- Published on Monday, 28 January 2013 11:49
- Written by Scott Joseph
I attended an unusual dinner over the weekend. It was hosted by my friends Anne and Steve Deli at Country Club of Orlando, and it was conducted entirely in the dark. I don’t mean low lighting, I mean pitch black darkness. The room was so dark that the waiters had to wear special night-vision goggles that Anne had purchased especially for the occasion.
The guests first gathered in the bar area where we sipped on special cocktails fashioned by Aaron Christiansen of Thee Mixology (who is planning on opening a bar of his own in downtown Orlando; details soon). Each of the 30 or so guests had been asked to dress in “black casual,” and upon arrival we were given a “survival kit”: a Harley Davidson fanny pack with chopsticks, a fork, a napkin, a small bottle of water and several packets of moist towelettes. (The Delis own the Harley Davidson dealership, so the fanny packs were easy to come by.) We had been admonished not to bring in anything that might illuminate, such as cellphones or glowing watches.
When it was time for dinner, we gathered in a transition area outside the dining room, which had black sheeting over the entrance. We were taken in groups, each person holding the shoulder of the person in front, led by a waiter with the special goggles.
I was among the the last of the guests led inside, so when I entered the pitch blackness, all I could hear were the excited titters of the previous guests as they nervously chatted about this new sensation. The waiter led us to the remaining open seats and told us to reach to our left and grab the back of the chair. We cautiously sat down.
Our first course was already in front of us, something we were able to determine by touch. In fact, both the set of chopsticks and the fork proved unnecessary, at least for me, as I used my hands to eat everything. This wasn’t just because it was, um, handy, but the one time I attempted to use a utensil proved to be even more disorienting than the dark. I can put my fingers in my mouth without looking, but adding a device like a fork made me less certain. Wine and cocktails were served in plastic tumblers instead of stems, so they weren’t as easy to tip over as we groped for a sip.
Of course, no one knew what any of the courses were, and the waiters had been instructed not to give any clues. So were were left to feel and taste each item and then chat among ourselves about what we thought we were eating.
I immediately tasted tuna tartar in the first course, but it seemed to be wrapped in pasta. Or was that squid? There were also bubbles akin to fish eggs that popped in the mouth.
The next course was clearly, if I can use that term, fritters. But what was in the fritters? I guessed conch, and most of those around me agreed.
The touch of the main course was unmistakably a burrito, which I believed to be filled with shredded pork and slaw. One of my seat mates disagreed; she thought it was duck.
Dessert “appeared” to be sushi. Even when I touched it I could almost see the whiteness of the rice. But when I tasted it, I knew immediately that it was actually coconut. Still, it had a slight smell that fish might be involved, and the texture even had a buttery feel.
Nope, no fish involved at all. It was mango I was tasting, and probably my own imagination that was giving me fish clues in the aroma.
We could suddenly see the dessert as the servers came sweeping into the room with glow sticks to help us get reoriented to light. It was only then that we could see that instead of several tables throughout the room, as I had guessed from the echos, we were all seated at one long table.
Back in the bar, we were shown the actual food we had eaten. The first course was indeed a seafood “manicotti” with tuna tartar. It was lobster in the fritters, not conch. And my table mate was correct about the burrito having duck -- duck confit, to be exact -- instead of pork.
It was all great fun, and I got to thinking it would be great to do an Scott Joseph’s Supper Club completely in the dark. So I’ve already started talking to some people about getting one together and will have details soon.
What do you think? Are you afraid of the dark?
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