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Where's my fork?

If candlelit dinners no longer spark your senses, then consider 'dark dining', a concept that is catching on at US restaurants.

by: Food24: Ilze Dreyer | 13 Jul 2007

Arriving in Southern California on the crest of the latest dining trend sweeping through Europe, the first ever 'Dining in the Dark' experience was held in Los Angeles.

Eating a multi-course meal while blindfolded or in a blacked-out room has become one of the most popular offshoots of the European-based experimental cuisine movement. Basic elements of cooking and dining are deconstructed and tweaked to create new sensory experiences. And with the arrival of the lights-out concept here, entrepreneurs have given it a distinctive spin by adding American comfort food and performing artists to the mix.

Guests enjoy a three-course gourmet meal in a pitch-black dining room where they are guided and served by blind or visually impaired individuals that have been specially trained to serve meals in the dark. Diners experience a world of sensitivity never experience before, taking a journey of taste, sound and touch, all in the dark.

Launched by the Opaque-Dining in the Dark caters to the modern lifestyle of exploring a new world beyond the ordinary, giving room for discoveries of things and understandings that most seem to have forgotten about.

In each location, he draws his waiters from the Braille Institute of America and other government rehabilitation agencies for the vision-impaired. In addition, Opaque has staged the dinners as team-building exercises for corporate events.

Upon arriving at the Dining in the Dark venue, guests are welcomed in a lighted lounge area where they can order their drinks and from the special prepared menu. Once they have ordered, guests are guided into the darkened dining room for an experience of taste, smell, touch and sound they will never forget.

"It's a mind-opening thing, like meditation would be," says Benjamin Uphues, head of Opaque-Dining. "It's for people to learn something about themselves."

Uphues can soon expect some competition as multi-disciplinary artist Dana Salisbury has also staged monthly dark-dining events at several locations.

At her gatherings, customers meet outside the restaurant and put on oversized blindfolds, called "mindfolds," then are led to seats in a lighted restaurant where they're served by sighted waiters. At several intervals during the four-course meal, Salisbury introduces "audio" artists such as a bass player or an Irish step dancer who perform short percussive works. Diners also may receive unexpected light neck massages.

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