“Al Fresco” Flash Mob Dinners Make Use Of Urban Landscape

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We attended a really cool outdoor guerrilla dinner for 40 in Yaletown’s George Wainborn Park the other night. It was the very first in a series of potluck suppers called alfresco (vancouver). From our invitation:

A nod to France’s “White Suppers,” the age-old tradition of Al Fresco dining, and public space/art installations, alfresco (vancouver) brings together old friends with new to celebrate great food, public space, spontaneity, and surprise…

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In “flash mob fashion”, diners are informed of the date & time in advance, but the location is withheld until just hours before the evening unfolds. In addition to a dish of food, each guest brings his/her own plate, cutlery, and glass – plus a banket and pillow if desired. For our part, we brought a big Okanagan peach and plum crisp, plus several bottles of special stuff. Once the meal was over, everything was cleaned up, stowed, and taken away, leaving not a trace save for a few crumbs.

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The purpose – so sayeth the invitation – was to “encourage the use of urban spaces” using food as “the connector”. Unique public locations “are selected to showcase the diversity of our urban landscape and to add an element of street theatre”.

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As a test run, I think it went very well. It was a beautiful set up: instead of a standard table arrangement set with linen, we arrived to find a long, low and thin shelf made of some sort of papery accordion material that curved like a mellow wave.

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It must have been a discordant sight, as many joggers and cyclists on the seawall stopped and gawked. When the concept was explained to curious passersby, nearly all of them asked how they could be invited to the next one.

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The organisers behind the dinners are Rob MacDonald and Scott Hawthorn, respectively the co-founder of jorg&olif bicycles (awesome Dutch-inspired rides) and the co-owner of Gastown’s award-winning wine, cheese, and charcuterie bar, Salt Tasting Room. They’re looking to put together another alfresco (vancouver) supper in August and one again in September.

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Should you be interested in attending the next one (and you really should), leave a note in the comments below and we’ll privately pass on your email (the address you submit when commenting) to Scott and Rob.

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There are 77 comments

  1. What a wonderful evening. Looks spectacular.

    Just curious about how you went about securing a liquor license or permission to serve alcohol at the dinner. Is it a special permit or something else? Would love to organize one here in West Vancouver.

  2. I’d love to go to the next alfresco (vancouver)! Can you please pass along my address? Thanks

  3. I was so sad that I had to miss this one but told Rob that I will be out for the next one for sure…very, very cool.

  4. For our part, we brought a big Okanagan peach and plum crisp, plus several bottles of special stuff.

    No one brought any liquor that I knew of.

    Special water?

  5. “For our part, we brought a big Okanagan peach and plum crisp, plus several bottles of special stuff.
    No one brought any liquor that I knew of.
    Special water?”

    And that’s why these things aren’t open to the public and to only a select “knowing” few……

  6. for the first “test” event we requested that people NOT bring any booze and everyone complied. this event is more about utilizing public spaces and to be with friends and meet new friends in those spaces than it is about drinking in public spaces.

    FYI. the softwall we ate off is designed by a local firm and you can find out more info about it at http://www.molodesign.com or if you are ever in milan you can drop by their boutique store there or you might be fortunate enough to pass designers todd and stephanie paddle boarding false creek at 5am or surfing tofino some time. if you do say hi. they are great people.

    we are working on a web page where we can communicate with people and people can submit their email address to be kept in the loop.

    it was fun. hope to have some more.

    scott

  7. I am definitely interested in hearing about the next one. Please add me to the list!

  8. Love Love LOVE this idea! What a great way to meet new people and who doesn’t love dining outside. Please make sure to pass along my info. Can’t wait to hear about the next one.

  9. Judging from the reponse here, the next flash mob dinner will have 3000 people.

  10. Just heard about the latest event and would love to get in on the next one. I’m an aspiring cook who loves to cook for groups and have been known to host my own dinner parties to hone my skills. If you could pass on some info it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  11. […] and urban-scape explorers, Rob MacDonald and Scott Hawthorn’s mind, when they created the “Eat Alfresco Vancouver” concept.  Inspired by Paris’s annual White Dinners, an event held usually in June, as summer […]

  12. A select “knowing” few is right.

    Local party collectives have been putting on these events for years, including large dance (ballroom, swing, party) parties, giant scoolyard games, and elaborate picnicks in parks, rooftops, and other unusual locations.

    Yes, they are all technically illegal – no permits, alcohol present, etc. But that’s why they’re not made public. Alfresco is an excellent introduction to “getting out” and having fun other than a bar or restaurant. Something that Vancouverites very much need.

  13. but do we really need a permit to picnic in our public spaces? obviously the booze element is illegal to consume in public places (even though you can pretty much anywhere else in the world) but to come together and in our public spaces you don’t need a permit until it is an organized event of significant size where there are public safety issues at stake.

    we have so many great public spaces that we walk past every day that are under utilized. let’s use them!

  14. Love the idea. What a great inexpensive way to get out there, meet new people, try new dishes, and make use of public spaces. My group of foodie friends are thinking of putting something similar together.

  15. Are these lovely dinners happening again this summer? If so, please add my name to your guest list.
    Merci 🙂

  16. Wow, what a fantastic idea. Vancouver could use much more outdoor eating and socializing. Sign me up!

  17. Hi,

    Please add my name to your invitation list. What a great idea!

    Joanie Andersohn

  18. Awesome!!! My mom in Alberta sent me this artical..sounds super cool. My is always raves about SALT too! Love to attand.

  19. this looks great, just heard about the September one on Global TV.
    Would love to be invited to the next event.
    Marg

  20. Just saw a story about it on the news, I never would have thought it was still going into October? Definitely want to be part of it when it happens again!!

  21. I think this an AWESOME idea. Great way to meet new people and share some time and good food togehter. I’m very interested in attending the next one, whenever/wherever that may be. Please keep us in mind.

    Thanks and Cheers!!

    Paul and Anna Brietzke

  22. Just saw the Global TV news segment (6 pm on Sat Oct 23rd) about the event at the public veggie garden in the West End of Vancouver (on the corner of Davie and Burrard).

    PLEASE let me know about the next one. I would LOVE an invite.

    Thanks

  23. Also, have heard great things about Salt Restaurant in Yaletown. Ya’ll are all about meetin’ people, aren’t you?

    I shall be visiting Salt soon! Will take my Kamloops sisters for a special night out!

    Thanks

  24. We would like to start a series of alfresco dining experiences for seniors here in Nanaimo. How do we organise such events ?

  25. Please put me on your email invite list…we would love to attend.

    Thanks.

  26. Sounds like a wonderful event, please put me on your email invite list for the next one. Grazie Mille

  27. that was a great idea… sign me in! when is the next event? where do you get the table?

  28. Hi, I discovered and curiously had a view at the Al Fresco dining this week at Robson Street. I’ve never seen this before and would like to join it the next time. What a great idea!

  29. Sounds wonderful el fresco dining, please put us on your mailing list