Picnic Baskets photo courtesy of Navid Baraty and Dîner en Blanc
On Friday, August 24, over a thousand people dressed in white and carrying everything from tables and chairs to napkins, bread and cheese will converge on a secret location for the annual pop-up dining event, Dîner en Blanc. This is the second year of the event in Chicago, but the first that is officially a part of the Dîner en Blanc movement that originated in Paris, France almost a quarter of a century ago.
Part of the charm of Dîner en Blanc is the seemlying random gathering of people to eat and dance, and then part ways into the night. The city's landmarks become a stage for the performance, and the attendees become actors that turn the heads of unsuspecting passers-by. I attended last year, and still smile at how surreal and cool it was to have a dress dinner in Daley Plaza with a 1,000 like-minded people.
Last year's event popped up at Daley Plaza.
This year, visitors will have the opportunity to pick up a gourmet picnic basket from Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia (980 North Michigan Ave.). His baskets were inspired by ingredients that are used at the restaurant, and will include the same Tuscan olive oil used in-house. Available in three sizes, there is also a vegetarian option. Chef Tony's wife, Cathy Mantuano selected wines to pair with each. "Don't expect cold fried chicken and watermelon. We wanted to serve something that reflects who we are," said Chef. "It was important for us to do that."
Reviewing the ingredients, Chef had me at "smoked whitefish spread," "pork and duck pate with orange" and "amaretti cookies." While there are no plans for a regular Spiaggia picnic basket menu, I remain hopeful that I'll see hints of the gourmet picnic at this year's Chicago Gourmet.
Where will this year's event be held? The answer is a secret that will be revealed to attendees about an hour before dinner. I only know that the location will be quintessentially Chicago and end result will be equally delicious.