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It's a white out

Take some time out with this posh picnic, writes Grant Allen.

More than 25 years ago, Francois Pasquier set up the first Le Diner en Blanc in Paris.

Reminiscent of the glamour of court society, he encouraged a collection of friends to dress in elegant white. They packed refined picnics with proper glassware, silverware and china and gathered at a surpise location. Guests had to bring their own white tables and chairs and, of course, white linen.

They spontaneously set up their tables on arrival, flourished their napkins to signal the beginning of this posh picnic and were seated, men on one side and women on the other.

Since then, many of Paris' beautiful public spaces have been the venue of Le Diner en Blanc. Events have happened, seemingly out of nowhere, then magically just disappeared.

Since then, Le Diner en Blanc occasions have become a global phenomenon.

Last year's 25th anniversary Parisian white dinner was held on a grand-scale in June, by the Pyramid across the forecourt from the Louvre. In Sydney, 3000 guests "whited-out" Bondi Beach.

I won't be able to attend the event but the concept has inspired me. It would be spectacular to partake in a major white banquet, but it would also be possible to recreate the scenario on a more personal level - a romantic gesture for new or old lovers. Follow the requirements with white everything and set up "a deux" in a park, a beach, or even your garden.This year marks Le Diner en Blanc's debut in Aotearoa. Originally planned for last night, a crowd of subscribers will dine in one of Auckland's beautiful locations in a couple of weeks.

I enlisted the help of my friends Victoria and Antonios Papaspiropoulos to help stage this idea. These two are newlyweds and need to make time for "date nights" away from their three children.

As they are both stylish and partial to romantic gestures, I thought the concept of a Diner en Blanc "a deux" would appeal.

The organisers of the upcoming Diner en Blanc will have had a major task to co-ordinate people, places and catering to bring this event to Auckland. I'm sure they jumped through more than a few hoops to secure this international pop-up.

Really, it's all about planning and, of course, it's a little simpler if it only involves two people. However, you still need to meticulously orchestrate your own Diner en Blanc.

Making a plan

Location: Where will your secret location be and, if necessary, what is your wet-weather contingency plan?

Time: Evening is good - the is sun setting and the light is flattering. Bring candles or lanterns for lighting after dusk.

Invitation: Write it on beautiful paper - not just a text or an email - and state the dress code, timing and transport arrangements.

Transport: Book a taxi or a chauffeur-driven car.

Set up: It's no small task to remember a table, chairs, plates, cutlery, glassware, linen and food, so make a checklist.

Food: White food can look boring. Don't extend the concept too far, however you could nod to it in your choices - think style but also think practical. How easy will it be to pack and carry the picnic food?

Drink: Wine and water, well-chilled before packing, and glasses for both.

Presentation: Wrap everything in white tissue, use white plates, use vintage silver, use crystal glasses, buy two hollow-stemmed champagne glasses for 
old-style chic. Pack a cane basket with frozen slicker pads wrapped in white napkins at the base of the basket to keep everything cool. Leave the chilli bin at home. Think about food safety and avoid food that is fragile, temperamental or anything that deteriorates quickly.

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