Last night I went to my second Mystery Meet evening. This one was a little different as we were hosted by the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Porter Square. I have to say upon arrival I was a little surprised when I peaked in the window and saw folks sitting at long tables in front of a large open teaching kitchen. Not necessarily my usual idea of a night out for dinner.
My friend who I was going with had to cancel so I roped in my good friend Rob, and thank goodness as the thought of trying to get home in 15 degree weather was not appealing to me at all! He drove… I love you Rob J. After being let in, as the door was locked due to the frigid cold, I decided I was going to have a completely open mind. I made a beeline for two people I had met at the last dinner – Adriana and Frank- a very fun couple. Frank is very entertaining and kept us laughing throughout dinner.
The Chef, Eliana Hussain, came out to talk to us about what we were doing. Apparently there is a thing called a “Flavor Trip” that is a big buzz in the food world right now. In reading the net lots of people are going on “Flavor Trips!”
Seth, the Mystery Meet organizer has wanted to do this for a while so discussed with Eliana how they would go about bringing this adventure to Mystery Meet. Our evening was called the “Taste Trip Party.”The idea is you start the evening with a “Miracle Berry.” The Meraculin in the berry is the protein that binds to your taste receptors and changes the flavor of foods – acidic food becomes sweet. It is a complete rewiring of your tastebuds. The effects last about 45 minutes to an hour. I was skeptical.
Firstly, we tasted something very sour. I chose a lemon wedge. You then pop the teeny tiny berry in your mouth and chew (not too hard as there is a seed), and you move the berry all around the inside of your mouth until all the juice has gone. It actually doesn’t really taste of anything – a little sweet perhaps. I then tried the lemon again and lo and behold it was sweet – no kidding. It actually tasted like a sweet orange. We also tried some kiwi and berries, which were uber sweet and delicious and very morish. I couldn’t get enough of them. It was like they were soaked in sugar.
The dinner really started after our initial tasting session with “Citrus Salad with Mint and Yogurt.” Apparently, completely unsweetened and tasted liked the yogurt had honey it – really tasty and fresh.
Next came the “Shrimp and Strawberry with Meyer Lemon Mignonette.” This tasted soooo good. The shrimp was amazing and so simple. Even the strawberries dipped in the Mignonette was fantastic. There was not much in the presentation of any one of the foods we had… it was more about family style serving in a school cafeteria and taste. We then had the “Apple and Fennel Salad.” Not my favorite. I love Fennel but I am not a fan of granny smith apples and I am very odd – I don’t like fruit in savory food – it’s just not right! I had to dig around the apples for the fennel, which was very good, although I didn’t eat much.
Our next dish was a “Tomato and Tamarind Soup.” So tasty and warming and of course sweet. The Tamarind gave it a really nice kick. By this point I was actually wondering what the food would really taste like without the “Miracle Berry?” The whole menu was geared towards making food more savory and spicy in order to get the full benefit of the “flavor trip.”
Still more food to come. Next was the Cuban sandwich. It was quite nice – nothing spectacular but still quite nice. Pulled pork, ham, mustard and pickle. I don’t like pickle. I know I should have tasted it with the berry taste buds rewiring, but I don’t even like the smell of pickles. I have to say all the folks that worked in the kitchen were fun and friendly and definitely looked after us. There were seconds and thirds for anyone that asked. They were very nice to me and my weird allergy.Next was the “Chicken Piccata.” This was quite delicious – perhaps my favorite. The perfect blend of lemon juice and capers.
I wasn’t sure if the berry magic had completely worn off by this time but I enjoyed it very much. I must make this!Almost done. We then had “Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Parmesan Cream Sauce.” Now this dish was a little bit of fattening heaven. So creamy and cheesy and the squash was wonderful. By this point, I was beyond full so I just had a little taste of it.
Finally, after an additional little speech from Seth and Eliana we had a tour of the facilities, which was quite cool, and then we were all sent on our way with “Spiced Hot Chocolate.” Mine was specially made for me with Cayenne Pepper and was the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted – creamy, sweet with an unusual hot kick at the end of every taste… very Aztec I think! Absolutely perfect for walking to the car in the unbelievably cold weather.
I have to say I was a little taken aback at the beginning when they said there was no wine offered. How on earth do I eat dinner out without wine? I had completely forgotten how to do it. That said, I can only imagine how the wine would taste with the Miracle Berry… probably something akin to a very sweet sherry!
An interesting and quite fun evening and very different from anything I have done before. I can imagine doing this with a group of friends and trying more one off fun foods and drinks like brussel sprouts or beer! It would be such a good giggle. For me Mystery Meet is also about getting to know new people, talking about the food and restaurants and places to go, rather than talking about work, which is so utterly refreshing. Looking forward to MysteryMeet #9!