More than 400 people joined acrobats, stilt walkers and some of the region’s best musicians at Tauranga’s inaugural Le Dîner en Blanc on Saturday night (18 March). Armed with white picnic baskets, tables, chairs and attire, guests dined alfresco with friends and friends-to-be at Mount Maunganui’s Pilot Bay for the Tauranga edition of the world’s largest secret picnic.
Launched in Paris nearly 30 years ago by a handful of friends, Le Dîner en Blanc is now an international epicurean sensation spanning six continents, 25 countries, 70 cities and 125,000 participants globally. It has become world-famous for the spectacular visual of its guests all dressed in white who gather at a location, kept top secret until the very last minute.
Tauranga’s edition kicked off at 4pm, followed by a sea of white napkins being waved in the air to signal the start of the festivities. Welcomed by the Tauranga Samba Band, guests mingled, dined, danced and celebrated as the sun set behind the Kaimai Ranges.
"It was nothing short of spectacular," says Kimberley Cleland, co-host of Le Dîner en Blanc - Tauranga. "Having everyone gathered at Pilot Bay in white, enjoying the soulful sounds of local musicians Izzy and Moe, Railroad Sweethearts and dancing to DJ James Jenkins - not to mention the stunning cabaret fan dance - was mindblowing!"
The elegantly dressed guests, who came from as far as Dunedin and the Gold Coast, Australia, were escorted by bus and boat to the venue, which was kept under wraps until right before the coveted event began.
"Guests were a picture of refined elegance donning repurposed wedding dresses, layered tulle skirts, lace dresses and gowns. The stand-out was the efforts made to accessorise with men and women adorning sophisticated wigs, masks, extravagant headpieces and floral crowns and finishing their ensembles with feathers, diamantes and fairy lights," says Kimberley. "For people strolling by, seeing hundreds of people lit up, all wearing white and dining on the water's edge as the sun was setting was certainly something magical."
Guests were encouraged to bring their own gourmet spread to Le Dîner en Blanc but hampers crafted by The Good Things Kitchen were available when booked in advance. The hampers included Pohutukawa smoked salmon, aubergine and walnut terrine, spiced rubbed shaved beef fillet, soft goat’s cheese salad, duck pastrami, tempeh rice paper roll and crisp pickle salad. A dessert trio of baked wild figs with almond frangipane and raspberry dust; Buffalo yoghurt and white peach panna cotta; and truffle with bittersweet chocolate combined with the famous Heilala Vanilla finished the evening on a sweet note. To top off the meal, guests sipped champagne by Nicolas Feuillatte and enjoyed fine wines by Wither Hills. Guests were also treated to Whittaker's chocolate with accents of Heilala Vanilla and Kapiti white chocolate icecreams.
"To wrap up the extraordinary event, everyone waved sparklers to create a magical sea of light. Then in true Diner en Blanc style, everyone left before 10pm as discreetly as they arrived, taking all rubbish to leave no trace of the event."
Le Diner en Blanc Tauranga gratefully acknowledges Wither Hills as the official local partner of the inaugural edition. As for Le Diner en Blanc Tauranga 2018? Watch this space and start preparing yourself to join in the festivities.
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