwiches. Thankfully, we had skipped bringing an additional side dish.

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After dinner, the sky began to dim and we sauntered once again around the grounds. This time, the atmosphere was lit by electric votive candles and soft, classical music filled the air.

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Getting a little chilly without the sun, we brought along our fleece blankets and snuggled in them as we walked around.

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Before we knew it, it was almost 9:30pm! After mingling with the crowd and saying hi to a few familiar faces, we headed back for dessert: macarons and chocolate chip cookies.

By now it was dark and my ability to take a good picture was severely downgraded. With the help of Anna’s “backlighting” from her iPhone I was able to snap a few candlelit shots.

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Don’t they look absolutely delicious? By the way, the Macarons are from Monplaisir.

I munched away on dark chocolate (my favourite) while the others were a little more adventurous. Most of the risks paid off, but Paul wasn’t a fan of the Rose Lychee – exclaiming it tasted it a “bubblebath in his mouth”. As a result, I decided I would pass on that one.

Once again, we were greeted by an announcement that the second signature event was about to begin – sparklers.

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Lighting them up, we obviously had quite a bit of fun.

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We headed out for a few final pictures, and it was at this time that I realized my camera had a flash…. I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment that I didn’t have it on earlier.

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Cold and tired, we realized it was 10:30pm and promptly made our way back to the buses. We were warmly whisked back to our meeting spot where we headed home to reminisce about a wonderful night.

See you next year!