Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blind Passion

When Jerry, Ron, and I were traveling across America, we were having a food conversation, picking out the smells and flavors in a restaurant somewhere (possibly at the Painted Pony in St. George, Utah). Jerry remarked that without seeing the dish, and the ingredients, he wasn't picking up on the aromas and textures. He said he'd like to try the food blindfolded. Suddenly, a great idea was born.

Jerry and I talked about the blindfold idea several times, trying to figure out how people could eat a meal blindfolded. (Try it yourself; it's not easy. Hint: put a very large napkin in your lap.) Gradually, we refined the concept, and decided to try it out on a potluck group that we belong to.

Here's the idea: we would ask each guest to bring a dish that represented their cooking passion and a blindfold. Prior to the meal, we would have a blindfolded tasting of each dish. The rules were, no guest would tell the other guests what he had brought. No more than one guest could be in the kitchen at a time. While we were tasting the food, we would all be wearing blindfolds.

To make this possible, we needed some helpers. I volunteered Ron (bless his heart!), and Jerry recruited Ed. Ed and Ron worked the kitchen while six of us enjoyed the fruit of their labors. The helpers warmed up the dishes, and assisted those guests who need to make last-minute preparations of their dishes. The dishes were tasted serially, and for each presentation, Ron and Ed would put tasty morsels in six small cups, announce to the guests to put on their blindfolds, make a pass through the living room, giving us each our taste, remove the spent cups, and tell us that we could remove our blindfolds.

Having just a taste of each dish was delightful. Being blindfolded made me more aware of the food's texture. I tasted flavors that I don't think I would have noticed without the blindfold. The food was wonderful, from the papery lightness of roasted kale to the earthy, citrusy taste of a beet salad full of exotic textures and flavors. Quinoa added a bity texture to mashed sweet potatoes. Who knew that broccoli is right at home in a burrito? My offering was scalloped potatoes. There's nothing like a cheesy shot of goodness in the dark! The cruncy finale was a pumpkin cake roll filled with toffee and whipped cream, and topped with a caramel sauce. What a taste that was, a spongy, creamy, crunchy treat.

After each taste we took off our blindfolds and discussed the subject morsel. Each cook spent a few seconds talking about his dish. Personally, the most surprising taste and texture was the roasted kale. It was papery, and it's tasted exploded on the tongue. I thought the ending, the pumpkin roll was completely awesome!