Immersive has already become the word of the year for 2023 among catering and event planners, as evidenced through recent events around the world. But not to be outdone, immersive (or experiential) dining is also growing in popularity.
One example of experiential dining is multisensory dining. While taste may be the most important sense for enjoying dinner, other senses (sight, smell, hearing/sound, and touch) can be nearly as important.
According to the 2023 Food and Beverage Report from SupHerb Farms, “high-impact sensory experiences in foods and beverages offers consumers an escape from ongoing chaos, uncertainty and instability. Operators and manufacturers will experiment with ingredients and preparations that create amped-up textural, visual, olfactory and auditory experiences.”
A prehistoric-looking Hanging Tomahawk Steak.
This past fall, Constellation Culinary Group provided a truly immersive dining experience to guests of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science during a 200-person fundraiser. For the event, An Evening of Discovery: Digging Deep into Paleontology, Constellation Culinary Group curated unique plates inspired by the museum’s special exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs: Meet a New Breed of Beast.
“Our chef and culinary team did a lot of research on the exhibition and the dinosaurs which are featured in it,” says Caroline Morin, Director of Catering Sales for Constellation. “We incorporated different aspects of the exhibition in the design and food for the event to create a truly extraordinary experience.”
A multisensory dining experience
The fundraiser was held in support of educational exhibitions and programs at Frost Science. The evening began with an intimate reception in the museum’s Main Atrium with Herbivore (vegetarian) and Carnivore (pork loin, salmon, and tomahawk steak) grazing stations decorated with wooden crates, palm leaves, concrete bowls, moss, leafy greens, and assembled vegetables in and around the station to create a dinosaur-inspired habitat.
Green moss, “fossils,” “bones,” and other creative accents helped to mimic the habitats the dinosaurs lived in.
Playing off the dinosaur theme, each food station was aptly named: Carnivore or Herbivore.
Additionally, Frost Science worked with the Frost School of Music for cocktail hour entertainment. A student group performed jazz classics and a unique spin on dinosaur-inspired songs, including the themes from The Flintstones and Jurassic Park.
Following the reception, guests moved to the Frost Planetarium for a presentation from the Frost Science President and CEO. After the presentation, a select number of patrons joined the museum’s Board of Trustees for a one-of-a-kind sit-down dining experience prepared by Constellation underneath the iconic and picturesque Gulf Stream Aquarium exhibit, Oculus.
Dinner took place in the Frost Science Center’s Gulf Stream Aquarium, where guests could watch devil rays and hammerhead sharks glide serenely overhead through an oculus lens.
“The biggest challenge was creating a menu that was unique and creative, while also being inspired by dinosaurs and paleontology,” says Morin. “Looking up dinosaur words and terminology for the food and cocktails was also a challenge, although a fun one.”
The three-course menu featured a Green Herbivorous Salad (asparagus, fava beans, peas, almonds, frisée lettuce, mint, avocado, basil, and crema); the Mesozoic Forest (braised short rib, fennel dusted shrimp, parsnip puree, oyster and morel mushrooms with Thumbelina carrots, crispy fingerling potatoes, crispy spring roll shell, fried parsley, and oregano); and the Fossil Discovery, an interactive dessert of chocolate “fossils” and edible rocks nestled underneath crushed up Oreo cookies where guests took a fossil brush and a tiny spoon in the shape of a shovel that they used to brush off the “dirt” and find the hidden fossil.
The Green Herbivorous Salad featured a combination of asparagus, fava beans, peas, almonds, frisée lettuce, mint, avocado, basil, and crema.
The evening’s entrée (the Mesozoic Forest) featured a braised short rib, fennel dusted shrimp, parsnip puree, oyster and morel mushrooms with Thumbelina carrots, crispy fingerling potatoes, crispy spring roll shell, fried parsley, and oregano.
The event’s dessert (Fossil Discovery) was an interactive dessert of chocolate “fossils” and edible rocks nestled underneath crushed up Oreo cookies where guests took a fossil brush and a tiny spoon in the shape of a shovel that they used to brush off the “dirt” and find the hidden fossil, just like paleontologists do.
“Theming the food during events helps create an immersive experience for our guests,” says Morin. “Integrating the theme into all aspects of an event, including décor, entertainment, and of course food, elevates the overall impression your guests will have and creates a memorable affair.”
All photos courtesy Lazaro Llanes
Roasted Israeli couscous.
The event featured a number of Mediterranean-inspired dips, including cucumber tzatziki, edamame hummus, baba ghanoush, red beet hummus, and green goddess.
Deviled quail eggs (pickled beets, dill, and root chip).
The florals for the event (provided by Vivian’s Petals) used exotic, jungle-inspired ferns and anthuriums.
Orange glazed pork belly (pineapple mostarda and crispy tostones).
Jerk-rubbed pork loin with mango salsa.
Information courtesy the Mayo Clinic