Figure 1: Dinner with Itzel in Paris
I've always pronounced Itzel's name as "It-zel", like the word "schnitzel", which is completely wrong. It's actually "It-zel", with a stress on the second syllable, like the word "hotel". But she doesn't seem to mind. And I've been calling her that for about a year now.
I met Itzel last October at university, at the pre-departure exchange information session. Itzel and I had both received acceptance letters to study commerce in France for one semester. We sat next to each other, in a lecture theatre of 300 other students who were also going on exchange. Little did I know that Itzel and I would soon be embarking some of the most amazing food adventures of our lives together.
Figure 2: Spontaneous trip to The Swiss Alps
Figure 3: Escargot (snails) in the Burgundy wine region of France
Figure 4: Ice cream with Itzel, Dean and Paul at Tower Bridge
Since that day, we've wined and dined in Paris, had cocktails on the Champs-Elysées, eaten snails, baguettes, cheese and mustard (lots of mustard) in Dijon, cleaned out Swiss chocolate stores in Geneva, had fish 'n' chips in Central London, gorged on cheese fondue in the snowy French Alps, eaten pretzels, pork-knuckle and beer in Munich (in the same meal), and even managed to squeeze in a big Aussie brunch in Fremantle when we were reunited in Perth in August.
Figure 5: Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
Figure 6: Macarons and tea in the historic streets of Dijon
Figure 7: Oeufs en meurette (eggs in red wine sauce) at l'Epicerie, my favourite restaurant in France
Figure 8: Local produce in Germany
Fate brought us together for yet another food adventure a few weeks ago. I had signed up for Dîner en Blanc in Singapore, and was entitled to bring a guest, but hadn't found one yet. And it just so happened that Itzel was also going to Singapore that weekend to meet up with her parents. One quick Skype call, and it was settled. Itzel booked her flight to Singapore one day early, just so she could come to Dîner en Blanc with me.
So, what is this madness?
The first Dîner en Blanc was in Paris, 1988, when François Pasquier decided to throw a dinner party in the Bois de Boulogne botanical gardens. He asked his friends to each bring a guest, and to dress in white so that they could all identify each other. It was such a hit that guests wanted to bring more friends the following year, and the concept of Dîner en Blanc was born.
Figure 9: Dîner en Blanc in Paris, 2013
What started as a picnic in Paris 25 years ago has become an international foodie phenomenon. Today, Dîner en Blanc is celebrated annually in 40 countries across 5 continents. Each city puts their own twist on the event, but the core principles remain the same: dress elegantly in white, keep the location secret from everyone up to the very last minute, and spend the night enjoying the finer things in life: food, wine and good company.
Figure 10: Dîner en Blanc at Notre Dame, 2012
So on the morning of "D-Day", while Singaporean Dîner en Blanc participants lay in peaceful slumber, Itzel was awake in Perth at 4am and rushing to Perth airport. I landed at Changi at 11am (after almost missing the plane), and immediately took the MRT 45 minutes across the city to pick up our picnic table and chairs. I then dragged said furniture (weighing 15kg) back onto the metro and was blatantly stared at for another 45 minutes until I got off at One Raffles Quay. I was dripping with sweat (love that Singaporean humidity), with a table slung over one shoulder and two chairs over the other, had bruises all over my arms and was carrying my backpack containing my clothes, heels and make-up for the night. Below is an accurate representation of everyone's facial expressions as I boarded the train:
My phone also kicked the bucket that morning, so it was a miracle that I managed to meet up with Itzel at my brother's apartment. And when I appeared, looking like a disaster and a half, and saw her standing cluelessly at the lobby with all her bags, we both couldn't help but laugh and laugh and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all: both of us, finally in Singapore, sweaty, tired and hungry... for the love of food.
Figure 11: Nothing but class
Figure 12: A photo of us taking a photo us
Figure 13: Stampede
Figure 14: Table settings
Figure 15: Saturation
Figure 16: "Impossible Itzel" and "Bombastic Belinda"
Dîner en Blanc was one of the most unforgettable foodie experiences I've ever had (and I'm tellin' you right now, I've had a lot of foodie experiences). Itzel is the only person I know who would be crazy enough to come all the way to Singapore for this incredible foodie event with me.
So in my eyes, she has officially earned her stripes as a Real Foodie, and most importantly, a Real Friend.
Figure 17: Team Australia
Figure 18: Overlooking Marina Bay Sands hotel
Figure 19: Diving into our French hamper
Figure 20: Sparklers
Figure 21: "Sky dancers" and fireworks
NB: All non-watermarked photos are property of Dîner en Blanc Singapore.