by Leigh Morgan
The invite to Toronto’s second annual Dîner en Blanc- the secret pop up dinner party that began in Paris 25 years ago and is now celebrated in over 40 cities worldwide, went a little something like this:
Wear elegant, white clothing (no ivory, cream, or any off-white allowed) = OK, I can do that.
Take a chartered bus or guided public transit without knowing the location of the event= Easy enough.
Make your own dinner and bring it with you in a picnic basket= No problem.
Bring your own 32” x 32” table, white tablecloth, 2 white chairs, white china plates, white flatware AND glassware= hell no.
Attend as media, don’t bring anything and take in all the wine and appetizers provided by sponsors= Now that I can do.
At 5:30pm, I got the e-mail with the secret location of the dinner that started at 7:00pm- a parking lot between Shuter Street and Queen Street East (for those who don’t know the area, when telling my guest where we were headed she told me to meet her by “the homeless men playing chess in the park beside”).
I took the Queen streetcar headed east and watched as hundreds of people wearing white waited to get on all the packed streetcars that kept turning them away, including weird looks and eye rolls from passerbys just getting off work and wanting to get home.
When I hopped off at my stop, the grungy parking lot was a mess of people setting up their tables with white costumed burlesque dancers, showgirls, and a Marie Antoinette wandering around. The elegance of white garb and place settings didn’t set in until the mass of diners waved their white napkins in true Dîner en Blanc fashion and began their meals.
We had no food, we’d been told we’d be wined and dined. So we were but not with the kind of fare one would expect at such a visually stunning and fussily regulated event. They fed us chips, the new line of Neal Brothers chips, which are really fantastic, but still, chips. What am I? A stoner frat boy?
Sights of pretty people and delicious food, with frequent visits to the best damn port-o-pottys I’ve ever been in, filled my night. After eating*, a live band played and when it was dark enough, the over 1,600 diners waved sparklers in the air. I saw why Dîner en Blanc organizers chose that dirty, old parking lot as the location that’s intended to be “a public site that is typically one of the most beautiful parts of the city,” – I hadn’t truly appreciated Toronto’s skyline until that moment.
The crowd danced the night away under the stars, white dresses and tuxedoes glowed in the moonlight. After a dinner of chips my friend and I were starved but we stuck around, they gave us wine at least. That was something.
*Chips. There were also cookies. Gluten-free cookies that is.