Sunday, October 16, 2011

Le Dîner en Blanc

The Photograph

The Story

Oh what a night it was....

So, last Friday, October 14th, we got to participate in a truly unique event. I'm not sure of the exact origin of the gala, but picture a very fancy picnic... Here's what one source at says: "Dîner en Blanc's concept is part flash mob, part pop-up restaurant, part elegant picnic. It started in Paris in 1988 by a man named François Pasquier who arranged a reunion of 100 of his friends in the Bois de Boulogne. In order to find each other, everyone was instructed to wear white. The event was very popular and grew each year into the 10,000+ dinner it is today."

The echo of this event came to us in the shape of an elegant outdoor dinner party called "Le Dîner à San Francisco." My wily husband saw this blurbbed online, and RSVP'd almost immediately. When he got his official invitation email, the head-count was capped at 250 guests, our table of four included. By the day of, we guesstimated 2,000 diners would show. In fact, there were 3,500! A total of 10,000 people had applied to get an invitation, so it seems we were among the fortunate few. For weeks leading up to the event, we got tantalizing snippets of information- what they would provide (just tables), the type of dinner expected of us, what is acceptable white-wear- but the most important tid-bit, the all important "where", they kept secret until the last possible moment. At 2:30 pm on the Friday of the Dinner, he received the exciting news: Le Diner a San Francisco 2011 will be held at the historical Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park!!

We arrived around 5pm to long rows of bare tables stretched under the lush trees and iconic beauty of the Music Concourse in front of the De Young Museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park. We got easy parking, being early, and had our pick of location. We chose a spot ripe for people watching, not too close or too far from the music. Leisurely we placed our white tablecloth and chairs, our real silverware alongside white porcelain dinnerware, chilled the champagne, arranged the orchids, and settled in to watch the event unfold.

The tables blew us away. The outfits came in all styles and shapes, some poorly thought out, but most simply glamorous. We saw, as expected, at least 3 requisite wedding dresses, a handful of white wigs, and some random white winged diners. We saw people who thought "pants" and "pantyhose" were interchangeable... Even though the guidelines said white attire was "de rigueur", silver accents and yes, black belts and shoes were perfectly acceptable.

The Table
With the strains of traditional French music flitting through the branches, sunset beginning to color the sky, our table was ready with amouse-bouche and hors d’oeurves as we sat awaiting the 7:30pm white napkin wave to signal the official beginning of dinner. The signal came late, and we were all starving! I wish I had a better picture to share, the napkin wave was a better jolt of energetic excitement than a starter pistol at a horse race! The 3,500+ white flags spinning in the air surrendering to the explosion of gastronomy and bon vivant about to commence was something to see...

The Menu
It was one of the most beautiful evenings I can remember for San Francisco. I repeat, the most beautiful evening! The organizers pointedly asked that "a spirit of conviviality and graciousness prevail" and, for the most part, that's exactly what we enjoyed. The weather literally could not have been better. The same time last week, we'd had rain. This week, San Francisco soaked in a balmy mid-70's day that only cooled to the high '60s long after the sun went down. In fact, I never needed my jacket, and only one of our dinner guests put on her sweater sometime around the dessert course. Our table-mates lamented with us that, as wonderful of an evening as we had, it's not likely to ever be repeated. Don't get me wrong, they will carry on with White Dinners in years to come, but firsts are called firsts for a reason. Nonetheless, we're determined to try again in one form or another, to bring a little more gracious conviviality into our lives!

As quickly as it had come together, it was undone. By 11pm each table had disassembled and packed away all evidence of a stunning fête. As with everything the world pulls together, there are always rebels who undo what good was intended. This time around we saw that most of the garbage cans were piled 6 feet deep with refuse the trashier among us were supposed to pack out with them. What happened to "leave no trace", we'll never know. Blame it on all that joie de vie...

The evening was so enjoyable that it was hard for us to go home, despite the late hour. The winding drive back over the Bay Bridge to Walnut Creek took a detour to Treasure Island so we could take in the view and breath in the still warm eucalyptus trees- a scent that will forever take me back to this very special evening.

Here's a link to our Flickr page where you can see the rest of the photographs:
View in slideshow for more impact.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Jack London Park - Glen Ellen

The Photograph

The Story

I've been wanting for a few years to go back to a place I remembered from childhood. A place that helped spark my love of all things ancient and ruined; a ruin itself, an American castle in disrepair. The place? The burned out husk of Jack London's "Wolf House". Named so for his own moniker, built in 1913, and inexplicably incinerated a mere month before he and his wife were to move in. With the sturdy stone walls still standing, He vowed to rebuild their dream home, only to die himself before he could keep his promise.

On a school field trip with my brother's class, we visited this park when I was 11 ( I think). Somewhere there's a picture of me leaning on the fence of this dead man's dream, wearing a far-away gaze and a beret. The gaze remains, the beret I left in the 80's...

Side note: My husband looked up the park recently when I brought it up as a nearby get away idea. He found that it is slated, along with 2 other State parks in it's county, for closure in July 2012 due to lack of funds. Days later, we received a Living Social email offering tickets to a concert called "Broadway Under the Stars", an event aimed at gathering support and hopefully generating funds to keep the park open long into the future. We came early so I could romp around the grounds, exploring the cottage London did much of his writing in, the Museum housing artifacts London retrieved from the far flung corners of the world, the roofless winery relics, the vineyards themselves, and of course Wolf House.

We picnicked on gourmet food truck fare, listened to a violinist in the background as we chatted with the performers, and some locals; like an elderly woman who's father worked in London's employ at the turn of the century who brought along a small photo album to show us her tale. At 7 pm, they opened the winery walls to let us find our seats in rows of white folding chairs to await a performance under a shining moon which surpassed our expectations. Really, for me, the show at the end of the day was a cherry on top of the wonderful time I'd already had playing in the forest enclosed ruins of my childhood memories... so, thanks again for a great day Matt :)