The Council collaborated with two Wisconsin restaurants to present Dining in the Dark events this spring. The host eateries represented each end of the spectrum in terms of their involvement with Dining in the Dark: The events have become an annual happening at Beastro & Barley in Reedsburg in recent years, while Brix Cider in Mount Horeb hosted its first ever Dining in the Dark this year. Both events were big successes, with sell-out crowds enjoying excellent food, camaraderie and learning opportunities.
Dining in the Dark is a unique culinary experience where patrons enjoy their meal while blindfolded. The idea is to provide diners without visual impairment a few insights into experiencing the world without vision, especially the experience of using other senses to appreciate a meal. The other idea is to raise money for the Council, which receives a portion of the proceeds as a donation.
The Council has been working with restaurants to host Dining in the Dark events since 2013. The meals typically consist of multiple courses including dessert. Guests remain blindfolded through most of the event and are not told in advance what’s on the menu; courses are described only after the first few bites. After dinner, Council staff members lead a discussion about experiencing food using senses other than sight and answer questions about strategies for cooking and eating with vision loss.
But Dining in the Dark is about much more than experiencing a meal you cannot see, and the post-dinner conversation goes beyond food. The aim is to challenge participants’ thinking on an array of topic related to inclusion, accessibility and human interaction.
The Brix team hit a home run with its first Dining in the Dark event on May 1. The staff provided an outstanding three-course meal, and patrons enjoyed a fun and thought-provoking evening while supporting the Council.
“This was a wonderful event for us!” says Brix co-owner Matt Raboin. “It pushed us to think about food in different ways, focusing more on the texture of food, the mechanics of eating a particular dish, and what an eating experience would be like overall for various dishes that we considered…. Our servers also had to be more conscious of how they interacted with customers, using more verbal cues and learning to address people by name. Overall it was a great learning experience for all of us.”
Beastro & Barley has now rounded the bases a few times, providing another excellent Dining in the Dark experience for its patrons on June 17. Kari Walker, co-owner and chef at Beastro, remembers the impression Dining in the Dark had on her the first time around. “I got to hear Denise talk about making restaurants more inclusive,” Kari says. “It was a powerful experience for both the servers and the participants.”