Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Boyz en Blanc - Tripping the White Fantastic

Launched in Paris 27 years ago, Dîner en Blanc has now expanded to 50-plus cities on five continents and, this evening, it's celebrating its fourth anniversary in Vancouver. Boo and I missed the inaugural event but, including tonight, we've now made the last three shows.

The simplest description of DEB is that guests "flash-gather" in a high-profile, public location and set up a chic dinner party, revelling in the iconic setting. With all the participants decked out in their sharpest white outfits and all the tables decorated completely in white, it's become one of the hardest tickets in the city to get.

With the ability of past guests to invite friends, Boo and I have been able to increase our table from the original two to four to this year's eight. Following our meeting the other week, the courses and table details were divvied up and, despite some rather annoying logistical issues with finding our designated location and collecting our wine, we finally managed to pop the cork on our bubbly and settle in for a six course extravaganza.

1987.  N.V. Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial (Champagne AOC - France)

Knowing that this blog's task of reaching wine #2001 was nearing its climax, I started the gang off with the premium choice among the sparkling wines available for the evening. After all our initial frustrations, the classic bubble with a quartet of caviars was exactly what we needed to get re-grounded and re-set the mood for the evening.

Unfortunately, we were late to the table and didn't get a chance to wander or explore the venue. This year's secret location was the "deck" below the sails of the old Trade and Convention Centre. So, unlike previous years, the narrow deck location meant that we couldn't see all of our 4,500 dining companions. That was the biggest disappointment of the evening for Boo and I. Despite its spectacular view, this year's location just didn't seem to have same group cachet as before.

Good thing our menu was equal to - or surpassed - that of any of the other tables in our vicinity.

1988.  2014 Chartron La Fleur Sauvignon Blanc (Bordeaux AOC - France)

The Sauv Blanc doesn't sport quite the pedigree as the Moët does but it matched nicely with the Tuna and Scallop Ceviche accented with fresh peaches, lime, basil and cayenne. By the time we were on this second course, a number of the tables around us were already finishing up with their meals. They must have been newbies. Some of these millennials might have more energy than us old folk, but they still need to learn that slow and easy can still win the odd race.

1989.  2014 La Vieille Ferme Rouge (Ventoux AOC - Rhône - France)

Our next course of a trio of pâtés was paired with the Rhône blend. Duck with Fig, Duck with Black Truffle and Venison with Cranberry were served along with Cornichons, Prosciutto di Parma, Dijon and baguette. This course alone would have out-paced many of the main plates around us - but we, of course, made it clear that we were still on the appies.

Our extensive menu and leisurely pace did mean that we still had a good portion of our dinner to go when the traditional lighting of the sparklers was announced. Ah well, we needed a bit of a stretch before we sat down for the main course anyhow.

1990.  2012 Terrazas de los Andes - Reserva Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

As the evening was getting a little long in the tooth, we picked up the pace a bit though.  A few of our dining companions were starting to close up shop and call it a night. That just meant they had to leave with their mouths watering as they passed our Barbecued Duck with Red Plum Compote, Saffron Basmati Rice and Buttered Peas & Corn Niblets.

By the time we started serving up the desserts, we were offering tastes to neighbouring tables - particularly since we had another trio: Crème Brûlée, Prosecco Raspberry Gelée and Macarons.

Not to mention the cheese course that followed. By then, we were carrying our platter to various tables to offer a little night cap to the neighbours. To be nice - and to allow Mr. D. and Soolu to slyly check out some of the other diners.

As tasty as the dinner was and as fine as the company was, this year's DEB didn't seem as special as years past. In retrospect, we might have been a little over-ambitious with our menu. We were definitely one of the very last tables - of a couple thousand - with food going strong at the end of the evening. Moreover, though, I think it was the large degree of separation we felt from all the other participants. The sense of community - that was so evident in previous years - just seemed to be lacking.

Of course, how can you go wrong with a dinner view like we had?

I'm sure we'll return next year - even if the blog's wine countdown will be well behind me. Our planning may need a little re-jigging but the reality of it all is when else will we be able to sport all of these white duds that we've assembled?

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