Imagine a party where you have to bring your own silverware, table, and linens. Imagine a party where everyone is dressed from head to toe in white. Imagine a party where you have no idea where you will be dining. That, my friends, is the epicurean phenomenon known as Dîner en Blanc. Launched 25 years ago by François Pasquier, Dîner en Blanc is known for holding some of the most exclusive parties in the most prestigious locations throughout Paris. One Hawaii resident worked hard to bring the party to Honolulu, all because she could not make an official Dîner en Blanc party in Paris that she was invited to. How lucky for us.
So how does Dîner en Blanc work? The first set of invited guests are given invitations by Dîner en Blanc, and then have a certain amount of time to register for the event. Once registered, they can then send out an invitation to a person of their choosing. There’s also a wait list for those who weren’t initially invited by Dîner en Blanc. Each person that registers is allowed to bring one guest. Up to 600 people are selected to participate in the party, which is held at a secret location.
A lot of work went into preparing for Dîner en Blanc. We first needed to source a square table no larger than 30 inches x 30 inches and two white chairs. Then, we had to find plate settings, silverware, champagne and water glasses, a white table cloth, and LED table lighting. They suggest you bring your items in a white picnic basket, which we purchased, but found to be too small for our items. So, we ended up using a small rolling cooler instead! We hid it under our table since it wasn’t white. You also need to bring your own drinks. Once we had all these things, we realized that we would need a rolling cart to transport all of our party essentials.
On party day, you meet at a specific departure location. There were a few departure locations scattered throughout Honolulu, ours was in Waikiki, Seaside Avenue to be specific. You look for your bus leader, who checks you in. The bus is loaded up and then you’re off to the secret location, which was revealed to be Iolani Palace. Great location with a historic backdrop.
Once at Iolani Palace, we were ushered to our sitting area and then proceeded to set up our tables. Some people had elaborate set-ups with fancy centerpieces, the whole nine yards.
As far as food goes, you have the option of bringing your own food, or, prior to the event, you could order from a selection of set menus prepared by Chef Kanani Lincoln of Hale Aina Caterers. We chose the top tier Menu 3, which included:
- Chilled half dozen Kumamoto oysters on the half shell, with a lilikoi wasabi cocktail and yuzu sake mignonette.
- Charcuterie arrangement with a selection of cured meats and fine cheese, house made herb crostini and country toast, and tomato bacon jam.
- Hau’ula tomato and watermelon gazpacho soup with yuzu tzatziki.
- Pulled 5-spice duck confit on Nalo baby greens and pickled green papaya salad with toasted macadamia nuts and sesame cilantro dressing.
- Herb de provvence crusted lamb on ciabatta with mint pesto, ume balsamic reduction with house made pomme, ulu and taro chips, sherried white bean puree dip.
- New York style cheesesteak with a mango lychee glaze and season berries.
- Chocolate chip macadamia and chocolate crackle cookies.
- Macarons as a surprise take away gift.
I’d say that dinner was good, but not spectacular. The highlight for me was the Kumamoto oysters. I also enjoyed the crusted lamb on ciabatta with mint pesto. My only gripe with the lamb was that it was a bit cold. She really enjoyed the duck confit salad with Nalo greens. We both agreed that the cheesesteak with mango lychee glaze was tasty. At the end of dinner, staff members passed out macarons from the Cake Gallery as a take home gift.
After dinner, people danced and enjoyed the entertainment, which included singing and a fire dance performance. There was also free champagne samples from Champagne Taittinger, which ran out before we were able to get a taste.
I’d say that Dîner en Blanc Honolulu was definitely a unique experience that took a lot of effort. On an evening when thunderstorms and flash flooding was predicted, we were fortunate only to experience light sprinkles near the end of the night. The best part though, for me at least, was simply being able to dine with her on the lawn of Iolani Palace as the sun was setting. That was priceless.