There are a lot of perks to living in a big city like Chicago. The premiere restaurants, headlining music festivals, and chic nightlife definitely keep the city booming. However, there’s one event that is the high point of any socialite’s summer season. Diner en Blanc!
The pop-up picnic that started out in Paris around 30 years ago has spread across the world. Thousands of people don their finest all white outfits and gather together for a uniquely elegant, yet fun affair. It is truly an experience. However, the 2 things that makes Diner en Blanc so special is where you will be and what you bring to it. You do not find out where you will be dining until you arrive at the secret location. There are no tables, chairs, decor, food, or desserts provided. You have to bring everything! Think of it as a modern picnic, but with crudités and wine pairings. It can be a logistical nightmare, but it is all worth it. Franklin J, the Owner/Lead Designer of Flyy Design Creative, extended an invitation to me for this secret event. I think that I would not have enjoyed this virgin experience as much if it was not because of him. We first started our planning process by thinking of table décor. The decor is major for an event like this! If you think that a white table cloth and some paper napkins will suffice, you are sadly mistaken. This event is all about elegance and standing out even if you are seemingly caught in a sea of pure white. How do you make your presence known with such a limited color palette? While browsing at a Marshall's in our area, we stumbled upon these iridescent, stemless wine glasses by Rachel Roy. That's when Franklin really started to conceptualize his vision. Finding matching silverware and accoutrements was easier than we thought. A few trips to some of our favorite low-budget/cost-effective stores and we were set. Walmart, Ross, HomeGoods and Dollar Tree all had great items that tied our table together. And with a statement piece loaned to us from Kensington Event Design, we had a table to die for! Remember, you can be on a budget and still get a luxury look for less! Personally, I thought that the preparation for the event was nothing compared to the anticipation that the day brought. You are told where your check-in point is, but not where the location for the event is scheduled. That means that, in your all white, you could be traveling on foot or public transportation, if necessary. Oh, the horror and the anxiety of that in a city like Chicago! However, you can meet great people. In our case, we met Judy and Chi Chi of Events by Chi. These ladies were extreme sweethearts! Not only did we bond with them, but we joined tables with them when the time came. During our hour wait downtown, we tried to guess where we could possibly be going. Could it be Millennium Park? Maybe Grant Park? We could possibly be headed to somewhere that would not have been a conventional choice for this kind of outing. The exciting, but nerve racking thing was that we did not know! Even when we saw crowds of people clothed in white moving before us, we could only guess their destination. Our anxieties were quelled when we were directed towards the Daley Center where many groups were already setting up. We got into formation quickly and unfolded our table, unpacked our finery, (including custom menus created by Flyy Design Creative), and low key scoped out the 'competition'. While we had all the decorations, two of our other friends who were joining us had all the food. We ordered from Victory Tap located in the South Loop, and our meal was delicious! We dined on roasted chicken with potatoes, garlic asparagus, sausage and peppers, and a ravioli carbonara. Dessert was a new style cheesecake with strawberries. We paired these courses with Chateau Ste. Michele Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé and a Pinot Gris from Underwood. We munched on French bread as we waited for the traditional swirling of napkins which signified the beginning of dinner. I loved the vibe of the day. Everyone was there to have a good time and strut their stuff. The DJ played a steady stream of groovable pop music. When it started to get dark out, many people turned on their flameless candles and began mingling within Daley Center with old friends and new ones made during this one-of-a-kind event. As a final nod to the magic and mystery of Diner en Blanc, we all lit up sparklers, one of the few things that were actually provided to us by the event coordinators, for a beautiful moment together. After that, things kicked into high gear as we transition from dinner to dancing. The day was absolutely perfect! I think we began to break down our table towards the very end of the event. We soaked up every moment of Diner en Blanc and really allowed ourselves to have fun. After six bottles of wine, unwinding wasn't that hard. I cannot wait for my next Diner en Blanc experience. It was the perfect way to end my summer.
Written by William Davenport