Official Diner En Blanc Chicago Tickets On Sale (And This One Serves Wine!)
By Anthony Todd in Food on Aug 16, 2012 2:30PM
The New York Diner en Blanc. Photo by Navid Baraty
We realize that the Diner en Blanc/Chicago in White thing might confuse some of our readers, so here's a quick primer. Last year, something called Diner en Blanc Chicago hosted a wonderful pop-up dinner in white. Unfortunately, that event was not endorsed by the big, heavy-hitting Diner en Blanc foundation, based in Montreal. After a successful year, the Chicago-based team decided to respect the trademark and change their name to Chicago in White. That event is already sold out. This version, called Diner en Blanc Chicago, is endorsed by the foundation and staring in its first year.
For the record, there are no hard feelings between the two events. "For my day job, i work for a startup that makes consumer products, and we always say whenever there's more competition we'll just grow the pie," said Diner en Blanc Director Michelle Nadeau. "Chicago is growing in the foodie scene, and so having more of these kinds of events will just help to get across the message to the world that Chicago isn't just have Al Capone and Michael Jordan."
Nadeau used to live in Paris, and one of her friends (who attended the Paris Diner en Blanc) came to Chicago to visit. They were inspired to start one here, got in touch with Montreal HQ and set the whole thing up very quickly. It's all volunteer-based and grassroots organized.
What distinguishes this event? According to Nadeau, "We are a bit more glamorous because of the official organization that we work with. The chefs and vendors that we are working with get behind the organization."
In practical terms, here are the important differences. Diner en Blanc is $40/couple (as opposed to $30 for Chicago in White) and they have teamed up with Chef Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Bar Toma) to provide food. If you want to bring everything yourself, you can - but if you don't want to lug food and tables and flatware through the streets, you can pre-pay for a fancy picnic and it will be there when you arrive. Picnic baskets range from $45-$90, and include cheese selections, charcuterie, salads, fresh breads, cookies and our favorite, sambuca-spiked watermelon. The full menu is below.
Even better, this Diner en Blanc has the requisite permitting/licensing to serve alcohol. Nadeau won't tell us how they did it - that might give away something about the location. But there will be 10 different wines available for purchase in advance.
You still have to wear all white, bring your own glasses, silverware and plates, and the DIY classy aesthetic is still there - if maybe a little less intense. Nadeau told us, "Wearing a white t-shirt is just fine. Elegant is good, but at the end of the day, if you're in white, you're following the rules." If you don't have a white lace tablecloth, try a bedsheet.
Another difference between the two events is the way Diner en Blanc is handling the day-of. Guests will still be assigned a spot to gather, which they get to select from a list of locations all over the city. Then, after some seriously complicated planning ("My entire apartment is a map of Chicago with little pinpoints on it," said Nadeau) they will start moving in the further away groups first. The idea is to have everyone slowly converge into a few larger groups, merging and merging as everyone comes to the final location. If it works, it's going to be pretty awesome.
The event is expected to sell out, so if you want to buy tickets, do it now. There are 1000 tickets available to start, though Nadeau told us that they had space for more and would release them if the interest was there. So if you don't get tickets, bookmark the page and keep an eye on it.