14 June 2008

Mystery Dinner Mania

So have you ever partaken of a "Mystery Dinner"? No, I don't mean the kind of dinner in which you take part in a murder mystery story while you dine. That's a "mystery dinner theater," or something by that name. I'm talking about a dinner in which *the food* is the mystery (and, yes, much different than the "mystery meats" you may fondly remember from the school cafeteria ;-).

In a "mystery dinner" the food, drinks, and utensils are all given different names--code names, if you will--in an attempt to keep the guests guessing about what they order and then eat. The dinner is divided into several courses. Each person at the table peruses the menu of "code names" and selects various menu items for each course. For example, a fork may be called "Perfect Pitch," and the French onion soup may be called "Cry Me a River." But when you see only those names, with only the context of a list of other items, you have no idea what they mean!

When dinner is served, the guests receive only what they ordered, nothing more, nothing less. Then, after each course, the table is cleared in preparation for the next course. Yes, all items, food, drink, and utensils, are removed!

Now this can present quite the dilemma as well as some great laughs. You see, it is quite possible and very likely that one person may get dessert for the first course, while another person gets their soup without a spoon to use for eating it. In fact, it's quite possible and altogether probable that someone will get their main course in the first course, their salad in the second course, and then their utensils in the last course. Great fun! (Especially if you're the kitchen service staff and you get to serve and observe! :-)

Well, the "Asburry Mystery Restaurant" opened its doors once again last night. We learned about this form of dining entertainment some years ago, and we have put on such mystery dinners in other congregations where I served. This time we offered a "Mystery Dinner" as part of my congregation's recent Dinner Auction. The highest bidder and some friends would receive a full-service mystery dinner compliments of Pr. Asburry and family.

So the Henricksons (highest bidder), the Viekers, and the Nielsens were treated to a royal and and fun(ny) meal. Here are some shots of the gala event.

Guests peruse the menu and receive instructions (from good looking restaurant staff, I might add!) for ordering the menu items:

1. Good Exercise
2. Latin Deluxe
3. Autumn Leaves
4. Wedding Bouquet
5. Chicken in a Basket
6. Cozy Blanket
7. Pine Forest
8. Puff ‘n’ Stuff
9. Herman’s Delight
10. Steamed Glacier
11. Cat’s Eyes
12. Mountain Treat
13. Cry Me a River
14. Perfect Pitch
15. Jack’s Surprise
16. Golf Club
17. Soaker
18. Hay Maker
19. Degreaser
20. Hot Slurpie

Then the guests make the tough decisions about what food, drink, and utensil(s) they may (or may) not receive for each course.

"What on earth is 'Herman's Delight'?"

I have no idea why these folks thought of some "independent newspaper editor" well known in LCMS circles! I mean, how did they get that from "Delight"? (BTW, Hermann, MO, is known for its wineries, if that's a clue ... one that the guests happened to miss! ;-)

Then, with the assistance of the loyal kitchen staff, the guests receive their meals, one course at a time, and only those items (food, or drink, or utensils) that they themselves selected.

"What this?" "C'mon, Charlie, that's a 'Golf Club.'"

Notice how everyone tries to figure out how the real items match up to the menu names as they eat.

Then, the guests enjoy their meal, if possible. Sometimes guests receive - and I repeat, by their own independent, free-will-driven selection process - only utensils for a particular course.

"Sure, *now* I receive my fork, knife, and spoon! I already ate my soup, salad, and main course!"

(BTW, those are, from L to R, the "Hot Slurpie," the "Hay Maker," and the "Jack's Surprise.")

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen...

Between serving courses and removing menu items, some kitchen help will try to sneak a bite of the tasty food for themselves. Aren't they suppose to wait until after the guests have finished? (No, I did not actually take that bite ... it was simply for the camera ... really! :-)

And, of course, we all know that dessert is supposed to be the last course.

(Left) "Mmm! Deviled eggs ("Chicken in a Basket") for dessert!"

(Center) "What kind of a restaurant serves pepper rolls ("Good Exercise") for dessert? I may have reconsider how will I tip."

(Right) "Finally, I get my main course! I guess dessert must have come earlier. Hey, what do I use to eat this with?"

Thanks, Henricksons, Viekers, and Nielsens for a wonderful evening! (We couldn't have done it without you. :-) It was lots of fun and lots of laughs - and we trust some good food to go along with everything else. Now, we'll have to see who next year's "highest bidder" will be. (Will any of these couples dare to bid again? ;-)

Oh, and of course, Porthos and Gimli got to enjoy the "Mystery Dinner" and our company as well.

No, they didn't eat the fine cuisine of the Asburry Mystery Restaurant! (Their regular dinner was served before the guests arrived.) But they did get to come out of their kennel to enjoy the attention of our our guests before plopping down for a post-dinner rest.


  1. Looks like great fun! Thanks for sharing what appears to be a delightful evening. And now we will spend part of Saturday evening trying to determine the menu!

  2. Let me know what you come up with. I love a good mystery ... and when other people try to guess such menu choices! :-)

  3. Other than the items you disclosed in your story, we *think* that:

    pine forest = toothpick
    steamed glacier = glass of water
    autumn leaves = salad or coleslaw
    degreaser = napkin
    latin deluxe = coffee or cappuccino
    cat's eyes = olives

    So it appears that we would not have made any better use of our "free" will than anyone else!

  4. Wow! You're pretty good at guessing those menu items. I guess we'll have to create a whole new menu for next time! BTW, on "Latin deluxe," think of a different kind of soothing, caffeinated beverage.