Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017: Experience

I was invited to attend Le Diner en Blanc® in Orange County on November 2, 2017. My guest and I made the trek out there to see what the fuss was all about. I will share my experience and recommendations with all of you – especially newbies to the en Blanc scene – and you can decide for yourself if you’d like to attend!  This was my first event and I had no idea what to expect. We learned a lot and would change a few things if I attend again in the future. Here begins my Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017: Experience & Recommendations!

Diner en Blanc® History and Today’s Venues

Diner en Blanc® has an interesting history. It’s said that about 30 years ago, Francois Pasquier met a handful of friends to dine in a park. As the story goes, unable to find his friends, he suggested in the future they all wear white. Le Diner en Blanc® de Paris now hosts over 10,000 guests each year. Le Diner en Blanc® is a word of mouth engagement. It’s primarily grown through social media. Guests gather at a specific location, unaware of where they’ll ultimately dine with invited friends (but mostly strangers) until they arrive there by bus, subway or some other form of public transportation.

Guests must be prior year guests, or invited by a guest, or added to the waiting list. To be honest, I received an invitation by email and I have no idea who invited me or how they got my contact information. This was the first year that Diner en Blanc was hosted in Orange County. Source: https://international.dinerenblanc.com/about.

The photo below was the group meet-up at the Marriott prior to bus departure.

What to Pack for Diner en Blanc® Orange County

Attendees must bring a table of specific size and two white chairs, a white table cloth for the table, a picnic basket with the napkins, gourmet meal items, cutlery, glassware and dishes, any wine or champagne and a trash bag for cleaning up. Guests must be dressed entirely and only in white. Not off white, not cream, not ecru… white. Pure white.

You can go to extremes, but you cannot go casual. They encourage originality and prohibit beer and hard alcohol (though I did see quite a bit of it snuck in inside picnic baskets!) Source: https://international.dinerenblanc.com/about

The beautiful table decor of the guests seated next to us!

Diner en Blanc®: Food! Food Food Food.

You don’t have to bring your own food. In each area of the country, the en Blanc folks select a chef to have picnic basket style lunches available for you, which consists of a brown bag with whatever you ordered. I ordered a beef basket, cheese, a bottle of wine and two bottles of water. It is quite pricey, but to me the convenience was worth it. I don’t eat anything from the sea, so was glad to see the meat selections. I would say about 20% of the guests I saw had food from the chefs ready for them there, but I was in the last row to be seated and may not have an accurate count.

There was some trouble though with my order. Earlier I said I don’t eat anything from the sea. By the time I brought my order back to the table, I discovered.. it was fish. Smelly, gross, fish (their fish wasn’t unusually smelly, fish is just smelly.. for the record!). Ugh. I brought the basket back to the front. The bag was labeled beef but someone put fish into the wrong bag. Mistakes happen, no worries. Unfortunately the only food they had left was some cold cuts; two pieces of pastrami and two pieces of prosciutto. There were two of us. We were very, very hungry. The representative for the food company said she’d find food and bring it over to us. We saw her later chatting with folks behind us, but didn’t see her again. I am guessing ultimately they didn’t have extra food.  I emailed them the morning after the event and they said a refund was in process. They did take care of it in terms of compensation. But… the ordering food part was an epic fail. I feel like I let my guest down.

Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017 Entertainment

The DJ was excellent. Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017 went out of their way to make sure that the venue was set up beautifully, the lights were incredible and the DJ had good music from all genres pumping! The few fire pits around were a wonderful luxury on this very cold California night.

Party Go’ers

Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017 Scene

One of the questions I had going in is, “who will be there?” It’s nice to meet new people, but it’s also nice to meet new people you can relate to! For Diner en Blanc® Orange County, I really wondered if it would be the puffy-lipped stuffy older crowd typical of Newport Beach, since the shindig meet-up spot was at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel. I have to (with great pleasure) say that wasn’t the case. Ages ranged from 21 to probably 55. The wonderful ladies who sat next to us were very young but had very successful lives, owning and running restaurants. (Thank God for them – they had extra food and kept us from passing out with the food mixup!) It was a very early meet-up time at 4:15pm, but we didn’t leave until about 5:30.

Most people I saw didn’t talk to others outside of the group they invited. I thought it was just me, but many others said the same thing in the bathroom line. (At this venue there were bathrooms. They were clean and abundant, but there was always a line).  I honestly think the stand off’ish’ness might be an “OC thing” and probably wouldn’t occur in other cities. Some people did venture out a bit in regard to who they spoke to, but it felt forced and unnatural. Diner en Blanc® Orange County might not be as much fun as Diner en Blanc® Paris or New York for example.

After the tables were set up and the evening commenced, you could see the drones flying overhead, lights everywhere, gorgeously “done-up” tables, incredible food other diners had brought in, and a sea of white. Diner en Blanc® Orange County was quite beautiful and it was on the sand in Huntington Beach.

I was a bit surprised that many people were wearing ecru or off-white. While it looks white at home, compared to the bright-white of most of the outfits at the event, the ecru or off-white stands out big time. Most women had on heels, but the event was in the sand. Many of us were first-timer’s, and I doubt anyone who wore off-white would make that mistake in the future.  It was a very cold night, but the recommendation to wear fancy attire had most ladies in dresses; short ones at that. Many of us were incredibly cold which could have ruined part of the evening. Diner en Blanc® Orange County should be moved up about 2 months so it’s warm in the evenings, in my opinion.

Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County 2017: Take Away’s

If I attended another Le Diner en Blanc®, I would implement a few valuable lessons I picked up along the way.

First, I would wear something less stylish and much warmer. A few ladies had on cute long thick dresses with heavy leggings. One stylish gal had on heavy fur white boots. I think that’s the way to go. They looked much more comfortable and happy.

You cannot go “overstated”. In other words, the fancier the better. Many ladies had on white wigs, long blonde wigs, fur, had fur blankets, huge head pieces (I picked mine up on Etsy a few days before the event) and don’t worry about being overly dressed. The attire is all over the place. I saw a few men with fedoras; super cool! Diner en Blanc® Orange County had some stylish men! I saw other men and ladies in white torn jeans (although I’m relatively sure I saw it on the prohibited list, I could be mistaken).

Table decor is fancy fancy fancy. Many people had lights (some were several feet tall), hung chandeliers, photos of family, had sparkly candles (you have to bring LED candles that don’t require a lighter), lots of glitter and sparkle dinnerware and placemats and almost everything was super fancy. I was fancy on the attire and light on the place settings. In the future, I would reverse that.

Another gorgeous table with gorgeous ladies!

Now .. food. I was told my food issue was the only issue they had all evening.  Ultimately I was cold (even with a jacket) and hungry, which doesn’t make for the best evening. It was still fun. I brought flip-flops to change into, anticipating we may be on a beach, which turned out to be the right call.  Bring your own food and don’t rely on the company. Also, bring a jacket. A heavy, heavy jacket.  Regarding booze, because we all care about that.. while it was expensive, it was poor quality wine. I don’t feel ill from white wine, but I’m still feeling sick as I type this and I had 1.5 small (very small) glasses.

Lugging stuff around is another challenge. I had my picnic basket, chairs and a foldable camping table on a dolly which was great. Others had one plastic box with everything in it. Some had wheels and others did not. That’s a better way to go in my opinion and what I would do if I attended again. The boxes or baskets get tucked under the table and don’t need to be white. Knowing that, I would drag things around in a more practical manner.

Finally… getting back. I didn’t want to wait until 10:30 when the bus would leave, wait for everyone to tear down and make the 25 minute bus ride back to my car at the Marriott. I hailed an Uber and met him about 1/4 of a mile down the road. That worked out best, and allowed me to leave about 9:45 (when many other guests left too). It avoided the mass chaos of so many people leaving at once.

Would I go again? Maybe… I think another city (New York for example) would be more fun. Perhaps it would be a slightly friendlier crowd, food options would be better and it is in a warmer time of the year. I’m not so sure about returning to Le Diner en Blanc® Orange County; but who knows, maybe by next year it’ll sound like a good idea again. If you’d like to be invited next year, leave me your email address and I will invite you as my guest if I attend!

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