Hundreds Gather for Dîner en Blanc
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Hundreds Gather for Dîner en Blanc

An all-white dinner event that originated in Paris made its debut in Toronto Tuesday evening.

At around 6:30 Tuesday evening, some 400 white-clad people filed through the north gate of the Distillery District and sat on white chairs, before white tables arranged banquet-hall style behind white fences, and laid with white tablecloths and white napkins. The occasion was Toronto’s first-ever Dîner en Blanc.

The thing worked in a manner similar to that of a flash mob, in that tickets to the event were sold informally, mainly by word of mouth, and also in that diners didn’t know exactly where the dinner would be taking place until shortly before it happened (the organizers sent out text messages to tell attendees where to go). The eating experience was convivial, but not communal. Everyone brought their own food. (Pâté was provided, and bottles of wine were for sale.)

A similar event has reportedly been happening in Paris since 1988, but only recently has the Dîner-en-Blanc concept arrived locally. This summer, there was one in New York City, one in Quebec City, and one in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Montreal has been having them annually since 2009. The Toronto version was a kind of pilot, organized with the blessing of the event’s originators.

Guests twirl their napkins in the air before the meal.

Toronto’s Dîner en Blanc guests were clothed in their nicest whites, which for some meant linen pants and crisp dress shirts, or white dresses. For one guy we spoke to, conforming to the dress code entailed buying a pair of Dickies painter’s pants specifically for the occasion. “I’ve never worn white pants before in my life, I don’t think,” he said.

Attendees were surprisingly cavalier in their food choices. Some people played it safe with charcuterie platters or sushi, but there were plenty of oily sauces sloshing around. One table was sharing cranberry sauce. The French, apparently, have no problem throwing caution to the wind when it comes to indelible stains. Will Torontonians also embrace the danger?

Co-organizer Nicholas Wong, who writes the food blog Baguettes and Butterscotch, thinks so. “This is a very low-key, friend-of-friend kind of event,” he said. “What happens is, every year you get invited again, and then more people and more people and more people.”

He and the other organizers are hoping the event will grow into a major one on the Toronto-foodie social calendar. Maybe hold the next one before Labour Day, though?

Photos by Steve Kupferman/Torontoist.