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When 'Dining in the Dark,' silverware is optional

May 13, 2009 |  5:05 pm


At the $300-ticket, cocktail-dress-only benefit "Dinner in the Dark" on Tuesday night in the Beverly Hills Hotel Crystal Ballroom, I shamelessly ate my dinner with my fingers. But I wasn’t worried because no one could see me.

When the lights went out at the “Dining in the Dark” event, the room was drenched in complete darkness, as the doors were taped up and every light source sealed off. The “Dining in the Dark” concept was created in Germany and is now hosted around the world by the Foundation Fighting Blindness to give well-seeing people firsthand experience of some of the challenges facing the visually impaired. Proceeds fund research for retinal degenerative diseases.

The other 200 guests -- fully grown men and women, most of them -- began to giggle and shout at one another to make sure their dining partner was still beside them. The most desperate reached for the reassuring light of their cellphones, only to be booed by the rest of the room until they turned it off. However, the booing and the cheering were all lighthearted, despite the weighty issues behind the evening. Emcee Jon Wellner, an actor from CBS’ "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," who has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease, drew many laughs. “I look up a lot of pornography to save up for the dark years,” he quipped.

Our main course -- breast of chicken stuffed with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes, ratatouille-stuffed squash and sweet roasted fingerling potatoes -- was served by the visually impaired during the 35 minutes the lights were off.

And, as I was told by the FFB staff, most of the guests end up eating with their fingers.

-- Kelsey Ramos

Photo credit: Kelsey Ramos