This past Thursday for Small Bites Radio, I attended my first ever Dîner En Blanc in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia incarnation of DEB was established in 2012. Since, I have heard mixed reviews from friends and strangers. Common complaints included the event is only for elites, isn’t diverse and it’s too much work; while others praised it as the best party they have ever attended and liked the pure enjoyment of being a participant in the spectacle. You name it, I’ve heard it, and everything in between, more on that later. So, I walked in with some basic background information, a few points to look for and ready to form my own opinion. Founded in France, DEB was formed so a group of friends could meet for dinner in a public space and recognize each other by wearing the same color clothes. Now in over 70 cities around the world, we can thank co-hostesses Kayli Moran and Les Dames d’Escoffier Philadelphia chapter president Natanya DiBona for introducing it to Philly. After last night, our city now boasts the largest DEB in the country.
My journey began in a holding pattern with specific instructions to wait near a popular landmark for the next step. Suddenly, I got the message, “We’ll be at Franklin Square!” Along the way, I saw thousands, literally thousands of people, lined up in white, carrying chairs, tables, and coolers. Some had wagons while others relied on their muscles. Admittedly, carting in and out everything for a dinner was one of my apprehensions about this event, especially in this heat. But here were thousands of people willing and able, making it work by any and every means necessary. Should you be unwilling to cart EVERYTHING to the party, don’t worry you have options. This year, Feast Your Eyes Catering, featuring Berks County’s Collective Creamery and 1732 Meats were on deck to supply all your culinary needs.
About a block away from the event, I ran into a new friend, Ram. We just recently met on Monday and here he was decked out in white, table and food in tow. Let that sink in! Over 5,300 people converging on one space to have dinner with friends and before we enter; I run smack dab into my recent new found friend. As soon as guests enter, they are sent to the area to set up their tables and everyone here is quickly ready to get this party started. The start of dinner is announced by the waving of everyone’s white napkins.People dine, drink and mingle while the music plays in the background. For those who did decide to do their own cooking, the results were spectacular to say the least!
As I walked around I ran into a fellow alumni from West Catholic, chef friends, some old friends I hadn’t seen in ages, and made quite a few new friends along the way. The diversity of attendees is amazing to say the least. Lawyers, school teachers, business owners, millenials to baby boomers all gathered for the largest outdoor party in Philly was suddenly very small, very intimate and all (ok, ok, A LOT) of my friends were here. Thousands of sparklers in the darkness signaled the end of dinner.
Announcing the beginning of the dancing, the crowd definitely indulged! They danced in Franklin Square. They danced in the middle of the shuttered 7th street, and they danced without inhibition. The DJ kept the music going right up until the last moments. It was in these last few that I saw the cigar truck, the face paintings and Philly Girls Jump. This party really had so much going on!
As the night wound down and the drummers marched out, I posted a few pictures to social media and got messages from friends wishing they had seen me there. A few asked what I thought as they either missed or have DEB coming up in their city. One opinion was evident, there was a stigma (mostly from people who have never attended) that Dîner En Blanc was on par to #OscarsSoWhite. I found this to be unfair and far from the truth. I was sweaty, had been glittered, and understood exactly why many people won’t miss the largest, most culturally diverse and peaceful party in the streets of Brotherly Love.
Had a blast? Make sure to like them!
Missed the blast? Make sure to sign up for next year ASAP!
Want to travel for the blast? Pick a city to visit some friends who have the party!
Here’s a quick list of United States DEB cities still left to party in 2017:
Albuquerque- September 7th
Boston- September 9th
Chicago- August 24th
Dallas- October 6th
Honolulu- September 9th
Las Vegas- October 8th
New York- August 22nd
Pittsburgh- September 8th
Sacramento- October 7th
San Diego- September 14th
Washington, DC- August 26th
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