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Around the Table | DineOut Articles
Blind Dining - Would you?
by CJD, Sun 15th Jul 2012 07:19pm
On Friday the 13th I went out to dinner and had an experience I have never had before! TMouse had heard of a 'blind dining' event to be held at Shed 5 and seeing as how it was a charity event at a restaurant we'd been wanting to visit anyhow, she grabbed us a couple of tickets and we waited with growing apprehension for the night to arrive.
What is blind dining? Well, quite simply, you get blindfolded for the entire meal. Yup, no sight! Why? Well, CBM works in works in 81 countries through 749 projects to deliver programmes that transform the lives of persons living with disability, of which blindness is kind of a big one. It's a nobel cause, and one worth supporting, and if I get to dine at Shed 5 then all the better! We've also done a lot with guide dogs and the Blind Foundation, so this seemed like a way to experience what so many others do on a daily basis, but also have a nice meal out too!
We arrived early, and TMouse enjoyed a couple of cocktails at the bar before we joined the group and talked to other unsuspecting diners while sipping on a very nice glass of bubbles and nibbling on some savoury 'ice cream cones'. This was a quick meet & greet, so we were allowed to stay visually unimpaired and we chatted with others who were equally nervous about the event. And then the time came, we were herded to the dining room, had blindfolds attached and were led from the door to our chair. Having not seen the layout of the room, or seating, or how the table is laid out, I am offered a seat and sit and my hands begin to wander and keep my ears pricked for clues to my environment.
After a while, and with a little direction from my waiter, I find my water and wine glasses and cutlery. Uh-oh, cutlery! Our table companions arrived and we introduced ourselves while wondering what they looked like! It's funny how much of your opinions of others are based on their looks isn't it? Our companions were great conversation and we talked and laughed and experienced all night long!
After a brief hello from our host and head chef Geoff Ngan, our starters arrived. I can't describe them, I never saw them! It was a rectangle plate, and after a bit of fondling, we realised it had 3 large spoons on it, like those 80's Asian soup ladle things. We'd been told no cutlery would be required for this, so I dived in. Others at the table were already laughing and guessing... My first impressions was it was paua, but unlike any I'd had before, and I was right, it was a baby paua with ginger and spring onion salsa. It was delicious. My middle spoon was soft like mousse and tasted of salmon. Turns out it was salmon tartare with horseradish cream. Also very nice. But the next spoon I got spot on! Seared scallop with serrano & chive beurre blanc. OK, so I knew it was a very tasty scallop and it was a explosion of flavour and I'd happily eat a dozen of them!
Our plates were cleared, our wines topped up and discussion around the table about what we just ate were in earnest flow when the host gave confirmation. Nice to have scored pretty well, but there was more to come. A short time later, after discussions about Wellington, restaurants, backgrounds and more, our mains were delivered. Yes, now we needed cutlery. Whatever it was, it had something large and firm in the middle, with a moving layer underneath. Doubt begins to sink in about how we're going to eat this rather than wear it! Mushrooms were discovered pretty quickly, and the large mass was determined to be steak, but the rest was a mystery. You may wonder how you eat a steak with a blindfold on, and the simple answer is that you hope to God that nobody is watching! It's not delicate slices, it's chunks and hunks on the end of your fork. The things that felt (but not tasted) like large garlic cloves turned out to be Jerusalem artichoke, and was accompanied by the eye fillet, portobello mushrooms, and the unidentified smoked aubergine puree and truffled oyster mushrooms. A very adventurous decision for a room filled with newly blind people to tackle.
Dessert arrived, with a spoon (uh-oh!) and was fondled by each individual until someone finally poked their finger through the crispy shell into a soft and gooey centre. There was another loaded spoon on the plate which I slurped down first. Fresh, light, and with the texture of a raw egg, it was a mango & lychee combination that was very tasty indeed. The majority of guesses about the other component were mostly correct - a creme brulee! TMouse claimed it was ginger, but I liked it too much for that. More subtle, less harsh, less gingery, but in the right direction. It was actually lemon grass & green tea! Fabulous!
We finished up with 'cigars' of cheese in a manuka honey comb, which had a real bite to it, and drew differing opinions amongst the diners. Blind dining is certainly for the adventurous palette! It might be more limiting to those with special dietary requirements unless they are forewarned!
Throughout the evening, we learned a little more about CBM and their mission and heard from some of the people who have been helped by fundraising and events like the one we were attending. We were finally invited to remove our blindfolds and see our fellow diners. Of the couple opposite me, I had her picked/pictured almost perfectly, but I was way-off with her partner! Some photos were taken and we went off into the night, amazed that it had been about 2.5 hours since we put the blindfolds on. Time did fly!
So, would I recommend bind dining? Yes. Would I do another one? Hell yes! I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Throughout the evening I was mindful of those I know and have met who are blind and it gave great insight into their daily lives. And while I hoped my other senses would improve to compensate, it doesn't happen that quickly.
Thank your to CBM for 'opening my eyes' to your organisation, to Shed 5 for putting on such a great event, and all my dining companions who ate, drank and laughed with us and had a great time. I look forward to the next time I get blind fed.
Thu 26th Jul 2012 09:37pm
Photos of the event have been posted on the CBM website: http://www.cbm-nz.org.nz/GET+INVOLVED/GET+INVOLVED/BLIND+DINING/Blind+Dining+Photo+Gallery+Jul+13th+2012.html
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