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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Inside D.C.’s white hot party

Hundreds gathered near the National Mall Saturday night for the Dîner en Blanc. Victoria Sheridan | Hatchet staff photographer
Hundreds gathered near the National Mall Saturday night for the Dîner en Blanc. Victoria Sheridan | Hatchet staff photographer

This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Victoria Sheridan.

At around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, hundreds of people clad in white tuxedos, mardi gras masks and royal wedding-worthy headdresses shuffled through campus.

They were headed to the Dîner en Blanc — French for “dinner in white”— an annual pop-up picnic that originated in Paris in the 1980s, and has since spread to more than 70 cities, including the District. The location of the secret event is revealed only a few hours before the event and guests are required to don all-white clothing.

Tourists turned their phone cameras away from the monuments and onto the crowd as it marched toward Henry Bacon park, just across from the Lincoln Memorial. This is the third Dîner en Blanc in the District — the first two gatherings, which hosted about 2,500 guests, took place at Yards Park in 2014 and Carnegie Library in 2015.

Tickets to the Dîner en Blanc might be just as hard to lock down as seats at “Hamilton.” Anyone who hasn’t previously attended the event may be able to get in if they are invited. Anyone who isn’t invited can add their name to a ticket waitlist. The tickets themselves cost $37, in addition to an $8 membership fee.

The process of buying tickets only ensures entry. Other than that, guests must provide everything – except alcohol, which they can only purchase onsite themselves — including food, chairs, tables, settings and centerpieces.

After settling in, more than 3,500 guests waved their napkins in the air, signifying the official start of the meal. Though the Dîner en Blanc is technically a picnic, the fare included more sushi, champagne and charcuterie plates than sandwiches and potato salad.

The jazz music blaring from the speakers, which created the vibe of a lawn party from “The Great Gatsby,” drew many spectators from outside — or maybe it was the fact that the communal dining tables were set up right beside a D.C. tour bus stop.

But diners seemed gleefully unaware of amused passersby, or of the entire city surrounding them, for that matter. The French concept of a relaxing, two-hour meal provided an escape from often fast-paced District life. It seemed like a fitting way to bid farewell to summer.

And though the spectacle was ripe for an Instagram opportunity, for the most part, participants appeared more interested in their friends and food than their screens.

At 8 p.m., guests lit sparklers to signal the end of the meal and the beginning of the dance party, during which Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” appropriately played from the speakers. After about two hours, everyone packed up their belongings and hauled them away from the grounds without a trace.

Au revoir until next year,  Dîner en Blanc.

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