A little mystery goes a long way! Everyone’s abuzz with speculation and anticipation about Philadelphia’s upcoming, outdoor, French-inspired feast, DÎNER EN BLANC. The picnic’s final location remains top secret, but Natanya DiBona, co-chair of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia, let Philly Loves Fun in on the particulars of this special new event. Join us as we continue our coverage about Philly’s next big thing!
PLF: WHO IS DÎNER EN BLANC FOR?
NATANYA: It’s for anyone who wants to participate in an event that celebrates food, community, culture, tradition, public space and art. This event has been happening in Paris since 1988, so many people have known about it and are very excited to see it come to Philadelphia. But, it’s a very new concept for everyone else, and we’re excited to share it with them.
PLF: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO ATTEND?
NATANYA: The cost is $50.00 for a table of two. Since the event is completely run by volunteers, we have to charge a fee to pay for the City’s permit costs, security, insurance, transportation, sound and lighting, bathroom rentals, etc….essentially all of those things we never think about when we attend an outdoor event! It also goes to pay for the fun things that create the ambiance of the event, like the band and DJ (Hot Club Philly and DJ Bruce), sparklers, etc.
PLF: WILL THERE BE PRIZES?
NATANYA: YES!!! Williams-Sonoma at the Bellevue will be awarding a $500.00 shopping spree to the most elegant table and the Four Seasons Hotel will be awarding a gift certificate for most elegant attire, so there are fun incentives to step up your elegance!
NATANYA: We are expecting over 1,000 people in Philadelphia, so it takes months and months of planning to make it happen. We are entirely run by volunteers—I am co-host alongside another person, and we run a core team of six people and 20-ishTable Hosts–the wonderful individuals charged with the very important task of leading all of the guests to the final, SECRET location.
PLF: WHAT IF SOMEONE IS INTERESTED BUT THINKS IT WOULD BE A LOT OF WORK AND HASSLE TO ATTEND?
NATANYA: I fully understand that this event does not appeal to everyone, but those who are interested in it don’t really think twice about bringing their tables and chairs…they just ask when and where they need to be! This is no more work or expense than tailgating before a sporting event or concert…the only difference is that this experience is a bit of culinary theater mixed with a cultural mystery tour!
PLF: OUR READERS ARE COST CONSCIOUS. CAN THIS BE DONE ON A BUDGET?
NATANYA: It is amazing how creative you can get when you’re on a budget. I’m always looking for a bargains, or promotions and coupons. We’ve posted a lot of ideas and suggestions on our PINTREST. Now is the perfect time to shop for white attire since it is all on sale and the selection is still pretty good (as opposed to a month from now!) One of our volunteers used a coupon at Old Navy and got her husband’s entire outfit for $18.00. Another volunteer bought a white tux on eBay…I also found eBay listings for white naval officer pants in every size possible for $18.99.
I’m also a big advocate for creatively using things you might already have around your house or borrowing tables and chairs or a tablecloth from a neighbor or friend. However, if you do choose to buy a table (they have great ones that roll and fit in a bag) and chairs, you will be able to use them every year at our event!
PLF: RULES AND FUN DON’T ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY?
NATANYA: The magic we see when we look at all of those pictures of Dîner en Blanc can’t happen without a little bit of organization and uniformity. Getting everyone dressed elegantly in their white creates the special feeling of the event, and everyone bringing the right size table (no more than 32 inches wide and no less than 27 inches tall!) is essential. We carefully and very creatively use every aspect of the space we inhabit. Tables are very carefully diagramed for efficient set-up. If everyone brought a table even five inches too large, we would quickly outgrow the space!
NATANYA: A picnic basket is not necessary at all..you just need a sturdy way to transport your food, plates and glasses. Diner en Blanc is a green event, so everything should be non-disposable. Everything you bring with you, you take away and the public space is left exactly as you found it.
PFL: WHAT ARE A FEW ESSENTIAL THINGS YOU’LL BRING IN YOUR PICNIC BASKET THAT NIGHT?
NATANYA: My picnic basket always has a few staples in it: Weck jars for serving things like olives and potato salad; an Opinel folding knife and cutting board; Manchego cheese and a jar of Truffle Lavender Honey from Garces Trading Company (that stuff is like liquid gold!); a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and I always have to make my chicken pesto tortellini salad—it just isn’t a picnic without it!
PLF: WHAT DO YOU HOPE THIS EVENT WILL DO FOR THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA?
NATANYA: I hope it will create greater awareness of the beautiful public spaces in the City of Philadelphia. The secret location forces people to think of the many different outdoor options available here. Just when someone tells me they know the spot, they stop to think and realize there are a few other places it could be, too!
I also hope it gives Philadelphians an opportunity to meet new and interesting people they never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. We recently had a meeting where all 30 volunteers were in the same room for the first time and I can’t tell you how diverse and energetic all of these people were…it made me want to sit down and get to know each and every one of them. If it was this exciting with this small group, I can only imagine what it will be like with 1,000!
Special thanks to Natanya for the exclusive, in-depth interview. This first go around it was all about the details, details, details! Check back next week for a follow-up interview where we delve more into the fun aspects of this truly unique adventure. Also, stay tuned as our Philly Loves Fun team gets ready for the big day.
Disclaimer: No monetary compensation was provided for this post.