Going Out

“Secret” gourmet picnic, Dîner en Blanc, comes to Ottawa

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The story goes that after a long stay abroad, François Pasquier returned to Paris in 1988 and wanted to gather friends for a picnic. As the number of guests grew, he decided everyone should meet in a public space and wear white to recognize one another easily. Today, Dîner en Blanc sees over 10,000 participants in Paris and has spread to more than 70 cities internationally, including Montreal, Toronto and, this summer, a secret location (revealed the day of) in Ottawa.

This secret picnic may sound like the monochrome mate to Harvest Noir, which hosted its fifth and final picnic last October. The similarities should not be surprising, since Harvest Noir co-creator Samantha Biron reportedly got inspiration for the event from Dîner en Blanc in Montreal.

Unlike Harvest Noir, Dîner en Blanc keeps to its roots by being invitation only. Guests are invited in three phases: first, close friends of the organization; next, friends recommended from phase 1; and finally, the rest of us, who have to sign up to an online waiting list. Also unlike Harvest Noir, Dîner en Blanc is simply a picnic: no entertainment, farmers’ markets, or charity fundraising.

Once on the guest list, you must dress head to toe in white and take your own white picnic paraphernalia, including portable table, chair, table linen, tableware, and a “gourmet” meal.

So why the ticket? The $40 fee is to cover buses, lighting, permits, and other costs. Wine is extra at the venue (no, you can’t bring your own alcohol). Guests also have the option to purchase their meal from a menu curated by Ottawa chefs Marc Lepine of Atelier and Katie Brown of Beckta.

The bleached summer affair will see its Ottawa debut this Thursday, August 11, 2016.