When you lose one sense – like your vision – the other senses become much more perceptive, at least you would think so. Without vision you would assume that smell and taste in particular get more intense and granular. But not only that. You also focus much more on the tactile sensation of the food in your mouth and even on the sounds around you, sounds of the silverware touching the place or sound of chewing crusty bread. Without the visual sense, dining becomes a truly sensual experience, something very very enjoyable.
Camaje is offering such a program every few months and they usual sell out fast. When you arrive at the Restaurant at 7:00 PM (sharp) you are greeted by your hosts. They hand out blindfolds (very comfortable ones called “Mindfolds”) that you can adjust to the size of your head. You get some instructions and then each group of guests is led to their table in the restaurant already blindfolded. You never get to see anything inside the place except for the bathroom if you need to go (and the staff will guide you to it and you only can take off your blindfold after you are inside and closed the door).
After you have been seated they serve you an exclusive, very tasty four course dinner with the matching wines. This is pretty much like a normal upscale dinner, except you don’t see what is coming. The wait staff will talk to you and tell you that a new dish is in front of you. It is a weird feeling hearing and sensing all the things that are going on around you but not being able to see them. At one point I didn’t at all realize that the waiter had poured some more wine into my glass. I was just very surprised when my wine class suddenly felt heavier than before.
We started with a Chilled Tomato and Red Pepper Soup. Very tasty and good exciting starter for the evening. And amazingly easy to eat with a spoon even without any vision. The appetizer (chicken & morel mousse with watercress salad) is another spectacular experience in your mouth, in particular if you don't see what you are actually eating. Trying to eat salad that you don't see with a fork is somewhat difficult and so eventually you switch over to using your hands which only enhances the tactile experience.
For the main dish then (pepper-crusted hanger steak) we don't even really try using knife and fork. Not being able to see what you cut, it becomes a cumbersome trial and error type experience. Using your hands to eat doesn't feel so bad when you realize that no other guest sees you and they probably all do it as well.
Finally the evening closes with a sultry full-bodied ricotta cheesecake with strawberry compote. Another interesting experience: You would think that certain very distinct flavors (like strawberry) are very easy to identify. In reality, without seeing the strawberries it is actually amazingly difficult. It took me a while to make that determination, it was not immediate.
Between the courses, the hosts had arranged an eclectic selection of music that was performed by two different artist. Finally, you also get a short massage/back rub by your host Dana Salisbury.
If you are in search for an unusual experience, something that is a bit more off the beaten path and if you like sensual things, we would highly recommend to try Dark Dining at Camaje.
The actual Dark Dining programs are hosted by performance artist Dana Salisbury. She seemingly has quite some experience with setting up dark dinners (and other performing arts events) in restaurants all over the US.
Dana's idea of combining different sensual experiences based on different forms of the performing arts (in the wider sense), i.e. the culinary arts, the art of wine and live performance music into a three hour sensual joyride is nothing but brilliant. And then if you take away vision, absorbing all of this with your other - now more alert - senses becomes most pleasurable.
Now back to our hometown Westfield. Would something like Dark Dining work here at least as a special event once in a while? I believe it could if done the right way. I would certainly be more than excited about it. The audience in Westfield is a bit smaller (compared to Manhattan) but then a restaurateur should think beyond just Westfield. I feel this would attract people from all over Union County and probably beyond that all over New Jersey.
Maybe Jeffrey can pick up the idea and do a dark wine dinner at his place. His restaurant with a fairly small dining room, upscale food that is already focused on sensual pleasure and a good wine selection has an almost ideal foundation for such an undertaking. Or the Stagehouse could use one of its smaller rooms for such an event.
With a sensual overload...
Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger