2,400 Descend Upon Pasadena City Hall for “Diner en Blanc”

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By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor

6:44 am | October 16, 2017

From all over Southern California they came—Riverside, Downtown LA, Venice, Palm Springs. More than two dozen buses rolled into the streets around Centennial Square in front of Pasadena City Hall Saturday night for the annual surprise “Diner en Blanc” event.

More than 2400 diners, all dressed immaculately in white from head to toe, converged upon the circular square to open and set up the white tables, chairs, silverware (no paper plates allowed) and table cloths they were required to bring. Rows and rows of grandly decorated tables, decorated with a French theme, stretched north, south, east and west, from just below the City Hall steps down Holly and all the way out to Marengo, forming a rhythmic, undulating ocean of white.

The yearly dining event is worldwide and has now spanned six continents, as people flash-gather in a public space and set up a temporary, chic dining area. This was the event’s first occurrence in Pasadena.

Launched in Paris by François Pasquier with a few close friends nearly 30 years ago, Le Dîner en Blanc® de Paris now assembles over 10,000 guests every year, with a record 15,000 people attending the 25th anniversary in 2013. But the event has also been held in cities around the world since its inception. (It was recently held in Honolulu with over 1700 participants, and in New York City just weeks ago).

In Pasadena’s Central Park, more than 200 hungry diners mingled as they waited for the signal to pack up and trek to City Hall to establish their encampments. Locals made their way to the park on their own, after receiving a last-minute email or text revealing the “secret” location.

We waited eagerly, with Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, who, along with his wife, Maria, once again marveled at the scope of the City’s cultural event calendar this weekend.

“I did the ‘Hike with the Mayor’, this morning, then sat in a parade, and then went home and changed for this,” he said, marveling at it all.

By 6-ish, Centennial Square was packed with tables, and as the sun began to set on a warm Indian Summer afternoon, the diners stood as one and twirled their pristine white napkins over the heads, signifying the evening’s official opening.

Some diners brought expansive and elaborate meals, while others availed themselves of the substantial catering and wines provided by Patina. (We saw a very impressive ribeye steak in the vicinity of the mayor’s table. Sssh.)

Members of the media were treated to dazzling and sumptuous catering provided by Alexander’s Steakhouse, just around the corner. Trays of glorious steak-wrapped sushi, potato croquettes, and pot stickers were happily devoured by the blogosphere-oids, and washed down with California red wines.

“This is really incredible,” said Maria Giamichele, 38, of Downey, who drove to Pasadena with her boyfriend, Alex, 39. “This is our first one, and we are definitely coming back next year, wherever it is.”

Next year’s location is, well, a secret, but registration information is available at www.dinerenblanc.com.