The Dinner Party
On Monday, February 25, I was lucky enough to be invited to bring a guest to attend The Dinner Party, a monthly talk show with a twist.
Host Elysabeth Alfano interviews three creative people over a meal. That’s right, the guests eat – and drink – on stage during the interview. Seems kind of rude for them to eat in front of the Mayne Stage’s audience, the people who pay $30 to see the show live and in person. And it would be rude, but for the fact that everything the people on stage eat is also served to the audience.
And since no dinner party would be complete without some form of entertainment, The Dinner Party also includes performances. Monday’s performers were Dolly Varden, a local indie/alternative musical act, and a couple of dancers from the dance troupe The Seldoms.
As if watching performances and a talk show, and eating a meal weren’t enough, the audience is also encouraged to live tweet the event. Each table had a “cheat sheet” that included the Twitter names for each of the guests, performers, and sponsors, and hash tags to use during the event.
The guests were members of Chicago’s rich cultural landscape, opera, dance, and live theater. Chicago Opera Theater, The Seldoms, and The Gift Theatre were all represented.
The audience could tweet directly to the guests, but it was the host who asked questions from tweets to Fear No Art (@FearNoArtChgo) and determined which tweeter won various prizes including season tickets to The Gift Theatre and a cooking class at iNG Restaurant.
The Dinner Party is a sensory assault, a very fun one. The most recent The Dinner Party was especially exciting because Chef Homaro Cantu of Moto and iNG Restaurant cooked for us. We had carbonated food, ate “cigars” and “ashes,” and had sugar-free, but still quite sweet, soda.
Chef Cantu was nice enough to explain how he created the wacky – and tasty – food utilizing molecular gastronomy. Our first dish didn’t look like much – a few grapes and half an orange on a plate – but they exploded with flavor. Well, with carbonation. Chef Cantu had infused the fruit with carbon dioxide to an exciting effect.
Next, we had food that looked like cigars. Doesn’t sound appetizing, especially when there are also ashes on the plate, but everything was tasty. Grape leaves served as the tobacco leaves, and the ashes were complementary smoky spices.
Then it was time for the miracle berry. First, we tasted a little chocolate bomb – wick alight and all – filled with liquid and masa. Chef Cantu said it was a take on Mexican mole.
Then we let some miracle berry powder melt on our tongues and ate the other chocolate bomb. The second one tasted much sweeter! We also had other things to taste: a lime wedge and plain soda water with lime juice. The miracle berry is a miracle.
Chef Cantu explained that he thinks use of the miracle berry could help combat obesity since it allows people to perceive sweet flavors where sour and bitter actually exist. Dessert no longer has to include sweeteners of any kind. I wish I had some miracle berry when I accidentally left the sugar out of the custard base for ice cream I made recently.
Then it was time for sponsor Vosges chocolate (with a message) and The Dinner Party was over.
The Dinner Party happens once a month. If you can’t make it to the event – an experience I highly recommend – you can watch live on Time Out Chicago. And if you miss it live, there are recordings of previous shows to watch.
Thanks to Taste and Tweet (@TasteCHICAGO), my dining companion and I had a very nice night.