Alfresco Dining under the stars all in white

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia 2013
We attended the 2nd Annual Diner en Blanc Philadelphia event, a few weeks ago.  As with the first DEB event in Philly, it was a magical spectacle.  The secret location was kept from us until the last possible minute - all the way as we were riding a train to 30th Street Station, until we walked upon the street at JFK Boulevard - the location was a mystery. 2,500 people came out to enjoy a gorgeous evening in Philadelphia, along the bridge over the Schuylkill River, with a backdrop of the majestic 30 Street Train Station a one end and a view of the Philadelphia Skyline and City Hall in front of us.  
All Roads Lead to Diner en Blanc!
I waited a few weeks to write a post and share photos from the event for 2 reasons.  One, I took so many photos that I just didn't know what to do with them! I wanted to, and I am in the midst of creating a video montage of the photos.  My sound on my computer is down, so I can't set the video to music, which is what makes my "music videos" so special.  The second reason why I haven't posted about the night is because I knew we were going to attend another event, in Collingswood. I figured I'd do a dual post, comparing and contrasting the two parties.  Since the 2nd white dinner party took place last night (Saturday, September 7th) I'm inspired enough to share my experiences.  I still have too many photos.  I've culled down to the absolute best. The full photo album from both events is on my Flickr Feed - which can be viewed here.  
Our table-scape - we used all white china and milk glass

I thought after last year's event, we would be smarter about what to bring, how to pack our stuff and all the myriad details that make attending this event fun yet stressful.  Well, we improved on our pack-mule-ability.  We used our giant Wonder Wheel Beach Cart to haul our stuff.  We didn't have to buy the table, chairs and linens - we had those already from last year.  We choose to find new shirts, and I bought a new hat, but other than that, we didn't need anything for the party.  As for packing smarter, well, that didn't happen! I actually brought more stuff for my table this year, and spent hours planning and cooking my menu for the dinner.  We used all of our good and real china and dishes.  Hauled out the milk glass bowls that I still have from Rachel's wedding center pieces.  We had real flowers this year.  Thank goodness we had the beach cart, our supplies were enough to outfit several dinner parties!
The event, much like last year, was beautiful.  The location ensures that it will be a party that you will never forget. Being outside, in the city, at a location not normally known for a picnic does lend an air of exclusivity and élan.  It's a beautiful event, a magical night and an almost unbelievable, movie come to life kind of experience.  I've had the discussion with many people about the exclusiveness and elitist nature of the event.  I won't be able to change anyone's mind if they already think this sort of pop-up dinner party is weird (I've heard it called worse things), but I will say that in the purest sense, elitism can be a good thing.  You show only the good, you make the people who attend truly want to be there and the rules that are involved are there to keep the party's integrity intact.
The down-side to such a huge event is that the event gets so big, that it becomes difficult to have a sense of intimacy to and with the location.  I loved the views, the locale, being a part of something larger than ourselves.  But this year, we weren't with our friends.  And no matter what anyone says, it's hard to mingle, meet and interact with strangers, even if your common bond is being a part of this (sort-of) once in a lifetime event.  I knew a lot of people at this year's #DEBPHL13 party, but most of our friends were sitting elsewhere.  I couldn't even find one couple who came as our guests.  Our table mates were lovely this year but we didn't have the bonding experience that we had the previous year.

Over-all it was a visually stunning night but I felt something lacking in the over-all experience.  Some of that was due to the fact that it is so hard for me to stay in the moment and not feel the need to document everything.  That's why I have so many photos - I was too busy trying to "capture" the event that I wasn't living and enjoying the event.  I'm glad we attended this year's Diner en Blanc.  I lovely time.  The highlight of the night was getting interviewed by Qweer to The T's podcast radio show.  I was a tad tipsy but I was having fun.  I was definitely in the moment during the interview!
Debbie, Me, Liz and LeAnne - ready for a night out in Collingswood!
The Borough of Collingswood decided to get in on the Pop-Up Dinner in White action, and they organized their own version, called Collingswood Pop-Up GALA! At first the organizers called it Diner in Blanc, but they were asked by the International DEB Committee to cease and desist with using the name, concept and language.  The event was re-branded and called Collingswood Pop Up Gala.  This event was much smaller in scale.  The entire attendance was under 250 people.  The differences between the events were huge, even though the concept was similar.  You wear all white, bring your own stuff, meet a secret location, walk to another secret location. The Collingswood event, like the huge undertaking of DEB in Philadelphia, was well-organized. However this event was laid back in a way that the big giant City event can't be;  the rules were there but somehow it felt more relaxed.  Hell, I didn't even gather up my stuff  for the event until 2 hours before we left the house.  I bought fried chicken, biscuits and salads from Wegmans.  For Diner en Blanc Philadelphia, I made a 3 course meal that included shrimp cocktail and grilled fillet! It took me 2 days of shopping, prepping and planning!
Dining in White, Collingswood Style
Attending the party with our friends and then knowing at least a dozen people at the party also helped to make the Collingswood Gala a friendlier and more intimate affair.  Liz said if felt like a wedding reception - where you know the people throwing the party.  And she was right - we felt a connection to all aspects of the party.  It's our town, our friends and acquaintances.  It was the synthesis of all the reasons why we love living in Collingswood.  We are an integral part of the community.
An intimate and cozy affair - that managed to be unique
Aglow in the candlelight

I chose not to be involved in the Collingswood Gala. I wanted to attend as a guest so that I could enjoy myself and not feel stressed about being a volunteer organizer.  I didn't want to jeopardize my professional relationship with the Diner en Blanc coordinator.  I also was keenly aware of being present and enjoying myself and our company.  Yes, I still took a lot of photos, but I had a great time.  I danced, I mingled.  We chatted with our table mates, walked around and ran into people we know.
Denise Fike - sketch artist for the night
There were so many lovely things about the night - the ambiance, the very intimate company, seeing how great the neighbors were in allowing a party to be held on their street until 11 pm.  A strolling accordion player; a trio of singers doing vocal stylings like the Andrew Sisters; another live singing duo; dancing to pop music until my knees and back ached.  Our meal, the wonderful wines and prosecco we imbibed.  Plus, we were also photographed, extensively for the Borough of Collingswood and made it into the photos accompanying a blog post on Philadelphia Magazine!

Sketch by Denise Fike of Denise Fike Designs - Liz, me, and our friend, Debbie
We went home filled with wine, good food and laughter.  We also got this lovely sketch by Denise Fike, of Liz, me and Debbie - our friend and Nate's "baby-sitter cum 2nd Grandmother".  I'm glad we decided to attend both white dinner parties.  I'm sure we'll do them again, and perhaps I'll even be involved to some capacity.  I'm ready to put the white clothes away for the season and look forward to dreaming up tablescapes for next year!


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