Discovery Green was a sea of white Sunday night as nearly 1,000 guests braved the summer heat for Houston’s first Diner en Blanc. Although the event has a rain-or-shine policy, it was rescheduled from its original date, May 30, due to extreme weather and flooding.
Part posh picnic and part dance party, Diner en Blanc was started in Paris 27 years ago by founder François Pasquier. It's become a global phenomenon spanning 50 cities in more than 20 countries.
Attendees are only able to score a coveted invite directly from organizers or via an online wait list. What's more, the exclusive fete with a mandated dress code of all-white is held in a top secret location.
Attending the pop-up affair in Houston also meant towing a laundry list of items to the venue, including folding tables and chairs, a white tablecloth, a picnic basket (comprised of fine food, proper stemware and white dinnerware), champagne and wine. Guests only learned about the location when boarding a chartered bus from various points in Houston that whisked them to Discovery Green.
Once the guests arrived at the park in downtown Houston, they set up tables at assigned spots along the scenic pathway stretching from The Grove to the Lake House near Kinder Lake. As they settled in, they waved their white cloth napkins in the air indicating the start of dinner. It was the calm before the dancing storm. As soon as the feasting was done, a DJ began spinning hit tunes and the crowd flocked to the dance floor, partying the rest of the night away.
"The people, the foods and the dancing created a feeling of true community," Divya Brown said.
Overseeing the evening were event hosts Geia Carte, a Houston-based entertainment publicist, and Tracey Burrell, a local executive event planner. The duo said they spent more than a year planning of the city’s inaugural Diner en Blanc.
“We felt like there was a need for (it to be) here in the fourth largest city. It’s been in places like New Orleans, Cleveland and Philadelphia – how has it not gotten to Houston?" Burrell told CultureMap. "When you look at Discovery Green, located in the heart of downtown near the convention center and Minute Maid Park, you see Houston.”
Some attendees weren't as enthusiastic. Attendee Emile Brown noted the event's Facebook page lists official vendors for rentals, a cost that quickly added up. "You spend a lot of money renting stuff or buying it. It turned a $37 bus ticket and $8 fee for membership (to Diner en Blanc) into a $500 investment.
"And to cart all that stuff there and then cart it all back after a night of drinking and partying — that's not fun. I would rather bring some nice disposable Chinet that I can throw away so I can eat, drink and be merry."
But others, like Divya Brown, who attended with her husband Chris, considered the evening "a smashing success."
"The people, the foods and the dancing created a feeling of true community," she said. "And learning about the destination and our dinner companions only moments before we arrived made it so much more exciting in a time where spontaneity is fleeting due to the enormous access to information all of us have."
Seen in the crowd were co-founder of Diner en Blanc International Sandy Safi, Kate and Will Stukenberg, Kim Garcia, Jeannette Diaz, Robson Aguiar, Annelle Koldassova, Samantha Vandzura, Josh Covert, Jacklyn Mendez, Sophia Trace, Amanda and Stan Abiassi, Mercedes Gomez, Noah Coffelt, Aaron Kane and Sarah Brissey.
Dallasites should start planning their all-white outfits. Diner en Blanc heads to the Big D this fall.