Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pittsburgh Pops Up A Parisian Dinner

For the third year in a row, about 1,000 Pittsburghers on Friday dressed up in white to attend a very Parisian pop-up “white dinner” -- a Dîner en Blanc.

The idea was born in the French capital in 1988 and has become a global phenomenon, with about 70 cities holding the event.

It’s a formal version of the très Pittsburgh tailgater, a food fad that informally gathers sports fans around the end of a truck or SUV for a spread. In the 'Burg, the dress code is black and gold.

The location of the White Dinner changes each year, and is kept secret until the last moment. In Pittsburgh this year, the flash mob assembled in Highmark Stadium in Station Square, the open-air room decorated with the city’s stunning skyline. Go here for video.

While in Pittsburgh the food was catered for people who registered ahead of time, diners usually bring everything from the three-course meal, to the wine, fold-up table, tablecloths and candles.

The first event started simply enough. The Frenchman François Pasquier invited friends to an outdoor dinner in a public park in Paris, the Bois de Boulogne. With a thought to practicality rather than refinement, he asked them to dress in white so they could find each other.

These days, the event has unfortunately become more exclusive and regimented as the crowds have grown. It’s hard to get an invitation, at least in Paris, where the dinner takes place in June. Registrations for new members are closed. The only way to attend is to know someone, a member or an organizer.

It’s easier in Pittsburgh, at least for now. Go to the website, choose your city, and pay: $34 for the dinner and $9 for the membership fee.

Maybe because the town is home to the federal government, the event in Washington, D.C. is highly regulated. Heaven forbid your white outfit is ivory, off-white, or beige and if your white square folding table isn’t between 28 and 32 inches! See “Why do people hate Diner en Blanc? The word ‘pretentious’ keeps coming up.”

Maybe I’ll just have a little old potluck at my place. Dress code: As long as you wear something, that’s fine with me. But please take your shoes off at the door.

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Rose Marie Burke,  an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." You can also find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

Photo: Pittsburgh's Diner en Blanc (2015). Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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