By McCalee Cain
By day, the Oak Street Food Court is a bustling local food mecca. Come 7 p.m. on a Friday evening, however, Improv Cafe transforms the area into an intimate, fine-dining experience unlike any other.
Fine Dining Fridays feature a five-course meal accompanied by live music and focused discussion for six guests.
“We start it with an open circle, everyone introduces themselves, and we give them a topic and the guests take it from there,” Santi said.
The upcoming meal will feature garlic shrimp on polenta rounds, cedar plank salmon and a sour cream pound cake with berries, with music from Cody Lyman.
Improv Cafe’s Cindy Santi was ready to serve the community in a new way after massaging in Sandpoint for 25 years. The inspiration for Fine Dining Fridays came from her experience in mediation.
“I was hired a long time ago to do a mediation between a landlord and tenant living on the same property… so what I decided to do was have dinner every night for 12 people on different topics,” she said. “Through fixing meals with one topic, my experience is that it brings larger perspective, community, and compassion.”
Broad discussion topics such as oneness and moving into the future set the stage for intimate conversation and reflection. Many guests who were strangers prior exchange phone numbers after the meal to stay in touch.
“The exquisite meal was elevated by a ‘conversation with strangers’ that then became our friends. What a delight,” guest Suzen Fisken said.
Santi explained the multifaceted nature of the meal’s spiritual significance.
“The reason this happens is it’s making connections with self, nature and other. The person is responding to a topic so they’re connecting to themselves, we’re outside, so they’re connecting with nature, they’re connecting with music and they’re connecting with the food, and then through conversation, they’re connecting with others.”
This connection, Santi said, is sometimes so profound that it brings her to tears as she looks on the meal from the kitchen.
“Someone broke out into ‘Amazing Grace’ one night,” she said. “What makes this so unique is it’s an experience of humanity.”
Santi assures that the intimate atmosphere and degree of satisfaction set Fine Dining Fridays apart from other dining experiences.
“You get conscious socialization, nutritious, organic food, music for your soul, outdoor dining and you get to meet new people,” she said.
Fine Dining Fridays currently accommodate six guests, but Santi said that she hopes to double that in the future.
To participate, go to Improv Cafe in the Oak Street Food Court or call Cindy Santi at 208-290-3916.