Dining in the Dark

Blindfolded tasting at Dining in the Dark at MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen in New Albany. Photo by Jose Morones Vergara.

By Janice Carter Levitch

There are times when you just feel adventurous and need to shake up your regular dining routine; for example, eating dinner blindfolded. MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen, located in downtown New Albany, recently hosted their dinner series Dining in the Dark. On this particular evening, Executive Chef Scott Dickenson of Gospel Bird and Hull & High Water created a five-course dining experience.

Guests arrived before dinner for cocktails (which helped us to cozy up to the idea of being blindfolded while enjoying the impending activity). And, of course, there’s nothing like a glass of champagne to kickstart a good meal. Everyone mingled and got to know each other over nervous giggles until General Manager Rod Juarez asked us to take our seats. “Tonight, you can relax and enjoy the food even though you won’t be able to see what you’re eating,” Juarez commented. “I applaud you for the trust you have in our chef because the experience is all about concentrating on the enjoyment of great food.”

Josh Williams, Julia Williams, Megan Danzl and Liz Ulanowski at MESA. To learn more about the New Albany hotspot, go to mesachefs.com.

Diving into culinary curiosity, I wondered what the inspiration for a blindfolded dining experience was for Juarez. “It’s interesting to see people try things that they have never had before and discovering they really love something new,” he told me. He also explained the anxiety people feel before a blindfolded meal. “The guests are unsure of what will happen or what could we possible feed them,” he said. “At the end, to see their satisfaction and approval makes the whole event worth it.”

The lights were turned down low (as if being blindfolded wasn’t enough). I slipped my blindfold on and tried to become familiar with the place setting in front of me and fumbled around to find my fork. Although, once the first course was set in front of me, I realized the use of any flatware would only complicate the process. So, you guessed it, I decided to forego any utensils and use my fingers.

One dish in particular caught me off guard. I touched a piece of food and found it was small, oval-shaped and slippery. Thinking it was an oversized grape of some sort, I picked it up and popped it in my mouth. I received a big surprise when the taste took me back to my childhood when my mother would serve deviled eggs at special family occasions. I thought it was oddest grape I’d ever tasted, but to my relief, the chef announced it was actually a quail egg drizzled with a sauce made of similar ingredients to those in a deviled egg.

After the five courses were finished, I think we all felt a certain bond that can only be experienced during a blindfolded dinner like this one. We laughed, we tasted, we guessed, we enjoyed.

You just never know what’s waiting for you right over the bridge to Indiana (just don’t wear a blindfold to get there). VT

The fourth course at Dining in the Dark: collard poached catfish, fried tortilla with sweet pepper relish. Photo by Jose Morones Vergara.