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Apr 11, 201310:05 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Dîner en What?

A past Dîner en Blanc


I first received an email about Dîner en Blanc a few weeks ago. “Dear Robert Peyton,” the email started, “Congratulations! If you received this email, it's because you have been invited to join Le Dîner en Blanc - New Orleans taking place on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 7 PM in a secret location. Not only can you register for a table for two for the current year's event, but you will now become an official member of Le Dîner en Blanc!”


I was impressed by the use of my name, but I remember thinking, “No, I will not become an official member of Le Dîner en Blanc!” The email continued:


Dîner en Blanc is a chic pic-nic and our guest are a part of creating the experience, this means you will be providing your own table, chairs, linens, food and beverage.

Participation fees are $35 per person for guest taking charter bus service from points across the region and $30 per person for all guests taking the shuttle from the Convention Center departure. Admission fees go to cover overhead costs only, such as transportation, rental of the location, sound, lighting, associated permits fees, insurance, security, entertainment, etc.


I deleted the email, but more came. Eventually I read up on the event, but I remained puzzled. I'm asked to pay $30 or $35 to bring my own food, table, chairs, (white) tablecloth, (white) china, stemware and so forth to a communal dinner where I'll be seated with strangers and I have to wear all white?




The more I read, the more I found the whole thing whimsically inane. Once you register, you are committed to attending the dinner, regardless of the weather. From the FAQ:


The presence of each guest is necessary and mandatory, regardless of the weather. Guests must provide for a white raincoat, transparent poncho or umbrella, the Dinner will be held at the designated time and date whatever the weather conditions.


This is an event being held on April 20 in New Orleans. If it's storming, and you're attending the “Dîner,” then you are either far more committed to whimsy than I or you have suffered some sort of brain injury. Or, according to the apocryphal story, you are a turkey. But that doesn't make sense, because hey, turkeys can't sit at tables or use fine china.


Here's one more small detail from the FAQ that I guess tipped things for me where my opinion of this event was concerned. In response to the question, “Why are men generally seated on one side, and women on the other?” came this answer:


Le Dîner en Blanc is a highly photogenic event. Colour, style, but also the symmetry of men and women are important components of this aesthetics. This has also always been the tradition of Dîner en Blanc Paris. Moreover, regardless of the site, there is always a guest perspective which is more pleasing to the eye than the other. This first perspective is always given to women. Same sex couples are not requested to follow this guideline.


I will admit that I am paranoid, but when I read that, all I could think was that someone (probably named Guy, or Pierre, or possibly Guy-Pierre) was playing a massive joke on me. “Let's make 1,000 stupid Americans line up, all in white, at tables of 50. We'll photograph them, and later we will laugh like only the French can laugh. Huah! Huah! Huah! Gitane! Huah!"


My active imagination aside, I can't imagine enjoying an event of this nature where I'm seated in close proximity to 1,000 other people who are enjoying an event of this nature. I am not proud of this. It is a weakness. I am a misanthrope.  


But I swear to you on my infant daughter's tiny little heart that when I started writing about Le Dîner en Blanc, I was planning on coming up with something positive to say about it. There are a lot of young folks who've come to New Orleans to teach our children, start up new companies or otherwise help in our recovery. Maybe, I thought, this would be a good way for some of those kids to connect. But I've met a lot of those kids, and making friends has not been a complaint I've heard. From what I understand, Le Dîner en Blanc is aimed at bringing together young professionals. Perhaps getting young professionals together is a problem in some of the other cities in which these dinners have been held; here, I don't think that's the case. When I left my office yesterday, I could hear the music from Wednesday at the Square, and while I haven't gone in a while, if you ever want to see a bunch of “young professionals” in one place at one time, I recommend you check it out.


So I'm out of ideas for the social benefit of this thing. I mean, I read that 20 percent of the take goes to charity, but it seems like there are better ways to funnel money in that direction than paying $35 for a night of whimsy wherein the majority of the whimsy is provided by the person paying $35 for the privilege.


Normally when I say, “I hope I'm wrong,” I'm not entirely serious. But here, I truly do hope that the folks behind Le Dîner en Blanc live up to their aspirations. I hope that 1,000 people converge someplace in town on April 20 and have a magical evening. I hope they have good weather, and that the participants make a lot of new friends. This is one occasion where I'd love to eat my hat. My white, poplin hat.


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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene


Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived in New Orleans his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.




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