Saturday, September 01, 2012

Dîner en Blanc - New York

(event held on Monday, August 20, 2012)

Le Dîner en Blanc, a “bright” idea…

At the last minute, the location is given to thousands of friends and acquaintances
who have been patiently waiting to learn the Dîner en Blanc’s secret place. Thousand of
people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum,
elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.

This was one of the most fun and classiest events we've done since moving back to the NYC area!

I forget how I found out about it, but I tried registering for the first Dîner en Blanc event held in NYC last year, which apparently was the first one ever held in the United States.  I signed up for the waiting list on July 7th 2011 and the waiting list (phase 2) registration would be on August 12th, with the actual event being held on August 25th.

Well, after the frenzy of going through the registration steps, including payment via PayPal, I never did receive an official confirmation :(

I did receive this email:


Big bummer...

but I didn't think twice about it afterwards nor follow up to see how the event went.

Fast forward to August 7th 2012 -- when I happily received an invitation to register for this year's event, but yet again, with no guarantee....


Since there was no guarantee I was going to get into this year's event, I didn't trouble myself with trying to get all the necessary items yet...

Monday, August 13th comes around -- right at noon, I click on the link, complete the registration form, and BOOM!  I got in!  Woo hoo!!

Now, the hard part: convincing Brian to go and gathering all the required white elements

But before I get into that...

When registering, I had originally signed up to meet up with other diners near Port Authority since I figured that's the easiest place for me travel-wise.  But then I thought, maybe there's a meeting place near Columbia so Brian wouldn't have to travel too far or leave work too early (goal: to make it as painless as possible for Brian since he was already on the fence about the whole thing).  After contacting my group leader, I find out that 72nd Street and Broadway was the highest meeting spot, and I changed to a new table leader that would leave from 72nd.

I received another email on Wednesday, August 15th at 12:55am saying that I would be able to invite/sponsor friends to go on the waiting list -- I was like, "hmm...who would be interested in doing this kind of thing as well as have a schedule that would allow them to meet up around 5-5:30pm? ...Elmer and David!"  So I forwarded the link to them, and luckily Elmer was able to register, and he invited David to come along since he couldn't get in.

I contacted the group leader again requesting that we all be in the same group and can sit next to each other as Elmer ended up with a different table leader at the 72nd meeting spot.  She replied not too much later, solving the problem by placing us with a different table leader that neither of us had...


Now for the nitty gritty...

This was the most worrisome and time-consuming part of the entire event.  Not only did we not have all the components for the dinner, we didn't have any white clothing!!

I logged into my DEB page and looked at the Members Wall where anyone can post questions and answers, and I saw that the requirement was very specific:

I posted on the wall if Brian's white adidas sneakers (with just a few green/ blue stripes) would be acceptable, and our group leader said no and posted a link suggesting buying white shoes on zappos  -- what the heck?!

This is going to be more annoying than I thought...

In order to be invited to next year's event, these rules had to be followed, so I took them quite literally.

I told Brian he should wear a pair of his nice shoes, even though they weren't white.

Amazingly enough, Brian does not own a white button down shirt, long or short-sleeved, but finding a shirt was easy enough.  The white pants would be another story considering it's mid-August, and stores already have their fall clothing out.  Fortunately, Elmer had to do some shopping of his own and found some white jeans for Brian at Uniqlo for $19.90 -- nice!  (The last thing we want to do is spend a ton of money for this.)

Brian's outfit = about $34

Once I found out we got in, I looked on ebay for my dress, and luckily found one, but I wasn't sure if it would arrive in time, so along with Brian's shirt, I went shopping for a backup...ugh, shopping to find something specific, especially with clothing, is the worst. (My ebay dress did arrive on time, and it's the one I ended up wearing.)

Ruby's dress = $31.99

Not knowing how far we would have to walk, I opted for wearing my white flip flops, but also bought a pair of white wedges in case the flip flops weren't classy enough. (I didn't end up wearing the wedges and returned them.)  I dropped by a Claire's to accessorize, but couldn't find a necklace I liked, so I fashioned a set of bracelets into a necklace instead.  I also bought a white bag (later to be returned) to hold all the usual crap I bring with me.

White attire...check.

Okay, so now onto the dining portion...

Because doing this was my idea, I wanted to make it pretty seamless for everyone involved, so I handled gathering all of the items.

We already got some of the items covered: white bag, dinner and dessert plates, cutlery, glassware, drinks, trash bag

The rest had to be purchased -- there was an option to rent tables and chairs, but the pick up and drop off times didn't fit my schedule, plus it would cost an extra $50...

Tables and chairs from REI and IKEA respectively...
(all returned, although if we did need a collapsible table, these rock!)

Bed Bath and Beyond, armed with 20% off and $5 off coupons

Deciding to keep our load light and not bring our relatively heavy dinner plates, I bought some melamine salad plates, and Elmer lent some white melamine trays/plates.

While it seems like it was just a 3-store shopping experience, a lot more thinking, research and store-hopping was involved...yeah, it kinda sucked.

In any case, what to actually eat for dinner was another decision to be made.

When registering, you had the option to buy your dinner through DEB and have it ready to be picked up at the event.  I opted out of it as it was a bit pricey, and I knew I would be able to come up with something cheaper.  I did however end up buying a bottle of wine...

So back to food -- at first, I thought about just making something, but what can I make that we would both enjoy cold?  Not being temperature sensitive, I would have no problem, but it would be a little more tricky for Brian.  Then I thought, oh we could just pick something up from Whole Foods, but based on our meeting location at 72nd Street, there wasn't one in the area.  And finally, I thought...SUSHI!  That would be perfect!

Since there was all this crap that had to be lugged around, I decided to drive in and park the car near 72nd Street.  I did a search of the area for sushi restaurants with take out -- there were 3 in the area with decent reviews.  I also did a search for bakeries -- I knew we would be near Levain's, but I thought we could try something different, cupcakes from Magnolia or Crumbs would be fun, or little pies...


Sunday night before the event, my brain is literally fried with all this prep work for DEB, and I'm at the point where I just don't give a sh*t anymore about anything involved.  I just wanted to get it over with...also there was a chance of thunderstorms for Monday...ugh!!

MONDAY -- the day of the event is finally here!!!

5:45pm was the absolute latest to meet up with our group, and I had to plan accordingly.

Busy working up until I had to leave, I just piled everything into the car, including my dress and makeup bag, and headed into the city...

After circling around for about 15-20 minutes, I found parking on 76th street...hallelujah!!  I texted everyone at 4:06pm that they should all be at the car by 5:15pm.

Makeup applied, bag organized with cameras, shawl, white wedges, then I head out to the nearest sushi place, Raku II, which is just down the block (how perfect!) and place our order.

As I head back towards the car to get my wallet, I see Brian walk towards me...yay!! He needs to change into his white attire and gets into the car, while I head over to Crumbs Bake Shop.  While perusing the selections, David calls, and I help direct him to our car and give him much needed directions to a Starbucks bathroom.  Taking forever to decide what to get, I lose my opportunity for a quick turnaround as more patrons enter the shop -- now I'm waiting to put my order in.  I go for the $10  6-pack of cupcakes, chosen a la carte.

Now, having spent way too much time at Crumbs, I find myself rushing back to the car, drop off the cupcakes, get my dress and head back to Raku to pick up our dinner.  I ask to use the bathroom, and lucky me, it's one of the smallest bathrooms I've been to in the city, so changing was rather challenging.  (Great, sweating up a storm now.)  When I emerge, the waitress inquires about my wardrobe change as I pay for the food.

By the time I get back to the car, Brian and David are still sitting in the car chatting while the tables, chairs, etc. still remain untouched.  Being already flustered and close to 5:30pm at this point, I rally them up to get our items ready for transport.  A taxi pulls up, and Elmer gets out -- yay!!  The gang's all together now!

By 5:35pm we're already en route to meet up with our group, and we make it there with 5 minutes to spare :o)


I'll let the photos and videos tell the rest...(phew, what a lead in)

Pre-dinner slideshow:

We really lucked out in terms of changing our meeting spot from Port Authority to was just a short 15 minute stroll down Broadway, instead of having to lug all our stuff down into the subway.

Here's a video of our setting our tables up:

Dinnertime slideshow:

Ambience slideshow:

Dessert and dancing slideshow:

Dancing Videos:

Packing everything up video:

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