Diner en Blanc D.C. adds secrecy and a strict dress code to outdoor dining

You know what Washingtonians love? Secrets. Pop-ups. And also: Elegance, mystery, beauty, magic, style, gallantry, spectacles, refinery, diversity, good taste, breathtaking moments and elegant revelry.

They had better, or else the announcement of Washington's first Diner en Blanc is just an over-the-top menagerie of windy verbiage. A 1,335-word press release proclaiming the international event’s D.C. debut on Sept. 4 was sent to the media on Bastille Day.

Flowery rhetoric aside, Diner en Blanc is kind of a big deal: Hundreds of people have dinner together at an outdoor location somewhere in D.C., which is kept secret until hours before the event. Each participant must bring his or her own (white) table, (white) tablecloths, (white) chairs and (multicolored, we hope) meals. Most importantly, everyone must be dressed in all white.

D.C. will become one of 50 cities to host a Diner en Blanc, 25 years after the idea debuted in Paris. Back then, law-breaking was part of the "magic" of the event; today, organizers are in need of some mega permits.

"It’s hard to keep it a secret when you say, 'We want to have an event here, but we can't tell you what it is,'" said Justin Ross (of Justin's Cafe and Big Stick), one of the event's three D.C. "hosts."

But Ross assured us that Diner en Blanc was successful in pulling it off, meaning there is indeed lawful permission for up to 1,200 people to create "visually breathtaking moments, including the waving of a cloth napkin to mark the beginning of the dinner."

The cost of participation is still being determined. Guests must bring or buy gourmet picnic dinners, to be eaten on china with corresponding flatware and stemware. Beer and hard liquor are strictly prohibited.

Exaggerated dedication to white clothing is encouraged, Ross said, in light of his first Diner en Blanc experience in Philadelphia last year. His simple white-shorts-and-polo ensemble was below par when compared to the white tuxedos, masks and wedding dresses worn by other guests.

But before you go searching for an outfit that adequately showcases your "love of beauty and good taste," you have to get on the list: Only those who have attended a Diner en Blanc in another city, or those who receive an invitation code from a former attendee, will be invited. All others must register for a waiting list, from which an unidentified number of non-members will be invited. To be considered, sign up by Aug. 13.

If you need help picturing what all this might look like, watch this pulse-quickening video:

Jessica Contrera is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
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