It began with a mysterious email from James (Cadariu, of Great Lakes Coffee) last week titled "secret dinner." Someone in Detroit was throwing a dîner en blanc and did we know about it? Were we going? Not yet, and absolutely.
James's invite had come in the mail from an unknown source, instructing him to invite 10 people who could also each invite 10 people. White linens, real tableware and formal all-white dress were specified. We were instructed to arrive on Belle Isle at 5 p.m.; we were not to discuss the event with anyone.
Around 5:15 on the appointed day, our merry caravan made its way southeast from our meeting spot at Supino in Eastern Market. As we approached the western tip of the island, we marveled over the number of other white-garbed picnickers heading in the same direction. Upon arrival, a festive tableau awaited -- rows of tables with white tablecloths, floral arrangements and fine china, with diners decked out in pale finery.
As we settled in, a large man in a red shirt walked up to address the party at large, announcing himself as the head park ranger. A ripple of anxiety passed through the crowd. He said he had been tipped off about the event, and wasn't sure whether to call the cops or welcome us. So he opted for the latter. This brought a hearty round of applause. With a few words about the uniqueness of Belle Isle, he told us to enjoy our meals and was off.
With that, we were free to dig in.
But where to start? Our group was perhaps among the scrappiest (many of us in thrift clothes, and with so much food there was no room to set the table to properly sit and eat), but with two of the city's top chefs, a restaurateur and several small food business entrepreneurs in our crew, we may well have had the best spread.
The only words I could manage in between bites were "Oh my God" and "This is ridiculous," repeated like a bum vinyl record. The sky pissed weakly for almost the entire dinner, but it mattered little.
We ate and drank and laughed as the sun set; my cue to pack up. Our host never did reveal him or herself, but in the end, it didn't really matter: we enjoyed one of the few remaining summer Sundays in lively company, and with some of the absolute best food and drink to be had in the city. It may not have been as grand as the dinners in Paris or New York, but for me, it's all about the food and friends.
This is an abridged version of a blog post from Simmer Down. To read the full version and see additional photos, go
here.Food writer Noelle Lothamer pens a food blog that goes by the tasty name Simmer Down!