Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dans Le Noir? - Discovering Alpro

I was invited to a top secret product launch at London restaurant Dans Le Noir? Initial reaction was intrigue of course, how can that work, dining in the dark? Possible OK yes with some help, but enjoyable? I don't like the dark all that much so wasn't overly comfortable about it but hey, it will definitely be an experience I have to try. Plus I couldn't bare the secrecy, what could the event be to celebrate? Yes, it surely has to be some sort of food or drink, but why make it difficult for us by presenting it to us in the dark? All was revealed if you read on...
Dans Le Noir has in fact restaurants in several places around the world. They believe that by dining in the dark you will take part in a unique experience that will shake up your senses and make you re-evaluate your perception of taste and smell. 
So, when we arrived, there's a bar first off, which has light, hoorah! There's also lockers to leave your belongings, good plan when you can't see you realise. There was a strange buzz of anticipation between the group of guests when we arrived as we had the unknown of the dark restaurant awaiting us, plus the question of what exactly were we here for. 
Without too much more nervous waiting, they asked us to line up in a certain order of people and place hands on the shoulders of the guest in front. So that was the first little puzzle, why in order? Aha, we were then introduced to the waiters/waitresses who are all in fact blind. They needed us to be in name order so they knew which guest they were dealing with and therefore where they were sitting when we reached the tables. All makes sense really and was very well organised.
So hit the darkness we did, we were led through to another room though a curtain and 'bang' when that closed it was total pitch black. There was lots of nervous giggles as we awaited instructions of what to do next. 
Feed Your Curiosity
We were very reassured by our waiter/guide who you knew not only was familiar with the dark space we were about to enter but also totally comfortable with the darkness and knew exactly how to guide you and tell you what you needed to hear about the unknown surrounding you! They guided us to our tables, finding the chair and not falling off it was the next challenge. We were then advised that in front of us on the table was cutlery, a glass and a plate. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face let alone your place setting so you start feeling around the table to get yourself settled, it's such a strange feeling! 
They then started to bring out plates of food. They didn't tell you what the plate contained, you just had to try and stab some food with your fork (this took a while) and then many empty forkfuls later you get a mouthful of mystery food you can't see and your senses are left to do their thing. It was a really fun experience and encouraged lots of discussion between guests about what the food actually was and ingredients it contained. It's quite amazing how differently people can perceive the taste of something when just left to their senses.
Lots of delicious mystery plates later (see menu below) we were then led back through to the light again to discover the surprise ingredient
Wow, Alpro products, really? Certainly unexpected. The menu we had eaten included Alpro soya yogurts and milks, Alpro soya creams and Alpro almond and hazelnut drinks.
My perception of Alpro products has always been that it is a healthy alternative for those who have intolerances to dairy/lactose and I'd only really known of the soya milks and yogurts. I had never thought to choose to include it on my shopping list, as to me, healthy and alternative doesn't usually mean it tastes very good! However after this experience of not knowing what I was tasting and enjoying it, I was proved wrong. I would not have expected the delicious meals we had eaten blindly to contain Alpro products. I would have expected my tastebuds to notice the food to taste less creamy or less sweet and luxurious. But no, there honestly was no difference compared to a meal I might prepare that included dairy products. I would definitely look to use Alpro in cooking now knowing that it does not mean you have to lose out on taste when you choose a healthier dairy alternative. 

The Alpro product range includes lots to enjoy just as they are of course not just to use in cooking. The Alpro Fruity and Creamy yogurts are genuinely thick and creamy and taste great, but since the event, I have particularly fallen for the Alpro Hazelnut drink. It's tasty on it's own as a snack between meals when you're peckish and whilst it is creamy and tastes good you don't have to feel guilty either as it's low in saturated fats and full of calcium. Good to know also that it contains no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and is made with real quality hazelnuts. Top tip: try it in coffee, so good! 
Alpro almond milk is delicious too, great with cereal and again made with great ingredients including lightly roasted almonds and only 48 calories per glass (58 cals per glass for the Hazelnut drink). 
Great experience and loved tasting the range. Hopefully you'll try some yourself, you are missing out if you don't think you'll like it, just try it, with your eyes shut if you have to! 

Our menu at this event consisted of:

*Seared Wagyu Beef on curly kale and Jerusalem artichoke purée
(Alpro products used: Alpro Single soya cream)
*Curly kale and Jerusalem artichoke purée
(Alpro products used: Alpro Original soya milk & Alpro Single soya cream)
*Purple sprouting broccoli with horseradish Mornay sauce
(Alpro products used: Alpro Original soya milk & Alpro Single soya cream)
*Fruity chocolate-cherry and Frozen yogurt 
(Alpro products used: Alpro Original soya milk & Alpro Fruity & Creamy Cherry soya yogurt)
*‘Creamy fruity’ yogurt panna cotta topped with sweet apricot wine
(Alpro products used: Alpro Original soya milk & Alpro Vanilla soya yogurt)
*‘Fruity creamy’ yogurt pots with brandy snap pieces
(Alpro products used: Alpro Fruity & Creamy Peach soya yogurt)

For information on the full range of Alpro products, visit - they can also be found on Twitter @Alpro_UK
More info on the 'Dans Le Noir?' restaurant here

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