Take away a person's sense of sight, and all other senses are immediately heightened. This was exactly the effect that Vancouver, British Columbia-based Culinary Capers was going for when it created its “Dinner in the Dark” dining event for Tourism Vancouver's annual Dine Out Vancouver. Held inside the catering company's commercial kitchen, the event offered 60 guests the opportunity to eat a multi-course meal blindfolded — their senses of smell, taste and touch their only culinary cues.
After a brief wine and hors d'oeuvre reception in the catering company's lobby, guests were escorted to the kitchen and seated at three long tables of 20. Tabletop decor, which was kept to a minimum so as not to compete with the food aromas, offered moss green silk linen and simple centerpieces of fresh vegetables and herb bundles. Each place setting featured a black satin blindfold, large cloth napkins to protect clothing, and stemless wineglasses to avoid spills. Guests were instructed that their server would touch their shoulder when they were about to be served, and to raise their hand if they wanted to be escorted to the restroom. At the beginning of each course, executive chef Margaret Chisholm introduced each plate with a cryptic description, giving a few hints, tips and alerts on hot items and serving utensils.
“Our goal for the menu was to create an eclectic journey of courses that highlighted regional and sustainable ingredients,” says marketing director Carla Felicella. “We wanted the dishes to maximize the heightening of the senses that occurs with lack of sight.” To that end, modern cooking technique — such as molecular gastronomy, sous-vide and à la minute deep frying — were employed to give unexpected textures and intense flavors to some of the dishes. For example, the salad course featured crisp, dehydrated raspberries, goat cheese orbs and compressed, concentrated cucumber, among other delicacies. A parchment bundle of Moroccan-spiced sable fish was dramatically sliced open by servers for an intense, aromatic experience.
After guests finished six courses, the kitchen lights came on and the blindfolds came off. A slideshow presentation co-hosted by Chisholm and owner Debra Lykkemark featured a breakdown of each dish, and encouraged guests to guess at ingredients and discuss preparation techniques. “There were some very sophisticated palates present,” Felicella says. “Many of the guests were able to accurately identify ingredients in the complex dishes.”
So much for eating with your eyes first!
Culinary Capers Catering 1545 W. Third Ave., Vancouver BC V6J 1J8, Canada; 604/875-0123; www.culinarycapers.com
Mea culpa: Our September-October 2011 issue should have credited event design and production company EVOKE (www.evoked.com) of Silver Spring, Md., as the creator of the “doughnut wall” featured in “Food for Fêtes.” Kate Headley Photography shot the image.