Brilliant blue light floods the outside of a house I know so well. This time, there is no butler to welcome me, but rather, two silent, elegantly dressed women. It’s not their outfits or painted faces that catch my eye though—it’s the venus flytraps carefully perched upon their heads. One is closed, as if it is already digesting its prey; while the other is open and eager, awaiting its next victim. Tonight, it is I who will be their victim, invited to partake in a dining experience in a haunted greenhouse that encourages patrons and plants alike to consume everything. This was The Flowering of The Strange Orchid.
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
Disco Dining Club presented their first multiple-evening event, The Flowering of the Strange Orchid, which invited fifty guests to partake in a thematic and theatrical dining experience inspired by the H.G. Wells short story of the same name. While this experience was their Halloween event, it did not rely on traditional horror tropes. Instead, this event exuded mood and aesthetic, perfectly capturing the feel of being in a gorgeous home overgrown by the most beautifully dangerous foliage. This was accomplished by a perfect blend of engaging actors, lush backdrops, audience engagement, and, of course, one of the best meals I have ever experienced.
From the moment guests entered, they were surrounded by actors that helped immerse audiences in this world. Unlike the parties of Drunken Devil, there was no grand narrative to ascertain or puzzles to solve; rather, the actors served as living set pieces, plants that had come to life and wandered the property to explore their newfound freedom.
Audiences were free to engage with the flora, but behind limited interactions, silent conversations or welcomes, there really wasn’t much interactivity or narrative to engage in. The Victorian Man (Perry Powell) provided some of the best interactions of the night as he welcomed guests to his home and allowed them to pet his strange assortment of fauna. This minimalist approach worked wonders, though, as the focus was not meant for the actors, they were simply an accouterment to the set décor, expanding tone and theming.
While guests awaited the start of the dinner, a ceremonial tea from OneTea proved to be an exceptional highlight. With dozens of jars containing numerous ingredients, audiences could request custom teas be created based on their mood, tastes, or adventurousness. The hostess would conjure a tailored tea to each guest, allowing the leaves inside to match the many leaves of the mansion.
Once the dinner began, puppeteers from Bob Baker Marionette Theater emerged to provide octopi and flowers that whimsically danced across the grass. Mimes moved up and down the aisles, providing a small distraction from the tastes and drinks. Finally, a sitar played beautifully by Evan Ganick further solidified the guests’ full sensory immersion in another world.
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid was an astounding visual experience, overflowing with lush greenery, roaming flora, and Victorian horror. Taking place in the same 1906 mansion that held Just Fix It Productions‘ The Willows, the home exuded luxury and opulence. This time, the house didn’t feel like a reality-grounded creepy abode, but rather a fantastical larger-than-life world twisted between nightmare and dreamscape. Projections of purples and pinks flowed down the staircase, greenery poured out of large vases and flowerpots, black skulls flanked the staircases, and candles from Candle Delirium burned brightly across the entire manor. It is clear that setting was a major focus for the Disco Dining team.
While the house served as an appetizer to the evening, the greenhouse outside was the main course. Envisioned by The Grim Wreather, this greenhouse was the focal point for all theatrical displays—and an enormous two-part tree with two orchids garnered the attention and photography of all throughout the night. With large projections displayed upon the orchids, it truly felt alive, listening to all that would enter it for a photograph. Once a guest sat inside, they witnessed the true beauty: thousands of flowers and decorations within—a wreath turned inside-out, as The Grim Wreather himself put it.
Finally, it would be a disservice not to mention the numerous wreaths with which The Grim Wreather adorned the many walls of the house, the walkways, and even the bathrooms. All for sale, each one had its own personality, style, and nod to horror. They provided just another portal into the atmospheric world that was The Flowering of the Strange Orchid.
As Courtney Nichols, creator of Disco Dining Club, reminded new guests in our interview, no outfit was too bold, too colorful, or too absurd. And while I arrived in a traditional suit, this statement was fully embraced by a majority of guests attending. Large floral headpieces, intricate face-paint, and extravagant costumes were commonplace—some even bolder and brighter than the hired actors. The engagement of the audience helped immerse everyone present in this quixotic world, allowing guests to forget that a world where man and plant are not one even exists.
The horror of this experience was nuanced and implied, rather than aggressive and assertive. There was little-to-no actor contact during this experience, no theatrical scares, and not even any blood, despite the carnal carvings of the plants. The horror aspects felt much more akin to a strange-yet-familiar taste that lingers on the tongue after the initial sweetness fades.
While the sets and entertainment were awe-inspiring, it was the dinner and cocktail combination that made the three-hundred-dollar price tag worth it. Each one of the five courses by Laurent Quenioux of LQ Foodings was perfectly paired with a cocktail by Timothy Baxter of Baxter’s Speakeasy.
For the food, my personal favorite was the scallops with wild mushrooms, chanterelles, garlic saffron rouille, pumpernickel melba toast, and chorizo. The seafood offerings were perfectly cooked and melted in my mouth. For those who enjoy a more meat-centric course, the Flannery beef hanger steak excelled. With sautéed duck foie gras, confit cured onions from the farm, nasturtium leaves pesto, pickled okra, and pomme chips, the flavors both delighted and impressed. Each meal was exceptional, scrumptious, and perfectly sized and presented. My only negative was that arriving on the last night, most of the insect offerings from Bugible were missing, apart from some wonderfully crunchy crickets.
As for the cocktails, the choices were much more difficult, with each bringing forth new flavors. The Divine Mother was a table favorite, being described as “bourbon grilled on a barbecue.” Served in a tea cup and poured over a burnt orange slice, its already perfectly smokey flavor was enhanced by the activated charcoal, grapefruit ash, and lavender smoke infusion. It was heavenly. For those looking for something a little sweeter, the Strange Bloom hit the spot with green chartreuse, lime leaf apple cider shrub, butterfly pea flower tea, wildflower tincture, and El Silencio Mezcal Espadin. Finally, the H.G. Wells provided a mixture of rose honey black tea, seared oxtail-washed Brandy, and organic milk cream that delighted the senses.
We also can’t forget the dessert: a scented vanilla orchid chocolate tart and raspberry short cake with chestnut mascarpone, pralines, chocolate chips, and a cinnamon crumble. It was to die for.
Each meal, and especially the drinks, was presented to perfectly enhance the theming of the evening. Every drink emerged with a different flower inside, whether it was a baby’s breath or a daisy; a simple-yet-effective touch that connected the feast to the flowering aesthetic interlaced throughout the night.
Disco Dining Club exceeded expectations and made for a lavish evening in which I felt pampered, catered to, and overall astonished. With set design rivaling the most intricate immersive experiences and one of the best 5-course meals I have had (with paired cocktails), I only wish The Flowering of the Strange Orchid would run every weekend. Much like the Venus flytrap, the botanical experience welcomed guests in with their brilliant colors and sweet scents, allowing them to get drunk on their sap, and remain trapped within. It’s a perfect analogy for this experience because the aesthetic and divine flavors of Disco Dining Club have lured me in—and I am willing to be digested by them if it means an opportunity to live in that world for just one more moment.