There are so many novel things about Dining in the Dark, including the fact that you can eat with your fingers — even lick them clean if you want — and none of the other dinner guests will notice. That’s because everyone is blindfolded.
CNIB is bringing the unique dining adventure to Ottawa this Thursday, March 28, for up to 120 attendees at Crust & Crate at Lansdowne. Proceeds will go toward CNIB’s accessible technology program.
Dining in the Dark will match each dish with beer from Beyond the Pale and vino from Pelee Island Winery. Participants can vote on which pairing they prefer. There will also be an interactive display of the newest accessible technologies available for people with sight loss.
Organizers recently held a pre-event tasting night for invited guests to help them gain insight on what it’s like to dine in a restaurant when you can’t see a darn thing. “It’s about giving people a sense of the realities that people with sight loss face,” Julia Canning, manager of community giving for CNIB, told OBJ.social.
She was joined by CNIB Ontario East executive director Duane Morgan, who’s lived his entire life with sight loss, and by CNIB South-Eastern Ontario board co-chair Jeff Todd, published author and director of communications for The Foundation WCPD boutique financial services firm.
Attendees included Andrew Peck, executive director of the Glebe BIA, and Ottawa sports hero Henry Burris, who never fails to light up a room with his presence. The former Grey Cup-winning Redblacks quarterback only recently left his co-hosting gig on CTV Morning Live to shift his focus back to his football roots, as well as to spend more time with his wife, Nicole, and their two active, busy boys.
Guests tried a couple of dishes from the menu that will be served on March 28, such as the duck confit with infused applewood smoke. It came with a glass covering that allowed the food’s delicious smells to waft up as the lid was removed.
Also served was a version of the featured dessert: homemade whipped ice cream with pavlova and house-made “pop rocks”.
Guests were given some instructions from organizers on how to find their food and how to avoid clumsy accidents.
“I’m loving it,” Burris enthused of his experience. “It gives you a different perspective and allows you to appreciate what anybody with sight loss must go through.”
He was among the many who abandoned their cutlery in favour of eating with their hands so that they could feel the food. “Usually, if I put my fingers on my food like this my mom’s like, ‘Don’t use your fingers!’,” he joked.
The room heard how the non-profit organization is opening a new CNIB Service Hub this spring at Lansdowne, at 425 Marché Way, not far from the Horticulture Building. The space will serve as a meeting place for people with sight loss and will give them access to new technology and devices.
Morgan reflected back to his high school days, when he lugged around with him a hockey bag full of large-print books, closed-circuit TVs and other devices for people with vision impairment. “Today, I don’t have any of that stuff on my desk. Most of the things are right here on my iPhone,” he said of his apps that help him to recognize other people, read a restaurant menu or even provide him with proper directions on how to get to a final destination, like Crust & Crate.
There will be a silent auction at the March 28th dinner. Items will include a stay at the Grand Isle Resort & Spa in Exuma, Bahamas, owned by Peter Nicholson, founder and president of The Foundation WCPD.
There's an early bird-buying period for $100 tickets, followed by regular tickets at $125. The $150 VIP ticket gets you a tour of CNIB’s new hub at Lansdowne and a $50 tax receipt.