I really enjoy a good, healthy laugh, so Diner en Blanc is one of my favorite events of the year, because not only is it delightful, but watching my best friend Michelle try to pull a rickety wheelie cart piled high with one table, two chairs and three slippery picnic baskets through the streets of downtown Portland wear-ing an all white outfit and white faux fur cape made me laugh so hard I will live to be at least 120.
In case you’re wondering what I was doing to help, I was carrying the white cake, that’s what. It was a very important job, and one I wasn’t actually very good at, because by the time we’d walked from our meeting spot (Director Park) to the event location (Pioneer Courthouse Square), it had shattered in very creative and complex ways, leaving me with a ruin of pink ombre crumbs and buttercream. So I prefer to remember it like this:
This was internationally-celebrated Diner en Blanc’s third year in Portland, and it continues to get better and better. Essentially an all-white, flash-mob-style picnic, it involves dressing in white, schlepping a white table, white chairs, and an epic picnic to a meeting point, snapping a bunch of white selfies while you wait for the rest of your group, then being escorted to a secret gathering place. Once in place, everyone unpacks their white linens and their picnic, and tries not to spill everything on their white clothes, and takes more selfies.
For our picnic, we went with a seafood and dessert theme, with caviar and homemade blini as our centerpiece. Michelle wanted to buy the blini, which was appalling, so I made them using Ina Garten’s excellent recipe. We also had Kumamoto oysters from Flying Fish, a cheese and charcuterie plate featuring Olympia Provisions salami and a round of Ancient Heritage’s Adelle, and for our entrees, we cheated and ordered takeout from OP—the chicories with Grana Padano vinaigrette, braised octopus salad with potatoes and chorizo, mussel and shrimp stew, and pan roasted halibut.
For dessert, well, you know what happened with dessert. But we did salvage the top layer of the cake, and I’d also made little lemon panna cottas sprinkled with pistachios and drizzled with Bee Local honey, and we had chocolate bars and bon bons from Cacao, and candies from Candy Babel, so all in all we were fine, although I was pretty upset about the cake, which Michelle thought was very funny. #Whatever.
The evening follows a carefully-choreographed pattern—first, you assemble and set everything up, then you wave a white cloth napkin in the air to signal that you’re ready, then you eat and drink a bunch of champagne while listening to live music (the year it was the extraordinary von Trapps), then everyone lights a sparkler and waves them around simultaneously, then you dance for a couple of hours, then you clean up and help Michelle drag everything back to the car. Then, you go to Multnomah Whiskey Library, where you drink more champagne, then you go to Robo Taco for nachos, then you get up the next morning still wearing your white skinny jeans because they were too hard to get off, then you take an Uber back downtown to retrieve your car. At least, that’s how it went for me.
Some people seem skeptical when I explain DEB, saying it sounds like a lot of work. Depending on how many picnic baskets you pack, it is. So my tips are: 1) Pair up strategically, with someone who’s a stoic schlepper, someone like Michelle. Or, rent a pack mule. 2) Bring excellent food but keep your picnic relatively simple, we loved mixing homemade items with really good takeout this year. 3) If you plan on imbibing, take an Uber because otherwise you’ll have to go get your car the next morning by 8am to avoid a ticket, and that’s the worst. 4) Lastly, make sure you’re stocked up on stain remover, because barbacoa nachos take a real toll on an all-white outfit.
If you’d like to sign up for DEB 2016, here’s the registration link. If we end up sitting by each other, I promise to share our cake, which will hopefully remain intact next year.