It turned out to be a terrible day; Cecil was missing, Guy was understandably shaken and hadn’t contacted me, and the police didn’t seem interested in my theory about Libby’s husband. While I wasn’t feeling up to going out, I did promise Mary Margaret that I would accompany her to the Kodiak Foodies dark dining event. It took a lot of effort to get my boxed-mac-and-cheese attitude around a night out with highbrow gourmets.
I agonized over what to wear until I remembered that we were eating in the dark. That took the pressure off and helped sustain my improving attitude. Since we were going to be dining in blackout conditions, I decided to exploit the theme and donned black pants, a black sheer blouse, and a black vest to help cover up everything the black sheer blouse tried to expose. Just for fun I added a man’s tie and fedora – both in black, of course. A long gold chain with monocle not only completely the look but meant I wouldn’t have to bring along my reading glasses.
When I heard a car pull into the driveway I hesitated. Between the disappearance of two women, the strange behavior of my dogs the day before, and my encounter with John Sinclair, I was jumpy. I peered out the window to make sure the visitor was Mary Margaret before opening the door.
“Come in. You want a glass of wine?”
“Sure, we have time” Mary Margaret said as she looked at her watch.
“Tell me about tonight. What can I expect?”
“Well, it starts with a cocktail hour in a candle lit room. The lights will slowly be extinguished and just before total darkness we will be seated at our tables and don blindfolds. This is to ensure that we don’t pick up any accidental light. After that dinner will be served and the rest is unscripted. Typically, the conversation will center on trying to identify the meal and the seasonings used in its preparation. Oh, and we can’t be late because there is no late entry due to the darkness. If you are not there at 7:00 when the doors open, you miss out.”
With my picky eating habits, the idea of mystery food was haunting me and I was beginning to regret agreeing to this dinner. The thought of putting something I didn’t like, such as cream cheese, in my mouth almost made me gag. My thoughts must have shown on my face because Mary Margaret commented “you don’t look very enthusiastic.”
“I’m sure that I will get into it once cocktail hour kicks in”.
We drove to the new Cannery restaurant and I noticed that the glass doors and the windows were covered with black paper. There was a sign on the door that the restaurant was closed for a private party. That explains the cost of the tickets. We all gathered outside and watched traffic go by. Eventually our group grew to about fifty and our host unlocked the door and let us in. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust from the legendary Alaska midnight sun to the dark surroundings inside.
Not having been to the Cannery before, I was anxious to see the restaurant. Unfortunately, I could see very little due to the low light level. It began to feel a bit creepy. We were escorted to the bar area where the host, an older man named Martin, explained he was from some national gourmet group and had coordinated many of these events. Martin explained the program for the evening which was pretty much as Mary Margaret had explained earlier – the light would start to diminish during the cocktail hour. He jokingly said that no one had died yet. Obviously, he wasn’t aware of the cloud of bad luck hanging over Kodiak this week.
From what I could see, the bar area was long and narrow with small tables and chairs around three sides of the bar. Each table was covered with a tablecloth and held a wooden candle stand with a white pillar candle. The walls were roughhewn ship lap nailed diagonally on the lower walls with sheet metal above. The candles burning in the wall sconces reflected on the metal walls creating a nice glow and exposing a bit of the metal fish art and framed photos on the walls. The chairs at the bar and tables were simple stained ladderbacks. I couldn’t make out the ceiling fixtures or the flooring due to the dim lighting. There was some large object hung from the ceiling and I assumed it was some of the recycled cannery pieces I’d heard about.
“So, what do you think of the ambiance?” asked Mary Margaret.
“The candlelight is beautiful. From what I can see the place is nice. A huge change from the old salmon cannery it used to be. But it’s a bizarre combination of rustic and elegant”
“Well, I think it’s time we mingle” said Mary Margaret as she nudged me toward the crowd near the bar.
The bartender was a Tom Cruise look-alike meaning he was handsome, had a cute smirk, and was only about 5’7”. “What can I get you ladies? Our special tonight is the Arctic Kiss” he suggested.
Mary Margaret was obviously taken with his good looks and responded “Ooh, I’ve never had a kiss, what’s in it?” in her flirtatious tone. I rolled my eyes.
“The Arctic Kiss is the coolest drink around – pardon my pun. It’s made from two parts Finlandia Vodka and three parts champagne.” The bartender was a professional. “I can make it from the classic vodka or one of the fruit flavored varieties.”
“Umm, sounds yummy” Mary Margaret said as she batted her eyes. She was enjoying her night out and we hadn’t even made it to the dinner table yet. “I’ll try the flavored version”.
I chimed in “Can you make it with peppermint schnapps? That would be really cool”. I laughed at my joke, hoping the others got it. Mary Margaret giggled but kept her eyes on Tom Cruise the bartender.
“I could but you wouldn’t like it. If you want schnapps with your champagne I would suggest peach schnapps.” The bartender went to work making both Mary Margaret’s drink and her night with his frequent glances in her direction.
“I’ll take an Arctic Kiss too but hold the vodka please.” As the words left my mouth I felt silly, realizing I was beginning to act frisky in response to Mary Margaret’s efforts.
Our drinks were served in beautiful trumpet-shaped champagne flutes. The glasses were lead crystal with a cut-in design and obviously an expensive brand like Wedgwood or Waterford. “Now we’re armed and ready to mingle” I said to my friend.
Mary Margaret had a hard time pulling herself away from the handsome bartender but eventually we worked our way around the room. We stopped to chat with several groups but the light was fading and I found navigating the room difficult. Luckily, a server arrived with a tray to refresh our drinks saving us from trying to negotiate a path back to the bar. Good planning.