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At 4 pm on Friday afternoon, invitees to Le Dîner à­ San Francisco received e-mailed instructions to convene at the Music Concourse, located between the DeYoung Museum and the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Guests were requested to arrive by 7, so as to be situated and poised for the napkin wave at 7:30 pm, announcing the start of the dinner.

I arrived onsite closer to 7, and by this time the last rays of the sun were departing. I noticed that the tables closest to the center of the concourse-the most brightly lit area of the space-were taken. Undaunted, my friends and I claimed a table underneath a grove of trees on the north side of the concourse. As the darkness of night began to fill the sky, hundreds of lights on hundreds of tables peppered throughout the park focused my field of vision on an ornate chandelier centerpiece, a masked face, a dancing couple.

A wedding celebration at  Le Dîner à­   San Francisco

From white bathrobes and flip-flops to wedding dresses with flowing trains, the entire spectrum of informal to formal attire was on display-in true eclectic San Francisco style. Toward the center of the concourse speakers blasted techno music, and crowds gathered to have their photos taken; this was the place to see and be seen.

Techno music drew crowds to the center of the Music Concourse.

Not only were costumes on display, but table decorations were publically admired (and pointed at shamelessly). My friends and I took turns strolling around the concourse, noting white benches, the various sizes and shapes of stemware and even table mascots-in one case a very white American Eskimo pup! As I walked from one end of the concourse to the other, I stopped people at random, asking them what they thought of the event. “It exceeded my expectations. There is a sense of community here tonight. Strangers have been coming around to chat, to talk about our setting decorations,”  commented Laura, whose table featured placecards, silverware and dozens of electric candles:

My personal favorite table display: a canopy of lights framing a chandelier.

My personal favorite table had a canopy of lights highlighting a propped chandelier centerpiece. Rosie Munger, one of the four lovely ladies at the table revealed, “We had a rehearsal dinner last night. And figured out how to put it all together in 35 minutes.”  I noticed that all four of them had ordered the catered dinner baskets provided by Le Garage. It was impossible to focus on both the food and the outfits this year, they said. But next year would be a different story.

Catered dinner “baskets” from Le Garage

Not a bad first event for Le Dîner à­ San Francisco. Though perhaps next year it could be scheduled for earlier in the year, taking advantage of the longer summer days? While the darkness added a fantastical Midsummer Night’s Dream ambience, it would have been gratifying to see the white dresses and suits against the green backdrop of the park, to enjoy the casualness of the outdoor setting, to soak in the presence of my hundreds of fellow dining companions as we shared our meals. Instead, I was forced by the dark to focus my attention on those who desired just that-signaling with their fanciful displays and outrageous outfits. I’m not complaining. I was very entertained, but I also know I missed many subtle details and personal touches inherent in a gathering of this many people (over 2,500), drowned out by the pulsing techno music and hidden by the night shadows.

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