Eating blindfolded. It’s an old concept, but rather new to the Vancouver dining scene, and Culinary Capers Catering is one of the first to introduce it. I was invited by Tourism Vancouver to experience “Dinner in the Dark” at Culinary Capers, a local and award winning full service gourmet catering company. It was an eight course blindfolded dinner paired with wines ($150) or without wines ($120) which took place in the back area of their commercial kitchen in Vancouver, BC.
“Dinner in the Dark” is a new concept they’re experimenting with and it is in association with the Dine Out Vancouver program. I had given my reasons in a previous post for why I don’t participate in the traditional “set menu” Dine Out program (see here), so I was curious to see, or I guess not to “see”, the new options offered in the Dine Out festival this year.
I had heard of these blindfolded dinners starting a few years ago in the UK and Europe and had tested the idea myself around this time in 2009 – see my Valentine’s Day 2009 15 Course Blindfolded Dinner. I recall not really liking the experience and enjoying my food more when I could see it, but I was open to trying the idea again under more professional circumstances and dining environment.
The Follow Me Foodie Experience
If the point was to create a different and memorable experience then it served its purpose. However the perspective I’m coming from is perhaps different than most. I’m a pretty serious foodie and food blogger, so talking about the food and deconstructing flavours and ingredients over a 2-3 hour dinner is not unusual for me. I love doing it and it’s how I choose to enjoy, savour and remember my meals.
For me a blindfolded dinner is more of a challenge and training session for my taste buds and palate. That’s where my excitement for it came from. It was a nice personal test, but it’s not a method I would choose to enjoy a gourmet meal. For most others I assume it was simply a unique dining experience and novelty.
Taking away my sight enhanced and hindered my culinary experience. It enhanced the experience because I was forced to rely on the strength of smell and touch to figure out what I was eating. Yes, pretty much all of us ate with our hands and found it much easier and better. I always smell my food, so that wasn’t really anything different, but touching my food is something I only do when dining Indian, African, fast food or BBQ.
On the other hand it hindered my culinary experience because I take great pleasure in the visual presentation of a dish, so I feel as though Chef Jonathan Chovancek’s use of molecular gastronomy and intricate details were quite wasted. Some diners were scared of what they would have to eat, but that didn’t cross my mind at any point. Food doesn’t haven’t to look good for me to try it (see me eating bugs here), but when it’s a fine dining meal with culinary artistry, I do like to see it. Seeing the dish would have also allowed me to eat it in a strategic order and eat certain components of the dish together, as it was intended to be enjoyed.
Being blindfolded was a fun experience for about an hour, but after 2.5 hours I was quite restless and missed visual communication with fellow diners, and just being able to see in general. I also think that people don’t know they don’t like being blindfolded until it happens for more than 10 minutes, so you really have to come mentally prepared, or the experience can become emotionally claustrophobic.
The food itself was fine dining and quite exquisite in style. It was an innovative take on fusion, Pacific Northwest and International cuisine with a focus on sustainable West Coast and local ingredients. During each meal everyone would talk out loud about the food. They would make guesses amongst their tables so it’s a very interactive and communicative dining experience. The descriptions of all the dishes were given after we finished each plate and the photos of each dish were shown at the very end of the meal.
Overall “Dinner in the Dark” is worth it if your looking for a memorable out of the ordinary culinary experience. For me, it made me very grateful not to be blind, taught me that I can’t distinguish preserved mango from preserved pineapple, and gave me satisfaction in knowing that I was able to more or less nail most of the ingredients and flavours. Yes, I have to state that last part because I’m quite happy about that, but I still have lots more learning and training to do.
For the sake of keeping an honest blog, here are comments from fellow diners:
“I liked it. Normally I don’t eat salmon roe because it’s visually not appetizing. Being blindfolded I ate it, liked it and will now eat it.”
“Blindfolded for 2.5 hours is a bit long. Unblindfolded breaks in between courses to socialize would be nice. “
And I should mention 1/50 diners ended up being emotionally distraught from the whole experience and left before the main course.
On the table:
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
We socialized in the foyer and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and Strawberry Rhubarb Kir with Laughing Stock Chardonnay not blindfolded before making our way into the dining room. I don’t recall trying Culinary Capers Catering before so it was nice to sample a few of their hor d’oeuvres.
The seating was previously arranged with long communal seating. We were notified that the dinner would be completely blindfolded with servers touching us on our left shoulders before serving food and right shoulders upon taking them away. No worries, they were way ahead of the game with stemless wine glasses and there are a few lights for the sake of the servers. I was blindfolded so I didn’t take photos, but John Watson of Culinary Capers Catering sent these professional ones to me after.
At this point we were asked to remove our blindfolds and everyone engaged in casual discussion over the whole experience. We were shown photos of all the food we had just ate on a flat screen television. Chef explained the dishes while people “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” over the imagery. This part just made me even more frustrated that I didn’t see the presentation because it was all so nice in the photos. The passion in Chef’s voice as he talked about the fine details just made me miss seeing it even more because if I had known I would have paid closer attention as I was eating it. I also couldn’t visually recall all the dishes.
What did you think of this review?