Silent Dining: The Latest Restaurant Gimmick?

Banning cell phones in restaurants is becoming more common, as diners who constantly use their phones to chat or document their meals can be a distraction to other customers. A Brooklyn restaurant is taking things to the next level by banning talk altogether, piloting a “silent dining” event in which no one speaks for a 90 minute meal. Last month there were 17 diners at Eat participating without words in the first of what may become a monthly event, and after a chance to inform servers about allergies, there was total silence. The managing chef was inspired by silent meals at a monastery he visited in India. The restaurant serves only organic local food, with all furniture and decor also made by local artisans.

Is this a welcome concept, or just another gimmick in dining?

A San Francisco restaurant is often silent, but it’s not a gimmick, it’s run by a deaf couple with a some hearing-impaired staff. Patrons can communicate in sign language, or like many of us do in foreign countries, by pointing and writing. Owner Melody Stein wants Mozzeria to be known for its pizza, not as a deaf restaurant, and they have many repeat customers both hearing and deaf.Dining in the dark has been a trend for awhile, with restaurants in the U.S. and in Europe promoting an experience of eating without sight. Many of the restaurants employ blind waiters who are trained in serving sighted customers who are plunged into a pitch black restaurant or blindfolded. The idea is to heighten the other senses, but the reality can be more terrifying than tantalizing.

Like your steak with a side of vertigo? For a thousand bucks or so apiece (plus catering costs), you and 21 friends can be hoisted up in the sky on a crane to try Dining in the Sky. Started in Belgium and France, the table can be rented all over the world.

A truly moveable feast was hosted on a New York City subway for 12 diners. Waiters served six courses at stops between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the MTA was not amused, but no one was arrested or fined for the meal.

Would you try any of these unusual meals? Share your experiences in the comments.

New York City can make you deaf: new study links city noise to hearing loss

The locals hate midtown, and we just got another reason why.

It turns out that visiting the most heavily trafficked neighborhood in Manhattan could be hazardous to your health. Noise is the problem. Of course, it comes as no shock that parts of Manhattan can be quite loud. People, taxi horns and construction represent just part of the list that can rattle your ears and, eventually, cost you your hearing.

According to a study being released today at the International Conference on Urban Health at The New York Academy of Medicine, there are several neighborhoods where the risk to your hearing is substantial, especially for residents who become accustomed to it over time.

My Fox New York reports:

Most readings – even in several small parks meant to be oases of green and calm – were above 70 decibels. People whose daily noise exposure tops an average of 70 decibels can lose some of their hearing over time, said Richard Neitzel, a University of Washington research scientist and another of the study’s authors.

The result, of course, is that people have nowhere to go for a little peace and quiet.

Some of the noisiest spots in the city aren’t where you’d think to find them. Of course, midtown is noisy, but First Avenue above 14th Street? Broadway in Inwood? Well, these are the city’s trucking routes, which kicks up the decibels a bit. The Lower East Side, East Village and West Village, it seems, have fewer buffers and the added complication of nightlife – not a problem on the Upper West Side (I can assure you), which is fairly quiet.

[photo by joiseyshowaa via Flickr]

Woman loses sense of hearing from screaming child on Qantas flight

We’ve all been there at some point – you board your plane, and a child starts crying, with no intention of stopping until the plane lands. Thankfully, most parents are able to soothe their little ones, but for one passenger on a Qantas flight, things were not that simple.

In January 2009, 67 year old Jean Barnard was walking down the aisle back to her seat, when a three year old boy leaned back over his armrest, and screamed so loudly at her, that blood came out of her ear, leaving her deaf.

Now, this is where the story takes an interesting turn, because Ms. Barnard sued Qantas claiming “the plane’s cabin and cockpit crew failed to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the accident that resulted” in her injury.

I’m not an aviation specialist (though I do pretend to be every now and then), but I’m at a loss as to what the crew could have done to prevent this accident. Unless of course locking toddlers away in the luggage hold is considered an appropriate solution. the airline simply can’t be held responsible for actions of a passenger, especially a three year old.

Sadly, Ms. Barnard showed the often notorious American way of dealing with large companies, because she spent over a year in court, up till the point where Qantas gave in and settled in a confidential agreement.

The case stinks even more, because lawyers for Qantas discovered that Ms. Barnard admitted to wearing a hearing aid before the incident and uncovered an email in which she said the kid was lucky she did not stomp him to death.


SkyMall Monday: Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier

We all want to look cool. Cool looking people are just, well, cooler than regular people. Sadly, as we get older, it becomes harder to look cool. Unless you’re Sean Connery, who is just a cool old man. But I digress. Here at SkyMall Monday, it’s important that we always look cool and help you do the same. So, as you age and your faculties begin to fail you, fear not. Our favorite catalog is there to catch us when we fall. If you’re getting up there in years and your hearing is beginning to worsen, you can’t just go around cupping your ear and saying, “What’s that?” at an obnoxious volume. No, you need to discreetly and sexily enhance your hearing. And that’s why there’s no better remedy for your hearing problems than the Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier.

This is no average hearing aid. This device looks like one of those fancy-schmancy Bluetooth gadgets that all the hip and happening young professionals are wearing with their Blackberries and whatnots.* Your hair may be silver, your face may have more crow’s feet than, well, a group of crows (which is called a murder), but that doesn’t mean you’re out of touch with today’s trends. With this baby in your ear, you’ll be popping and locking rather than Lindy Hopping in no time.

Think I’m over-playing my hand? Well, the joke’s on you because we’re not even playing cards. But, as always, the proof is in the pudding product description:

If a conventional hearing aid sounds like an embarrassment to you, try the Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier. It looks just like a cell phone ear adapter and works as a sound enhancer so you can join conversations and even hear soft voices from 50 feet away. Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a more youthful appearance and better hearing.

So, if a minuscule, flesh-colored, in-ear hearing aid sounds like an embarrassment to you, why not be that guy who keeps his phone earpiece on at all times? People are sure to think that you’re a cool old man now. Now, if you could only figure out how to use those new-fangled cellphones and could convince your grandkids to turn down that noise that they call the hip hops.

* And by hip and happening I mean tremendously douchey.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Sound and sight-free dining

I’m aware of a few Dans le Noir restaurants run by the blind where you dine in pitch darkness, as if you were blind too — there is one in London, France, and Moscow; another company called “Blackout” does the same and has just opened a new one in Tel-Aviv where the staff are not only blind, but deaf as well.

Opened in December 2007, the initiative is part of Na Lagaat, a non-profit organization that initially was only a theater company with blind and deaf actors; the idea grew into the opening of this restaurant staffed by people with such disabilities. It’s a unique idea and encourages employment.

This company, although initially for people with both disabilities, has separate restaurant sections run by those who are blind, and those who are deaf — I can’t imagine how it would work if all were blind and deaf. Or could it?

It is said that service levels at such restaurants are beyond excellent, and since you have to rely solely on your taste and smell senses, apparently you enjoy the food more than normal.

When I first heard of Dark Dining restaurants — where you eat in darkness but the waiters can see with their special goggles, I thought it was pretty neat. But having blind waiters takes things to a new emotional and social level as you take renewed understanding about what it means and how it feels to be blind.

Have any of you been to one of these? How was it?