Yesterday was a picture-perfect day for Dîner en Blanc, Philadelphia-style. Dîner en Blanc is what some call a food flash mob — people converge at a top-secret location that is not been revealed until 30 minutes before the event happens. Originating in Paris 25 years ago, the event now attracts 10,000 people there. In Philadelphia 2,200 people attended this year’s event. Kicking off the the second annual Dîner en Blanc were Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin at Independence Hall.
Waiting for the signal to head to the secret location wer (below, from left) Carolina Escobar, Shawn Faust, Matthew Milano, Sean Edwards and Kelly Ganczaraz. Guests pay $62 for a registration for two, must wear all white, bring their own supplies, tables, chairs, utensils and food. The organization also made special arrangements with Garces Catering and DiBruno Bros., from whom guests could order food beforehand and then pick it up at the secret location.
Dinner guests meet at more than a dozen spots around the city. About 30 minutes before the start of the event, team captains give instructions on where to go next — usually a holding place very close to the final destination. This way groups can enter at a reasonable pace and set up their tables in assigned spots. The group I was with met at Fifth and Market streets and then took the El (below) to 30th Street Station — no small task navigating those stairs with all the dining apparatus you have to carry. But still, smiles on the faces and moments to remember.
Destination: the JFK Bridge over the Schuylkill in the shadow of 30th Street Station (below).
Genius! Has anyone ever had a dinner party in the middle of the street there? There's Tony Luke, Jr. and girlfriend, Jennifer Schloder (below). On the menu: a cheese plate and the Garces chicken and orzo
The tables are set and they're ready to dig into their Garces dinner. Judy Hewitt, Agness Marin, Perry Monastero and Deborah Branden (below) toast to their Dîner en blanc. Branden just moved to Philly from upstate New Jersey and tells me that she never knew that Philadelphia had such amazing events and wonderful people.
Roland and Victoria Hayward (below) tell me this is their first time to Dîner en Blanc. Last year one of their friends went to the inaugural event and after hearing about it, they were excited to join in this year. They brought their own dinner, shrimp quiche, salad and delicious red velvet cupcakes.
Below: Chris Bartlett, the William Way LGBT Community Center's executive director, and Inga Saffron the architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mel Anis and Rob Roderick of Optique (below). I found the two friends waiting patiently as their team leader located their table location on the street. It can't be an easy task to set 2,200 tables in place, but I found everyone to be calm, cool and collected, even as many of the guests were already set-up and had started eating, which was signaled by the diners waving their white linen napkins.
Kristyn Rossi and Joel Todd (below) brought along beautiful lilies for their table, the flowers for the evening must follow the all-white rule, as do the shoes and table cloths. For dinner they were having Garces and their favorite salad from Talula's Daily on Washington Square.
Below: John Soden and Sarah Doheny. Sarah never disappoints in her fabulous fashion.
Below, clockwise: Matt Wolfe, Peter Miller, Julia Patton, Mac Small, Mark Ansley and Molly Weingart.
Ready for her close-up, the always fashionable Denise Fike is photographed by Raphael Gonzalez, who was one of the Dîner en Blanc "Best Dressed" judges.
Below: Ron Zawadsky, owner of RZ contracting and Preston & Steve's Marisa Magnatta. Happy Birthday, Marisa!
Below: Bill Gerhman and Chris Mullins.
Below: Millica Schiavio, Marcia McInnes, Elba Lingers and Viviane Khoury all wearing Schiavio creations.
Below: Liz and Greg Shockley's group came the farthest: Their meeeting place was at Second and Girard, near Delilah's. Last year they only had to walk two blocks, but they're better for it, as they learned to juggle a table, chairs, flowers and ice bucket up while walking up two flights of stairs.
Below, clockwise: Julie Rotwitt, Josh Hagelin, Emily Boyt and Eric Harris. Some people told me they attended last year, made friends with the people who ate alongside them, and this year made plans to eat with them again.
Spontaneous dancing broke out among the tables as the band Carte Blanche played sounds of American 1920s and ’30s music to jazz, French and Latin.
Congratulations to Kayli Moran (not pictured) and Natanya DiBona — Dîner en Blanc co-hosts, as well as Kory Aversa of Aversa PR for Dîner en Blanc. It was Kayli's and Natanya's idea to bring Diner en Blanc to Philadelphia last year, and with Aversa PR they have created a memorable event for Philadelphians to be proud of.
Michael Gray of FAMECO Real Estate and Lauren DePaoli (below) had a great time at the event, telling me they ran into so many old friends, and made a few new ones. There was a real sense of community.
Below: Amanda Abney, Monique Curry, Sarah Gittens and Amanda Hargrove. After attending tonight's event, the girls are going to look up other places they are being held and try to attend a couple of them this year.
Laure Mishali-Biron and Jackie Baik (below) finish their drinks before heading over to the Sofitel hotel for the after-party. I hear that was a pretty hopping party itself till closing time.
Below, from left: Alex Rubyck, Brendan Walsh of Mole Street, Lauren Mantilla, Brian LaPann of Mole Street, Kate Marlys, Ian Crumm and Michelle Boyles. (Mole Street provided the entertainment and DJ for the evening.)
There was a much larger dance space closer to 30th Street Station.
At one point the bridge was swaying with the bodies on the dance floor (below). People were giddy with excitement, similar to when folks jumped in the Swan Fountain during last year's dancing. Many people told me they were surprised by the dining location this year, but by the end of the night they said it was most memorable, and the next time they take JFK they'll remember this special night. Next year we're gonna need a bigger space. The word is out: Philadelphia and Dîner en Blanc knows how to throw a party.