Couples from coast to coast are celebrating romance this Valentine’s Day season not with chocolate or store-bought cards, but with blindfolds. Before you start thinking this sounds too kinky, let me clarify: the latest romantic restaurant phenomenon is one where patrons eat in complete darkness.
The concept? Eliminate sight with a blindfold or a blackened room to heighten the four remaining senses. The (unexpected) creator? A blind Swiss minister who, in the late 1990s, served blindfolds to dinner guests to replicate his own sightless world.
Dark restaurants spread throughout Europe, including Blindekuh (meaning "Blind Cow"), the minister's own eatery in Zurich, which is staffed with legally blind servers clearly accustomed to working without sight. And the trend is catching on on both U.S. coasts, with operations currently running in New York and Los Angeles.
Dana Salisbury, who runs Dark Dining Projects in Manhattan, says her "dark dining" evenings, which include a four-course meal, wine pairings and "artist performances" appeal to a sophisticated, thrill-seeking crowd. Similar to the novel appeal of eating fondue, couples are invigorated when finding new ways to share a meal, and, according to Salisbury, communicate.
"[Patrons] often have rich, intimate conversations with each other. Because they're not looking at each other, couples are able to have conversations that they’ve been needing to have and may have otherwise avoided," she says.
Forty-two-year-old cinematographer, Steven Heuer, recently attended a dark dining evening in L.A. with a woman he was dating. They were mum on whether they'd discussed taboo topics, but the evening, run by Opaque, which hosts weekend dinners at the Hyatt in West Hollywood, was a hit. His date reported that it was the best dinner she'd ever had.
"It's completely awesome for a date," Heuer reports, "Maybe not for the first date, but for the second or beyond. You're tempted to be a bit risqué." So what's the sex appeal of eating blind? Heuer was amazed at the heightened sense of hearing and taste. But, dieters be warned: you're also more likely to clear your plate.