Have you heard of Diner En Blanc?
“Imagine white tables and people dressed in white around them, eating a gourmet dinner, under the fading summer light.
No one knows where it will take place until the last minute and afterwards a casual passerby will have no hint of the splendor of the occasion past. This will be the privilege reserved in the memories of those who formed part of the occasion.
And so starts the mysterious “Dinner in White” or Diner en Blanc (because it’s a French tradition), a global dining event that despite the veil of secrecy shrouding it, spreads to more cities every year on its way to becoming an international phenomenon.”
Our first taste of Diner En Blanc started out humid, hot and sticky: We arrived at the clandestine meeting spot at 5PM (Tiong Bahru) and started making wild guesses on where the secret location of Diner En Blanc would be held. Would it be Sentosa..? Or maybe Marina Barrage?
The waiting grew long as we stood around in our all white outfits, perspiration trickling down my navel and gluing down strands of fly-away hair to my sticky, warm skin. I was having second thoughts about “dressing to the nines” as was instructed in the email. Would I feel like I was sticking out like a sore white thumb in my full-length white lace ensemble? Decided to screw it because hey, when would I get another opportunity to dress up in this outfit again? Of course, I was mildly comforted by fellow OTT dressers around me, seemed like I wasn’t the only one who decided to dress up. Heh.
Guests wandered over even as we were forty minutes into the wait, and I bemoaned the sweltering heat that was so thick it seemed to shimmer in the air.
Thank god for the fully air-conditioned coaches that finally arrived close to 6PM – I also made a mental note to myself not to arrive so on-the-dot for the next dinner soirée. We piled onboard our coach, sighing in relief with the rush of cool air that hit us and lifted our spirits slightly.
The sun started setting as the coach meandered through the evening traffic, reflecting off our faces with an orange glow as we chattered in low voices. At long last, we’d arrived. The Singapore Flyer!
It was a gorgeous sight as we stepped into view of the wide expanse next to the Flyer. White tables filled the space as people ambled about, setting up the tables with plates, trays of food, drinks and even fairy lights!
The atmosphere got dampened when fat drops of rainwater started falling upon us and sent us abruptly scattering for shelter under the nearest building. It was a comical sight, dinner guests dressed in their best whites scurrying in panic, some (myself included) using table napkins as a makeshift umbrella while others stumbling gingerly in their high-heeled shoes. Why, oh why, did the rain have to come just as we’d arrived, we lamented.
We stayed optimistic and our optimism paid off when the rain started letting up fifteen minutes later!
The dinner party got started with a rousing wave of our white napkins and loud cheers as we wiped down the damp tables and chairs, tucking in with glee into the food we’d brought and laid out before us on the table.
I am a shitty cook, but that’s what I invited my best chef friend, Jessica, for! She prepared a spread for our dinner: cold tomato soup, little slices of bruschetta, meatballs and mash, and grilled salmon with aglio olio!
Over our home-cooked food and glasses of bubbly Perrier-Jouët champagne, we made friends with guests seated next to us at the long adjoining tables, taking turns to snap pictures for one another and enjoying the festive ambience. It was a sight to behold as night time fell, and the skies turned to midnight blue hues streaked with purplish pink remnants of the sunset.
Live music serenaded the 1500-strong gathering of food lovers as we ate and chatted – We were treated to music from Le Miserables, Swan Lake, and even Beethoven’s 5th Symphony!
Lithe dancers moved in sync with the music, creating poetry in motion with their ribbons of white fabric whipping through the air in fascinating twirls and swirls. Pity the sound system wasn’t able to showcase the musicians’ best due to the loud wind that drowned out the delicate strains of melodies from the instruments. It was still enjoyable nonetheless!
When our tummies were stuffed to the brim and a round of food had been offered to and fro all our fellow table guests (I tasted this AMAZING kueh salat), the night ended with a fiery display of sparklers that lit up the air and fizzled off in seconds, much like the annual Diner En Blanc and its short few hours of merrymaking and feasting that would not leave a single trace in its aftermath.
I had worried that it would be a pretentious and silly affair, but I truly ended up enjoying myself thanks to my lovely company, Jess (and the yummy food she made of course!), our friendly table neighbours, and the laudable fact that every guest had put in so much effort and thought into this pristine white dinner party, from their food, table set up to the all-white dress code.
Ostentatious? Perhaps a little so. At the end of the night though, it was clear to see how people had been brought together to enjoy an evening of gaiety and celebration. Genuine laughter and merriment was abound as guests let down their hair, gaily shared food and clinked champagne glasses together. Despite the extravagant outfits and all the crazy hassle it was to fuss over food prep, outfit picking and table setting, it was a remarkable night. For a brief moment, I truly felt like I was in the balmy summer evening of Paris and its magic.
Til the next Diner En Blanc 2019!
*Thank you Bless Inc, for inviting me as a VIF (Very Important Friend) for Diner En Blanc 2018!