Stepping inside the exposed brick interior of Upper Larimer it’s almost a shame that you have to lose your vision. Tables are arranged across the low-lit venue, set with all the usual table toppers, plus a blindfold draped over the napkin. There’s a buzz in the air. For most this is an entirely new adventure — to be blindfolded in a room full of people, attempting to keep food on their fork without the aid of sight.
The concept has been around since the late 90’s when le goût du noir opened in Paris. It’s a simple idea — so much of our experience with food is visual, what happens when that goes away? As Apicius said, “We eat first with our eyes.” Dining in the Dark strives to challenge this idea, to allow your first bite to be with your tastebuds rather than your eyes.
A collaboration put together by Fever in Upper Larimer that features cocktails from Avant Garde and food from House and Howell Social, this four-piece ensemble has put together a one-of-a-kind experience where diners can immerse themselves in taste and conversation without the distraction of sight.
The services are coordinated with a recording prompting everyone to blindfold themselves in anticipation of the first course. Our fantastic server JD, the last person we’ll see for the remainder of the meal, drops off manhattans before we begin.
Diners select one of three menus for the evening. Green for vegan, blue for seafood and red for meat. Other than that the menu is a total secret. There is a learning curve as you find your plate, your fork, your drink by feel alone in front of you, your hands wandering in the dark trying not to knock anything over. Each bite is a surprise. While one might take the time to compose a bite of a regular meal — a little meat, a little grain, a little sauce — this is a luxury not afforded to the blind patron. In one forkful you taste quinoa, in another some kind of vegetable, occasionally your fork comes up empty.
The food feels familiar and at the same time foreign. You bite in and guess — a demi-glace? It isn’t beef, but is it pork, or lamb, or… Either way, it smells amazing.
Even for an epicure, there is an element of mystery in each dish.
While I’m not convinced that eating blind enhances your dining experience drastically, I can say it is truly unique. To enjoy the textures without knowing what they will be, to fumble for your wine only to find it pairs perfectly with the dish in front of you (wine and cocktail pairings are $45 a person), the feeling of satisfaction when you figure out what it is you just finished, are all things you won’t get anywhere else in town. After each course the hosts give everyone a chance to guess what they have just eaten. Most of the time someone in the audience guesses correctly.
The pop-up has been well received and Fever, who also puts on the candlelight concert series, plans to continue Dining in the Dark with different culinary themes in different locations around town. It’s a great way to enjoy food, drink and conversation with a new twist.
There is only one more night of the holiday edition of Dining in the Dark on December 22, but keep an eye out for more to come in the new year. You can find a full list of Fever’s events here.
All photography courtesy of Fever.