Though skies stayed clear this year, it was once again easy to be both enchanted and frustrated by Le Dîner en Blanc, the Paris-imported picnic that popped up in New York for the second time last night. After meeting at designated locations around the city, diners were led to a destination kept secret until they arrived: the plaza at Lincoln Center, whose colorless cement columns nicely complemented the white outfits, tablecloths, and chairs.
For those given the opportunity (via an online lottery) to buy tickets, rules and restrictions abounded: Guests had to provide their own tables, white chairs, and tablecloths, and bring dinner (or order one for a hefty fee), traveling en masse via subway while clutching these props and defending their whites against the commuter crush. Yet, the collective struggle “is all part of the event,” said co-organizer Sandy Safi. And so is the reward — in New York in particular, a sea of people all in white is a rare and elegant spectacle.
One guest, Jeni Cruz, carried her white maltipoo Olivia, who wore a white flower behind one fluffy ear. “She’s white, little, and she’s family,” Cruz said, explaining her choice of dinner date.
Atop a canvas of pristine bleached tablecloths, the flowers, candelabras, and food brought by guests provided pops of color. Many toted charcuterie and cheese, while the more ambitious tucked into bowls of homemade watermelon gazpacho, a three-tiered tower of sushi, platters of poached lobster, or ramekins of jewel-toned salmon tartare.
While most people seemed to enjoy the evening — which evolved into a clublike dance party after dinner — a few who had attended last year’s Dîner at the World Financial Center observed that Lincoln Center lacked the romantic backdrop of the bobbing yachts and a sunset over the Hudson. Others said the increase from 1,200 to 3,000 guests made for a less intimate night. In the end, the evening was perhaps best summed up by a nearby diner, who opined, “This is wildly annoying and wildly beautiful.”