Last night 3,400 people clad in white had 30 minutes to travel to the Lincoln Center so that they could dine outside for New York's second Diner En Blanc. But what sets this event apart from pantless displays of conformity and the countless cloying, "spontaneous," gatherings of fun the city has to offer? "This is just more elegant, certainly more European, and the fact that nobody knew what was happening 30 minutes ago just makes it feel more special," co-organizer Gilles Amsallem said. "Also, I don't know anyone who has pulled something of this scale off in three weeks." Three weeks? Didn't they have a year? "Our original space cancelled about three weeks ago, so we had no choice but to make it work here."
We pressed Amsallem to tell us where the initial space was, especially since the Lincoln Center location struck us as a tad obvious. "I don't want to mention them, but I will say that we are very grateful to the city to help us along the way. We had to talk with the liquor authority, the fire marshal, the MTA, everyone—they all helped us get it done."
Amsallem added, "The toughest part about doing an event like this in New York City is the liquor. Everyone has to wait to buy their wine, which is a shame." While attendees brought their own food, alcohol had to be purchased in accordance with the SLA's regulations—everyone who wanted booze was required to buy it from licensed concessions.
This was confirmed by diner Kathy Meehan, who was hustling towards the serpentine line inside the Lincoln Center. "It takes an hour to get a bottle of wine. It's great otherwise; I'd just rather not wait that long for my alcohol." Some diners snuck their own in with their picnics, but at least those waiting weren't gouged: the cheapest bottle was $18, and the most expensive topped out at $31.
Couples seated next to the speakers cringed when Celine Dion's "That's The Way It Is" blared at levels unsuitable for conversation, but the same guests kicked their shoes off minutes later when the house began playing St. Germain with a violin accompaniment.
If the Lincoln Center seemed a shade You've Got Mail, the guests didn't seem to mind. "This is excellent, this is perfect," said Haleigh Ciel, who was with her boyfriend Martin Viau. "There are just so many different people, so many different ages—there's literally every type of person here." Viau said the couple attended last year's inaugural Diner En Blanc with a larger group, but it proved too much of a "hassle" to coordinate.
"It's kind of stressful, not knowing where you're eating or bringing all your stuff until 30 minutes beforehand," Viau said. "But once you get here and set up, you cool off, you relax. Part of that is the setting, I mean, look at this."