Move the needle a little higher and to the right on the faith in humanity scale: Atlanta's first flash mob picnic on Sunday night succeeded in bringing 1000+ people to a great outdoor location for a perfect, dare I say, balmy summer sunset replete with good food and great conversation among new friends.
It almost backfired. There were plenty of ways it could have gone wrong.
Atlantic Station, Atlanta's urban live-work-play community, with its wide boulevards for pedestrian traffic and plenty of subterranean parking, was a perfect choice. Though the location was revealed less than 24 hrs before the event, much of the planning occurred several weeks in advance. First came the announcement and the date to a core of foodies and participants to Atlanta's Underground Market: a monthly testing ground for culinary concepts destined for food carts, full restaurants, or a return to the cutting board. Word began to spread. During the sign-up process attendees chose tables based on food preferences. My safe choice was to hang with the vegetarians - but other options such as gluten free, vegan, and carnivores were all available. Self appointed table captains began sending out emails to form groups of tables where wine, dishes, place settings, table(s) and accessories were all assigned. Promises were made, wheels got in motion. The goal: meet, seat, eat, drink, enjoy, and then leave without a trace that anything happened.
Miraculously everyone showed up at 6:30pm on Sunday, found their table group in the parking deck below, and (at 7:00pm sharp) calmly formed lines up the escalators to the beautiful evening weather and boulevards. Tables set, chairs unfolded, and bottles uncorked, it was time to survey the menu, begin tasting, and make introductions. Did I mention everyone involved dressed in black? A nice touch.
Music played over speakers, candles and candelabras winked at each other, and tables erupted in applause for the evening's organizer, Michaela, who moved quickly from table to table welcoming everyone and collecting signed liability release forms. Our table featured my dishes: 'pasta' made from summer squash with basil pesto, shallots, and tarragon/chive topping and arugula salad topped with pickled blueberry/red onion. Other dishes included a fabulous veggie burger with roasted peppers and feta cheese, Indian spiced vegetables over cinnamon rice, and beautiful asparagus with cherry tomatoes and goat cheese. There were two Vinho Verdes, a NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and a CA Pinot that all hit their marks. Just as calmly as it started, it ended with trash bags and a conscious, collective effort to tidy up.
Score 1 for experiments in social engineering. Atlanta's first flash mob picnic did it right and hopefully starts a wonderful, new way to enjoy city life and the company of friendly, food-loving strangers. For more photos of the event, visit the complete set on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidmarcel/sets/72157627436369290/
- Other Festivals: including Atlanta's Killer Tomato Festival
- The original article in the New York Times describing the 'Diner en Blanc' picnic in the courtyard of the Louvre, Paris: http://nyti.ms/nzRvuY
- FoodieBuddha's recap of Feast Noir in Atlantic Station