There’s a lovely rainbow pyramid graphic out there in the ether titled “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” which is a theory of psychology that outlines (from the bottom of the pyramid up) what humans need to survive this crazy world of ours.
On the bottom, in red, are our most necessary and most basic needs – the physiological ones. And this is where you can find the intersection of food and sex that serves as the inspiration for erotic dinners.
Now, I’m not saying erotic dinners are necessary to human survival, although it’s safe to say our culture would be vastly different were this the case. What I’m saying is that the motivation to feed is just as strong as the motivation to mate, and combining – and exploiting – these two innate compulsions can make for one hell of a social gathering.
It’s this concept that piqued my interest when I learned a company called Our Gourmet Life was hosting a series of so-called “erotic dinners” in my city of San Francisco. I immediately asked my fiance if he would come as my date, since the $125 per person price tag ($175 with a wine pairing) made it impossible for me to turn this into a spontaneous gift. Like most Americans, we have to budget our sex-infused meals.
The website promises a night where guests can “explore an entirely new realm of sensuality and dining” and tells them to “prepare for an evening during which statuesque men and women wearing enticing black masks – and little else – serve you exquisite French cuisine.” I’m a fan of both delicious food and attractive people, so there was little stopping me from grabbing a reservation. Plus, I was curious about what it meant to be served dinner in “a sensual way,” so I had to see for myself.
Before jumping into how the night proceeded, I want to make it clear that this wasn’t a sex party. Those are not challenging to find in our fair city of love and lust, and Our Gourmet Life even points you in the right direction if an orgy is truly what your taste buds desire. For me, the distinction was in how they said they would incorporate the different but similar sensualities of food and sex to make something entirely unique.
So we donned our most formal outfits, which can be a rare opportunity in this part of the world, and traveled to a secret location in the city’s South of Market neighborhood – not the techie part, mind you.
We were greeted by a black-masked man (as promised) wearing formal serving attire, who led us upstairs, couple by couple, into a spacious modern apartment, no walls separating the kitchen, the dining room and the living room. Lots of red lights flooded the walls, making it clear that we were definitely in for a night of sensuality. No turning back now, I said to myself.
A whole group of similarly-adorned servers greeted the guests, taking our coats and personal items (no photos allowed, obviously) while everyone settled in for the evening.
Chris Hubbard, the founder and head chef, made a quick announcement to all 24 guests before we got into the real meat of the evening (multiple puns intended), basically reaffirming that this was not in fact a sex party, and that we could expect the servers to touch us – light caressing, massaging, breathing in the ear – and we could touch them (if they wanted us to), but there was to be no hanky-panky below the belt.
This was the most tantalizing concept of all. Obviously, the people present are self-selected – they have to be at the very least curious about what an erotic dinner entails to show up at all – but that doesn’t mean everyone will be ready to strip down and go wild right off the bat. Using tension becomes extremely important in this case, and this is where I feel Our Gourmet Life truly excelled. They knew just how and where to build sensuality, making heads and taste buds spin in a very exciting way.
That’s not to suggest the food wasn’t delicious. Starting with a warm, balsamic-glazed strawberry got everyone salivating, and by the time the third passed appetizer came around we were all ready to eat it directly from the server’s hands. There were six courses in total, and once seated, it seemed the richness of the food increased with the level of sensuality, culminating in a chocolate make-out session with my husband, thanks to a server pressing our heads together as we tasted our dessert.
I don’t want to give too many of the details away, since seeing how far they take it is part of the fun, but suffice it to say that everyone did warm up to the intentional caresses of strangers, who all went through various states of undress throughout the dinner (though the diners remained clothed). It was pretty interesting to see how quickly people went from discomfort to wanting way more, and the whole event was refreshingly free of jealousy, considering everyone watched their date get a rub down from a sexy, masked server. It helped that in addition to giving individualized attention, they made sure each half of the couple focused on each other, too.
My fiance and I have been together almost eleven years, and it’s safe to say this was one of the most interesting dates we’ve been on, though I’d love to see someone try out a first date in this setting. It was liberating to have the opportunity to explore the intersection of food and sensuality in a judgment-free setting, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get in touch with their own eroticism.
It was an accessible event, certainly not just for those who are kink-identified, and ultimately very empowering both for me as a woman and for us as a couple.
Main photo by João André O. Dias
Ali Wunderman is a freelance writer with her feet in San Francisco and her heart in Iceland.