Have you ever wondered what it would be like to lose one of your senses? Well, I decided to try this on Sunday with my friends, Kathleen and Nancy when we attempted to try our hands at a “Dining in the Dark” dining experience at the fabulous Upstairs on the Square. Now Parsnips.
My friend Nancy, knowing I am a bit of foodie alerted me to a fun weekend of dining experiences through a group that promotes “Dining in the Dark.” As I was in Tampa all week the best time for me was Sunday, even though I am not a fan of going out on Sundays. I like my sofa, my tea (sometimes wine) and TV on a Sunday evening.
Anyway, we headed over to Harvard Square for what was to be a very fun evening of dining, shouting and lots of food touching. I was worried about Kathleen as she is a very plain food eater, but I was also secretly excited because I knew it was going to fun just listening to her taste food and guess what it was that she was eating. I had no idea it would be in for the same experience.
Upon entering “Upstairs” we stopped at the bar for a glass of wine while all our other dining “friends” turned up. There were about 40 in all joining this dining experience. Group-by-group, or for some, one-by-one, we were led blindfolded into the private dining room of Upstairs by Karen, the Dining in the Dark host. You are completely and utterly without sight – it is crazy – absolutely nothing except darkness. The first thing you realize is that you have to trust the person leading you. I was led by Karen and Nancy had her hands on my shoulders to follow me. Kathleen was led separately and seated opposite us at a long table. Immediately we were all shouting “Kathleen, where are you?” “Tracey, I am right across from you.Why are you shouting?” Kathleen, I have no idea why I am shouting.”
Trying to orient yourself to the table was hard enough. I had to gently touch everything around me, so that I didn’t knock anything over. I placed my water, and silverware, put my hand in the butter dish twice but I was feeling confident I could do this. You had to put your arm in the air to alert someone that you needed attention. Of course, I did this quite quickly because I felt being completely sightless, I needed wine to help me through my four course meal.
As a side note to all of this, Kathleen was in charge of my camera and I have to say she did a fantastic job considering she could not see anything at all. Although, she did keep forgetting to take pictures of the food until here plate was empty J. We were giggling the whole time we heard a click. Oh, and as another side note the Boston Globe was also there taking photos of the event! Boston Globe Photos… http://boston.com/thingstodo/hotshots/gallery/31darkdining/
We started with a salad. I guessed beets and a crispy onion of sorts, and I knew there was a citrusy dressing to it. I had no idea what else was on the plate but it was quite delicious.
It was so fun listening to everyone’s guesses as to what we were eating. You really had no choice in listening because everyone was shouting. Apparently lack of sight makes you raise your voice to be heard.
What I realized quite quickly was that there was no way I could use a knife and fork to eat any of my dishes. The only way I could do it was with a fork and my hand. I would touch the food and then be able to see how big a certain piece was in order to be able to put it in my mouth. I needed some serious wet wipes!!!! I was not the only one – everyone was admitting to using their hands to eat. The evening was an hysterical night of people talking about having to touch their food in order to eat it.
The next dish I also guessed was a fish dumpling dish. For the life of me I couldn’t really work out what the broth was. I thought I eat everything on my plate but apparently, not even close. It was time for another glass of wine because apparently my wine was water! I didn’t like the dumplings as much but they were quite good.
The entrée dish was pork with some veggies of carrots and potatoes. That much I got. I wasn’t sure what to do with the shooter glass that was on the plate. I did dip my finger in it and could taste aniseed. People were not sure whether you drank it or poured it onto your food. We did find out later it was to be drank. Instead I knocked mine over the table!
By this point myself, and my friends, had completely given up on using utensils altogether and ended up eating with our fingers. It became very primal! I couldn’t even use a sharp knife for fear of cutting my own fingers off. Nancy threw half of her sauce all over me, which was very amusing. Luckily I had a napkin on my lap. The pork was really good and very tasty, albeit a little fatty. That might be because it was pork belly.
The evening ended for me with a very simple sorbet of lemon and raspberry because of my stupid cinnamon allergy, I couldn’t eat the dessert of a Mayan spiced chocolate cake, which everyone else seemed to devour.
At the end of the evening, we all slowly removed our eye masks. The light was quite startling after we had been blindfolded for three hours. I noticed everyone’s chocolate dishes were completely cleared and everyone’s seating area was a mess with food J
The Chef came out to talk to us, which I thought was lovely. Glass of wine in hand, he talked about how he, and his team came up with the dishes and the fun they had with creating them so that all our senses were heightened.
I am not sure how much my other senses were heightened but I did have trouble recognizing some of the foods we were eating with no sight. Touching was the next best thing I had to sight and then perhaps smell. I have to say this was a fabulously fun evening where there were lots of laughs, good food, amazing experience and something I would recommend everyone try – even if you are dining at home with friends. So fun!
Dining the Dark Menu
Roasted Ricotta Salata and Beet Salad –
Smoked Maple & Carbonated Blood Orange
Bowl of Aromatic Lemongrass and Ginger Soup Dumplings,
Sautéed Cod Cheek-Picked Mustard Seeds
Sassafras-Braised Pork Belly – Sliced Loin –
May Spiced Chocolate Cake, Hazelnut Mousse
& Almond Chocolate Crumbs