2014 Taste of Perkins

peking duck fingers

When was the last time you closed your eyes because you tasted something delicious? Think about it. When your eyes are closed and you eat something, your sense of taste is magnified. You smell everything more intensely. The textures pop in your mouth, flavors either jolt you awake or make you remember a distant memory. When you eat your food without seeing it, everything is different.

As many of you know, one of my sisters is deaf-blind, so every day, she eats her food without seeing it. I get to experience a fraction of this at least once a year, at the Taste of Perkins, an annual fundraiser at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. Guests are blindfolded and led to a tasting room, where volunteers help us eat little  bites, as well as sip on wine pairings. I’ve been attending this fantastic event for a few years (here is my first review three years ago) and this year, I even participated in a “Taste Challenge” on stage…

taste of perkins onstageThat’s Mary-Catherine Deibel (of Upstairs on the Square), me, Bryce MacKnight (Perkins’ director of food services) and Jonathan Soroff of the Improper for the Taste Challenge

I don’t remember everything we ate, except that the first bite had asparagus and the last bite was key lime pie (which I guessed quickly and accurately). I was so nervous eating in front of a crowd that I kind of just shoved things in my mouth and guessed the food as fast as I can!

I also had a little practice in the tasting room, where my friends and I tasted sweet and savory bites, plus four glasses of wine. We were actually blindfolded at the entrance of the ballroom, and then we were led by a volunteer to a table. Even though I knew I was with my friends and I could hear them right beside me, it was very unsettling not being able to see anything. I was scared I would knock over the entire table when I tried to sit down, or somehow dip my fingers into someone else’s plate, but thankfully there were no mishaps.

taste of perkins blind taste

These were the bites we ate at the tasting room, and we started from right to left (photo was taken from the point of view of a volunteer, who was standing across the table from the taster): smoked fish on a tarro cracker, mozzarella ball with pepper jelly and olive bits, tapioca caramel cups, and a marshmallow s’more. I guess my tasting strength is really in desserts, because I was able to name exactly what I was eating, saying triumphantly and with great enthusiasm, “marshmallow dipped in dark chocolate rolled in graham cracker crumbs!”

We also tried the delicious appetizers being passed around – the top photo is Peking duck fingers with a sweet and sour sauce, and there were many more throughout the night. A couple of my favorites:

 spring rollsshort rib grilled cheesebully boy rum

fresh spring rolls; short rib grilled cheese; and the special cocktail of the night was a “Perk and Stormy” made with local Bully Boy rum and ginger beer

 A few more pics from the night:

alaina bianca ashley jonathan soroff and bianca garcia
reclining chair bianca and pam at taste of perkins

with my friends Alaina and Ashley; right before the Taste Challenge with Jonathan Soroff; a beautiful reclining chair up for bids, made by Perkins students; and with Pam, one of my sister’s teachers during her time at Perkins

I had a really wonderful time at Taste of Perkins. I always say that Perkins changed my sister Monica’s life, and it changed my family’s life, and I will forever be grateful and connected to it. I didn’t even know this is possible, but every time I go to Perkins and attend an event like this, I love my sister even more. I think about how challenging it is to be blind (and deaf), and how amazing she is for being so cheerful and positive and persistent. In fact, writing this whole post is making me miss both of my sisters! So here’s two more personal photos:

monic eating ice cream sisters matching pajamas

The first photo is Monica eating her favorite strawberry ice cream at J.P. Licks this summer – when was the last time you were that happy eating ice cream?? And the second photo is my sisters and me in Japan last January wearing matching pajamas. My youngest sister, Patty, is a lawyer AND a yoga instructor. Yes, she is super awesome. Yes, I am very lucky to have two wonderful little sisters :)

Food does taste better with my eyes closed, but I admit that I felt scared experiencing even just a few minutes in the dark. I have so much respect and admiration for people who are blind and visually impaired, and for a school like Perkins that is helping them lead richer and more fulfilling lives. Taste of Perkins is an annual event, but there are many other ways you can support Perkins. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope my blog post today made you pause and be grateful – for your sense of sight, for family, for food, for inspiration. I know I am.

Have a great week, friends! I’ll be back next week with a cheesy and carby recipe that’s perfect for Fall (and stretchy pants).


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