A Magical Evening – SF’s Glamorous Underground White Party

One of the many things I love about San Francisco is the variety of amazing events going on at any given time here.  Some are truly special and le Diner a San Francisco definitely fits in that category.  It has it all – food, wine, fashion, even a fun underground element.

Le Diner SF is inspired by France’s famed le Diner en Blanc, which began when a stylish Parisian decided to reconnect with friends after spending several years abroad. Francois Pasquier decided a perfect venue would be a chic picnic in the Bois de Boulogne.  So he and his friends could see each other more easily in the dark of the woods, they all wore white.  The dinner was such a success they decided to repeat it the following year, then again.  Voila, a tradition is born.  Each year more people attended and now it’s an event in the thousands.  Some of Paris’ most beautiful and prestigious sites have hosted le Diner en Blanc the: Pont des Arts, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Pyramid, Place Vendome and Palace of Versailles among others.

le diner san francisco set up

le diner setup – photo: mathew hernandez – click for panorama

Here in San Francisco, you could say it’s a French-inspired foodie picnic flashmob, though it’s much more glamorous than that suggests.  When I read the local organizer, Handmade Events, hoped to see candelabras and fresh floral arrangements I knew I had to go.


San Francisco’s version is true to the original.  Thousands of attendees all dress in white and bring their own white chairs, tablecloths, table settings and upscale picnic dinner to as Handmade says “celebrate the simple pleasure of good food, good wine, old friends and new, and the art of dining elegantly and grandly on one of San Francisco’s (secret) and most beautiful outdoor settings.”

And secret it is.  While you accept the invitation to attend far in advance, the location is only divulged two hours prior to the start.

In 2011 le Diner SF was held in Golden Gate Park, between the de Young Museum and the CA Academy of Sciences, last October it was on the Marina Green.  I’ll share my experience on the green.

le diner san francisco

and they’re off!

We took the organizers advice and purchased a grocery cart to transport our array of supplies and I’m glad we did as it was quite a collection.  Happily rolling along soon we joined the chorus of other white clad participants heading to the green.  Periodically questioned by curious passersby, we too began to marvel at this unique event.

le diner placesetting

Once onsite, we selected a spot and began to set up.  Given the elegant and festive nature of the occasion, we set the table with fine china and stylish glass champagne flutes.  It was a bit windy and I was happy about our last minute change from candelabra lighting to hurricane style.  A bouquet of roses finished the setting nicely.  We’d arrived a bit late and had barely finished set up when it was time for the official start to le Diner, the napkin wave!

We toasted the start with a glass of the much loved California sparkling, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs – the apple notes and touch of yeast dancing on our tongues.  It paired nicely with our selection of charcuterie and artisanal cheese, including two local favorites, Cowgirl Creamery’s luscious Mt. Tam and Point Reyes’ tangy Original Blue.

Next came champagne, the hauntingly complex Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve.  Lemon, spice, pear, a hint of honey….  It perfectly complemented the main course of grilled chicken over light garlic cream pasta and the ultra healthy yet equally tasty Coastal Kale Salad, a new discovery from New Leaf Community Market.

elegance in white - photo: dylan entelis, the chronicle

elegance in white – photo: dylan entelis, the chronicle

We decided to take break before the dessert course to stroll the venue and absorb the ambiance.  There was a bit of everything, some people bringing their best silver and crystal and dressed to match themselves, while others taking more of a Burning Man approach, wigs, boas, long faux fur coats – all in white of course.


Probably what impressed me most was the creativity of the tablescapes.  One table boasted an amazing Golden Gate Bridge centerpiece; several others cool tented white canopies.  One group had cleverly arranged pots with raised letters spelling Claudia; they were celebrating her birthday.  There were so many creative centerpieces, many involving artistic use of led lights.  It was all so inspirational.

setting the scene on the marina green

setting the scene on the marina green

Heading back to our table we encountered several groups of roving revelers.  My favorite had to be the group dressed as glowing jellyfish.  They had decorated long clear plastic umbrellas with lights and made white streamer tentacles!  It was amazingly creative and practical too as it had been raining most of the week and rain was very likely the day of the event.  Fate was kind though; there was no rain although it a bit cool so near the water.  I think I tweeted something like, “it’s so cold yet so fun” about that time.


attack of the clever jellyfish

Back at the table we settled in for dessert – a little bit of heaven known as Paradiso Mousse Cake from The French Patisserie.  Light yet sumptuous, it was the perfect end to the meal.  The mango and coconut flavors intermingled with stripes of chocolate for a divine taste.

It was about that time that the fog started rolling in and the temperature really dropped; things started winding down.  People began carefully and quietly packing up.  Le Diner SF has a strict leave no trace policy and I was glad to see it being honored.  Walking back to the car, we reflected on the magical evening and how it was a must for next year.


Although the next le Diner SF isn’t until September, it’s not too early to start planning – tickets for previous guests go on sale on February 14.  I understand the 2013 event will be more intimate with less tickets are being sold, so you won’t want to dally.  To join the wait list, contact ledinersf@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page.  I hope to see you there!

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