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Diner En Blanc Comes to Chicago! [UPDATED!]

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 25, 2011 3:00PM

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Diner En Blanc in Quebec, via Facebook.
Diner En Blanc, the Parisian pop-up dinner event, is coming to Chicago. Diner En Blanc, which is French for "dinner in white," started in 1988 in Paris, when founder Fran├žois Pasquier wanted to meet his friends for a party in a public space. He asked them to dress all in white, so they would be able to recognize each other. The party, which in Paris has grown to include over 10,000 participants who bring tables, full sets of china and other accoutrements, is now coming to Chicago for the first time on August 27th - and you can be a part of it.

Information about the dinner is being kept under tight control - the location isn't going to be disclosed until the day of the party - but organizers expect it to be quite a show. And don't expect it to be Parisian in its snobbery. "We don't want that sense of elitism in our event," said organizer James Borkman. "This is about elegance and creativity, expressed across cultures and generations."

If you sign up for Diner En Blanc Chicago (registration opens in exactly one week), you will be notified on August 8th if you got a spot. On the day, you will be told to go to a "harmonization point," a central gathering place from which the organizers will lead you to the actual party. The guides will start off at 7, dinner is at 8, dancing at 9:30 and by 10:30 everyone will be gone, with no sign the party ever happened.

You need to bring EVERYTHING - tables, food, picnic ware and white trash bags - and Borkman expects it to be impressive in scope. "In Paris, this is a three course meal, complete with candles and silver," Borkman pointed out, and we look forward to seeing what Chicagoans will come up with. And, it goes without saying, dress in white. The exact space is still being negotiated with the city and with private owners, but expect it to be pretty spectacular - a place you wouldn't normally get to dine. Chicago organizers particularly trumpet the city's public spaces, arguing that no other American city can live up to the public spirit of Diner en Blanc like Chicago, with its many parks, beaches and boulevards.

For this first incarnation, the event is limited to 1000 people. The Parisian event has grown large by word-of-mouth, the idea being that each participant brings one guest, who will presumably want to return the next year with a new guest. Chicago is following a similar format, albeit a bit more electronic. The first 250 people to sign up on their website will be admitted, each with one guest. If you don't get in, sign up on the waitlist and closer to the day, the balance of the guests will be chosen from the list. Everything is free.

"This event isn't necessarily for everyone, but it's for people who want to celebrate summer, coming together, and elegance based on their own creativity," said organizer Kelly McCoy Williams. "It's not like coming to an expensive charity ball, where other people determine all the setup - this is DIY elegance." Start planning your outfit now! And watch the Diner En Blanc Facebook page - they plan to get some Chicago food personalities to make picnic planning videos to help you on the big day.

UPDATE (7/28) - To clarify, the Chicago incarnation of Diner en Blanc is not officially affiliated with the Paris, New York or other Diner en Blanc-type events. We apologize for any confusion.