Le Diner En Blanc

Every year, the Nichols family gathers in Seattle, WA for their very own Le Dîner en Blanc (a party where all the decorations and attire are white). The dinner party is homage to the original Le Dîner en Blanc, the private French dinner club that meets annually for an evening of good food and good company. By way of background, the original Le Dîner en Blanc is an invitation only, flashmob affair. In true flashmob style, those who have received the coveted Le Dîner en Blanc invitation do not find out the dinner location until that day. They all descend on the location, carrying their tables and chairs on their back, dinner in their picnic baskets and wearing their best white clothes. By midnight, the party is over, guests pack and leave the location in better shape than when they arrived.

While the Nichols family gathering is strongly influenced by the original Le Dîner en Blanc, it is not a flash mob. The gathering is intimate and the white decor is subtle, yet elegant. Every touch allows for diner guests to enjoy each others company and focus on the wine and food.  The food is influenced by French cuisine, with a Pacific Northwest flair, and the party is held out on the lawn of the family’s Seattle home, allowing dinner guests to soak up the view of the Puget Sound and the beautiful summer weather.

This year, the Nichols family invites you to join their Le Dîner en Blanc:

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Imagine kicking back in the shade on a hot evening in July, sipping wine and soaking in the view of the Puget Sound. Sounds of laughter fill the air as dinner guests start to gather in the patio. The kids are playing bocce ball in the yard and the men are comparing notes on their latest bottle of wine.

The hors d’oeuvre table is covered in white linens, a vintage white pitcher filled with white flowers sits to one side, pots of Eggplant Dip, Olive Tapenade, a warm Crab and Artichoke dip and a bowl of Arugula Salad on the other. A white platter is filled with slices of warm bread and crackers.

The window planter box is doubling as the buffet, giving guests more space to mingle.  Glasses, plates, napkins and flowers sit on old windows, now re-purposed as trays. A large ice bucket adorned in lace holds the evening’s wine. A beautiful maple shades the patio, its red leaves adorned with white lights that twinkle like stars over the guests.

A cork pops and glasses are filled with sparkling wine. Glasses clink, plates are passed around and the party begins. By the time you have finished your glass of wine and made your first pass at the hors d’oeuvre table, you can smell the salmon on the grill. The hors d’oeuvre are fresh and light, perfect for the warm day.

The family’s white pup’s nose twitches and he quietly moves from his spot in the shade to the grill, in hopes for a taste of crispy salmon skins. He has been sitting near the children, obediently watching them as they play in the yard, but now the smell of salmon is too good to ignore.

Everyone begins to gather around the dinner table, a simple picnic table covered in white linens and flowers. The location of the table has been selected to give all diners the optimal view of the water, islands and mountains. The table setting is formal, but not stuffy, some of the linens and glasses have been handed down from generations.

The piece de resistance, the 3 Liter bottle of French rosé, is opened and the dinner wine glasses are filled. The head of the family does a short toast, acknowledging the guests and another successful year.

Large white platters filled with grilled Salmon, green-bean tomato salad and skewered rosemary potatoes are passed around family style. A light meal that is perfect for the hot summer day.

Plates are passed, fish is served, wine is poured and before long, you find yourself in the midst of multiple conversations. The dinner party is only 9 people strong, but it feels larger. Each conversation rolls into the other without a dull moment, similar to the waves in the water below. There is never a moment where you feel uncomfortable or out of place, the family is humble and welcoming.

You learn the house you are dining at has been in the family for over 50 years. It originally belonged to Beth’s (the family matriarch) Grandmother, then her Aunt.  Located in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, the house is modest but has a large yard, beautiful rose garden and commanding view of the Puget Sound.

Beth’s family has been an active part of the West Seattle community since the early 1900s. Her Grandfather opened the Husky Deli, a popular delicatessen in the Alaska Junction, in 1932, and the store is now on its 4th generation. Pretty much every family member has worked at the deli in some respect or other. It is not only a rite of passage, but an important lesson in work ethics and family history.

After a few bites of food, the children run off to play in the yard. They have reinvented the game of Bocce ball, as only young children can do. The white pup sighs and picks up his duty as babysitter, following the children into the yard. Before he leaves, a guest slips him a bite of salmon under the table.

You have been so wrapped up in the conversations and energy at the table, that you didn’t notice the second helping of salmon you piled on your plate. Might as well have another glass of wine to wash it down, you think, as you fill your glass.

Summer in Seattle means long days, and the sun finally gets tired after 9pm. As the sun goes down, the citronella candles and Tiki torches are lit, and dessert is served. An orange sponge cake on the table, along with a stack of white dessert plates. Another bottle of wine is opened, glasses are filled. For a moment there is silence as everyone takes in the sunset, watching as the sun disappears behind the Olympic Mountains.

The prospects of dessert have brought the children back to the table. The guests cozy up against the cool summer night. Everyone enjoys their last sips of wine, and a few have an extra helping of dessert.

Slowly, the party is moved inside, as dishes are washed, children are readied for bed and conversations begin to wind down. The conversation turns to next year, ideas for food and wine are tossed out as guests begin to pack up and leave. You too are looking forward to next year’s party, the company, the food, the wine, all leave a good taste in your mouth.

We hope you enjoyed your time with us and extend the invitation to next year as well.

Below please find the menu for the party:

Le Dîner en Blanc

hors-d’oeuvre

Eggplant Dip

Olive Tapenade

Crab and Artichoke Dip

Arugula Salad

Vin: sparkling wine

plat principal

Grilled Salmon

Green-Bean Tomato Salad with herbs

Rosemary Skewered Potatoes

Vin: Domaine La Bastide Blanch

le dessert

Blood Orange Sponge Cake

Vin: Sauternes

Additional imagery can be seen on Instagram: #thenicholsfamilydinnerparty2015

 

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