News & Features

Diner en Blanc - A Picnic in White

September 07 2012 - 11:07 AM
The scene was stunning. Hundreds of diners chicly clad in white feasted under twinkling lights in the iconic South garden of Chicago’s Art Institute. Everyone was smiling, conversing with their fellow diners and overall enjoying a truly unique experience that drew curious glances from Michigan Avenue tourists. Diner en Blanc. You’ve probably seen the pictures of crowds dressed all in white cavorting the night away with sparklers, picnicking to the 9s and twirling napkins in the air like a dervish. You might have thought this was some crazy French phenomena. It was, and then it made it’s way here to Chicago on a warm August 24th.


Diner en Blanc has a strict set of guidelines that ultimately allow for a truly unique dining experience. Participants are only allowed to register for the event by invitation (yes, we at Chicago Foodies allowed a few lucky readers access to the registration this year.) The venue is a secret so guests only select their meeting location at the time of the event sign-up. Guests are asked to don white from head to toe (most are fully dressed to impress with hats, feathers and festive attire like something from a magazine photo shoot.) A limited number of tables and chairs were available for rent, but many of the attendees came toting their own (the all-white rule applies here too as well as table size and height specifications.) Guests arrived at their preassigned meeting location and were led to the clandestine and notable location at Chicago’s Art Institute.

Uber gourmet picnics by celebrity chef Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia and “Top Chef Masters” fame) were available for sale. There were a variety of picnic options including some decadent dishes: roasted Amish chicken, smoked Great Lakes Whitefish spread, Red Hen Bakery baguettes, pork and duck pate, Sambuca-spiked watermelon, pistachio and vanilla financier cakes and Amaretti cookies. The options were truly mouth-watering. Guests bringing their own picnic dinners packed equally impressive fare.

The night was an unique experience for those attending, and anyone watching the evening unfold.

–Robyn Traub