Courtesy photo

Dallas is getting what can only be described as a unique dining opportunity with a new pop-up coming into town called Dining In The Dark.

The event is actually not in the dark, but diners are blindfolded, with the mildly preposterous idea that, as you sit down to your dinner without the option of seeing, you are then forced to focus more intensely on your other senses.

The promoter, a company called Fever, describes it as "a fantastic experience" that also creates opportunity for restaurateurs and event producers who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

The release claims that "psychologists have been advocating dining in the dark as the ultimate taste experience for many years."

"Studies show that 80 percent of people eat with their eyes; with that sense eliminated, the theory is that the other senses, namely taste and smell, take over to elevate your meal to a whole new level," it says.

So you're getting a meal that you can enjoy 20 percent's worth.

Participating diners must don blindfolds in a darkened, candlelit room. That's when they "quickly realize that focusing on taste and smell alone can be a truly enlightening experience."

There are three menu choices: Green (Vegan), Red (Meat), or Blue (Seafood). You're not told what you're eating. Instead you're to let yourself be carried away by the taste and guess what you're eating.

The release says that Dining In The Dark has proved popular in other countries such as Spain and Portugal. What fun countries they must be!

The event will take place on Wednesdays in March and early April, with seatings at 6 pm & 8:30 pm. Tickets are $80. They're not saying where it is yet, other than a "Secret Location — a restaurant in downtown Dallas blanketed in darkness — its whereabouts will be revealed soon."

So much mystery. Hopefully, they will tell you where it is before the dinner happens.

Maybe the only thing dumber than this is the other traveling pop-up where you're forced to wear white. Eating food in a normal way just isn't zany enough.

This is not the first dining-in-the-dark event to have hit Dallas. One put on by a West Coast company came through in 2012, and before that was an event called The Blind Cafe, advocating for people with disabilities, in which the dining room was actually not lit.

Photo courtesy of the Blind Cafe

Pop-up dining experience makes Dallas debut — and it's an eye-opener

Pop-Up for a Cause

Dinner and a concert: It’s the perfect combo of food and music to delight the senses. Now, imagine you’ve lost one of those senses — namely, your sense of sight. That’s what the Blind Cafe seeks to imitate for sighted diners at its various pop-up locations around the U.S., and it’s coming to Dallas for the first time June 16 through 18.

Without their sense of sight, participants must trust the legally blind ambassadors to help them find a seat in the pitch-black dining room at the start of the evening. Diners then rely on their sense of touch to ascertain what’s on the table as they begin their meal. And don't worry, the crew is good-natured about it; you won’t encounter piping-hot soup or steaming lasagna when you reach for your plate. They can't guarantee you won't spill a bit on your clothes though.

“In the Blind Cafe, we create an environment that pushes the guests from their comfort zones, challenges them to be more present, aware, and connected, however they’re engaging in the dark,” says founder Rosh Rocheleau. Part of that engagement includes a Q&A session with blind ambassadors, which is designed to help the audience connect with members of the blind community on a more meaningful level.

The musical performance that follows dinner is also cloaked in darkness, and the anonymity of the experience allows attendees to enjoy the melodies without worrying about the other people in the room — or being embarrassed by an emotional reaction to the performance. By all accounts, the evening is deeply moving.

The Blind Cafe will celebrate its Dallas debut June 16 through June 18, at 1321 Valwood Pkwy., in Carrollton. Tickets start at $85; there are two dinners per night.

Roni Proter's spinach souffle
Courtesy photo

How to make a deceptively fancy dinner with only a few on-hand ingredients

Dinner Reinvented

Eggs, butter, flour, cheese, milk, and frozen spinach. Got these ingredients? Then you've got a deceptively fancy dinner.

Roni Proter shows you how to whip up — literally — a spinach souffle in this Dinner Reinvented video. There are no special skills required to make this simple yet delicious version, and you don't even have to worry about this famously temperamental dish falling flat on you.

After thawing a cup of spinach and pressing out the excess water, mix butter and flour together before adding salt and milk steeped with a bay leaf. This step, and the dash of grated nutmeg that comes next, are easy ways to give your meal a little extra oomph without getting too complicated.

Add the spinach and cheese, then froth six egg whites (but don't toss the yolks — you'll need some of them in the spinach mixture) until they form soft peaks. Fold it all together, pour into a souffle dish greased with butter and Parmesan cheese, top with more sprinkles of cheese, and pop in the oven for about 45 minutes.

When the dish emerges all fluffy and buttery, your taste buds will swear you spent more time cooking than you did.

How to make the world’s easiest shrimp pasta for comforting weekday dinner
Courtesy photo

How to make the world’s easiest shrimp pasta for comforting weekday dinner

Dinner Reinvented

At the end of a long day, sometimes even ordering takeout can seem like too much work. In this video, Dinner Reinvented host Roni Proter reveals how a couple of freezer staples like shrimp and peas can be transformed into comfort food of the highest order.

In a skillet prepped with simmering butter and fresh garlic, add about 10 defrosted shrimp and stir.

Sprinkle in a little salt and add a few splashes of vermouth or white wine. Proter says to always keep some on hand, and that's one ingredient we can definitely have at the ready.

After it’s cooked down a bit, bring out the frozen peas — no need to defrost — and pour in a splash of cream.

Once it’s all bubbling, add pre-cooked pasta and stir just a little bit more. Top with Parmesan, dish out, and voila! Dinner that didn’t require stopping by the grocery store or ordering in, yet still delivers on taste and convenience.

This stir-fry works when you have veggies to use and little time to cook
Courtesy photo

This stir-fry works when you have veggies to use and little time to cook

Dinner Reinvented

You know those days when you feel like you don’t have a minute to cook a decent meal? (Of course you do.) That’s when you need this recipe for chicken teriyaki with stir-fried vegetables. It’s what host Roni Proter turns to when she needs to have dinner on the table stat.

In this episode of Dinner Reinvented, she starts with a couple of chicken breasts she’s marinated in teriyaki sauce ahead of time. Don’t worry if you didn’t; even 15 minutes will do the trick.

After she puts the chicken on a heated grill pan — diagonally, to get the start of a nice crisscross mark — she rough chops whatever vegetables she has on hand. In this case, zucchini, red bell pepper, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Proter also offers a great tip for washing ’shrooms: Wipe them down with a clean, wet paper towel. If you rinse them under the faucet, they will soak up the water, and you want the mushrooms to soak up the teriyaki sauce instead.

When it’s time to cook the vegetables — after flipping the chicken — she throws them into a sauté pan with a little olive oil, then adds some teriyaki sauce. She lets the vegetables cook for about five minutes.

Proter notes that you can use whatever pasta or rice might be available. For this video, she uses spaghetti, which she mounds on the plate before topping with a spoonful of vegetables and sliced grilled chicken.

To see all the steps, watch the video.

Whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this stir fry.

Roni Proter preparing chicken teriyaki stir fry
Courtesy photo
Whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this stir fry.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Cool Dallas mid-century hotel off I-35 gets funding to become apartments

Hotel News

Developers of the historic Cabana Hotel, the distinctive mid-century Dallas lodging where the Beatles once stayed, received a $41 million go-ahead from the Dallas City Council to turn the building into apartments.

Cabana Sycamore Development Inc., a subsidiary of Sycamore Strategies, plans to transform it into a $116 million, 160-unit mixed-income apartment building.

Located at 899 Stemmons Fwy., the Cabana was built in 1962 by Las Vegas entrepreneur Jay Sarno, who several years later developed Caesars Palace hotel and the Circus Circus in Las Vegas. The Beatles stayed there on their 1964 U.S. tour, reportedly followed by other British acts including the Who, Led Zeppelin along with President Richard Nixon.

The hefty cash outlay, which will be paid through the Design District tax increment financing (TIF) district once the project is complete, is a marked increase from a $15.5 million incentive that was approved in 2019, when building owner Centurion American Development Group sought to renovate the hotel and open it as luxury lodging once again.

A TIF allows cities to subsidize developers by refunding or diverting some of their taxes.

Centurion, who renovated the similar Statler Dallas in downtown Dallas, had gone so far as to gut the building, but after four years of inaction, put it up for sale; Sycamore Strategies' lead Zachary Krochtengel put it on contract in May.

The project had few dissenters at the Dallas City Council's September 27 meeting other than former city council member Ed Oakley who was in office in the early 2000s when the Design District TIF was first created.

Oakley noted that, with the $116 million price tag, each unit will cost $725,000, and reminded the council that the current TIF board voted against it on September 11, objecting to its "higher than typical costs."

But council member Omar Narvaez said the building is needed in part to introduce housing for those working within the Design District.

“There is no workforce housing in this area and that’s something we have all committed to fixing,” Narvaez said. “This is the mixing of income levels and brackets that we have talked about.”

Okla. favorite Hideaway Pizza tiptoes into Texas with first shop in Plano

Pizza News

A new pizza purveyor is coming to Texas where it will bravely enter the Dallas-Fort Worth market: Hideaway Pizza an Oklahoma-based chain serving pizza, craft beer, and cocktails, is making its DFW debut with a location in Plano, at 5410 SH-121.

According to a spokesperson, the restaurant will open in mid-October.

Based in Tulsa, Hideaway was founded in 1957 by Richard "The Big Kahuna" Dermer and his wife Marti in 1957 near the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater. They became known for making deliveries via a fleet of Volkswagen Beetles.

In 2006, the company was purchased by Brett Murphy and Darren Lister who've successfully retained the anti-chain irreverent spirit and laid-back atmosphere, with employees wearing tie-dye shirts. Their help-wanted ad, for example, says, "We're looking for Weirdoughs and Fungi's to join our team!"

There are now 23 locations across Oklahoma and Arkansas, and they recently made a list of the "10 Established Casual-Dining Restaurant Chains Consumers Love" by Nation's Restaurant News.

Expanding to North Texas made sense because the area has many OSU alumni as well as Oklahoma transpants. The owners also observed that many pizza concepts have moved to to-go only.

"The pizza casual dining space has been vacated by competitors chasing delivery and quick dining," Murphy said in a December 2022 interview. "Hideaway offers premium pizza and a fantastic dine-in experience you can’t find anywhere else."

For pizza, they have two crust options: thin and hand-tossed, slightly thicker and puffier. There are also two alternative crusts: GF and cauliflower.

Signature pies include 17 options, from chicken Florentine with alfredo sauce to the Capone, with sausage, pepperoni, Genoa salami, bacon, red onion, black olives, garlic, and their "Parmesan-herb shake."

There are sandwiches, pastas, salads, meatballs, and garlic cheese bread. Their fried mushrooms are a big customer favorite, and beer is served in frosty cold mugs. Their Sweetza cookies dessert are big boys baked in a six-inch pizza pan and topped with vanilla ice cream. They also have a full bar.

Following Plano, they'll open a location in McKinney at 2101 N. Hardin Blvd. in early 2024, and have Fort Worth penciled in next.

Famed Seattle piroshky bakery makes stop in Dallas on Texas-wide tour

Meat Pie News

A Seattle bakery is coming to Dallas for a special pop-up: Piroshky Piroshky Bakery, which specializes in handmade piroshki, AKA Russian hand pies, will stop in Dallas on a national tour.

The bakery will be at Outfit Brewing, 135 John W. Carpenter Fwy, on October 5 from 5-7 pm, with luscious offerings, both savory and sweet.

Piroshkis are small pies of Russian origin, made from an enriched yeast dough, with savory fillings like meat, vegetables, or cheese, the most traditional being meat and rice or potato and onion.

Piroshky Piroshky Bakery was founded in Seattle in 1992, and offer their pastries in all sorts of delectable fillings: from beef & cheese to cabbage & onion to vegan-friendly mushroom & potato. They make authentic pastries, as well.

Their piroshky are individually made from scratch and hand-formed into unique shapes that help differentiate the flavors and fillings inside.

The company has five locations across Seattle, and also sells their products online. Their original location at Seattle's Pike Place Market serves more than 20 varieties.

But they also make annual tours, just like a rock band, to bring their goods to towns across the U.S. They last came through Dallas in November 2022.

The tour features options such as:

  • Smoked salmon pate piroshky
  • Beef & onion piroshy
  • Impossible beef & onion piroshky
  • Ham, spinach, & cheese piroshky
  • Potato & cheese piroshky
  • Veggie chipotle piroshky
  • Chocolate cream hazelnut roll
  • Cinnamon cardamom braid
  • Pumpkin toffee braid
  • Caraway cheddar cheese stick
  • Poppyseed cinnamon roll

The full menu is online, and pre-ordering is required. The cutoff order date for Dallas is October 3 at 4 pm. There's a minimum of $50; individual items run between $5.25 to $7.25.

In addition to Dallas, they're also making three other stops in Texas:

  • Fort Worth at Martin House Brewing, 220 S Sylvania Ave. on October 4, from 5-7 pm. You must order by October 2; pre-order here.
  • Austin at Twin Creeks Park, 2303 Dervingham Drive, Cedar Park, on October 6, from 5-7 pm; pre-order here.
  • Houston at Elks Lodge, 10150 W Airport Blvd, Stafford, on October 7, from 5-7 pm; pre-order here.