Sunday, August 10, 2008

A "Miracle" Dinner...In the Dark

Would You Dine in the Dark??

And when I say dark, I mean pitch black! Yes it’s true! I was lucky enough to experience this courtesy of my friend Jennifer…and San Francisco Citysearch editor Patrick. I have to admit, when I first heard about it, I was a little skeptical. Not seeing my food? Hmmm. Isn’t part of the eating experience that initial sight of the food? Not sure I’d like it. Don't we eat first with our eyes and then our taste buds? But, never a gal to turn down a new experience…I said yes and joined in.

We started off with drinks at Jade Bar where we met the rest of our dining companions. A smallish group of about 30 of us imbibed in some champagne and chatted as we prepared for dinner.

We were then lead around the corner to Opaque Restaurant for our dining experience. When I was first told about this dinner, I had in my head, the idea that there’d be some light some where or some how. Kind of like your room at night when the lights are all out. It’s dark, but there are still traces of light. I thought our eyes would adjust and we’d be able to see shadow and at least maneuver through the dinner without being completely ‘blind’. I was wrong. Whey they say ‘dark’, they literally mean pitch black. There is NO light coming through, and your eyes NEVER get adjusted to anything.

Truly, it was PITCH BLACK the entire meal!

All of the servers are legally blind, and our server was AWESOME. She totally made our experience. It was a challenge getting to the table, and feeling our way around the table. It is so amazing how much your other senses are heightened when you can’t see. It definitely took a little while to get adjusted (and I don’t really think we ever got fully adjusted!) I was taught to feel my way to the corner of the table, and that’s where service came from. I’d take the glass or plate, and pass it over to Jennifer, and then go back to the corner and then feel for my plate or glass. It was bizarre!!

When given the option of red or white wine, our table was brave enough to opt for the red wine, and the restaurant was smart enough to use steam less glasses. Luckily there was no spillage and we all ended up coming out of there without stains or major messes on ourselves! We were also lucky enough to taste a new ginger liqueur—which I loved!

Our amuse bouche was roasted beets with a herbed goat cheese. It was on a small spoon on our plate and after feeling my way to it, I ate it with my hands. It seemed like the easiest thing to do—and without actually seeing the food, I found myself really wanting to touch everything. I didn’t use my utensils once. Those of you that know me know that I love eating with my fingers anyways, so dining in the dark seemed like the perfect excuse to eat with my fingers!

Our first plate was brought out and we were given the option of being old what was on it, or we could taste first, and then get the descriptions after. Of course, we opted for that. We were an adventurous bunch! Plate one had:

- Grilled Chicken Skewers Satay with Peanut Sauce
- Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto Fritters
- Potato Cup with Mushroom Duxelle and Grated Parmesan
- English Cucumber Rounds with Smoked Salmon, Pickled Ginger, Wasabi Aioli
- Spicy Tuna Tartare on Black Sesame Won Ton Crisps

We all found the skewers and aligned it to 6 o'clock. From there, we tasted clock-wise. It helped us all talk about the same items at the same time. My favorite? Those potato cups! Yum!

Then. We all had the opportunity to taste Miracle Fruit! For those of you that haven’t heard about it, read this article from the New York Times. Simply, it’s a fruit from Africa, that changes the way you taste things! Anything bitter or sour, becomes sweet! Here’s a photo of the fruit:

There has been such high demand for this fruit that most people aren’t even able to get a hold of it. Our dinner host had to get us Miracle Fruit tablets…and we were even lucky to have them!

In any case, we put the tablets in our mouth, and then plate #2 came. Same deal as before—we tasted everything first, and then found out what we had tasted.

- Tabasco sauce
- Sliced Green Apple
- Sliced Meyer Lemon
- Pickled Ginger on a spoon
- Dried cranberries
- Red Grapefruit
- Belgian Endive
- Goat Cheese on a Spoon
- Taste of Guinness

It was amazing. The lemon, felt like an orange wedge, and was the sweetest thing I have ever tasted. I found myself sucking on it, and wanting more. The Guinness was completely different too—much sweeter, and almost even a little flat. I found that the Miracle Fruit effect lasted about 30 minutes for me. The dessert of Limoncello and lemon-lime sorbet was slowly starting to have that sour taste.

This experience made me appreciate not only my vision, but the complete experience I am lucky enough to go through each and every time I eat. The joy of eating definitely comes from all of the senses uniting—seeing, smelling, touching, listening (yes!), and of course tasting. It just wouldn’t be complete without any one part of it for me.

All in all, this was a really great experience...and a meal filled with laughter (in the dark!)

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