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Art So Good, You Could Eat It (and Should)

By Anne Mitchell · February 13th, 2013 · The Dish
eats_dish_artoffoodCast glass toast by Leah Bush and Sandra Gross from 2012's 'The Art of Food' - Photo: Jeff Sabo

The Art of Food is in its seventh year at The Carnegie in Covington, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally hit the opening night. It really made me regret that I’d missed the first five. What an amazing event! So I’m writing this now, while tickets are still available. Don’t miss out.

The art side of The Art of Food, which will be covered in the Feb. 27 issue of CityBeat, “celebrates food as a complete sensory experience and explores the ways in which food comprises an art form,” according to The Carnegie. At the opening night gala, many of the area’s top chefs will be demonstrating their work and you get to enjoy their edible masterpieces.

Last year, our eyes were dazzled by 10-foot-tall models wearing dresses decorated with full-sized cakes, while our tongues savored treats like Fresh Table’s crisp corn cakes topped with chipotle aioli and barbecued shrimp. This year, their dish will come from Thailand via the West Coast, inspired by their recent trip to the Fancy Food Show. Can’t wait to try it!

Everybody knows that there’s a lot more to art than the Mona Lisa, but the connection between food and art is interesting. Chef Matt Buschle from Virgil’s in Bellevue participates in The Art of Food, but draws a distinction between cooking and the fine arts. “I think of cooking as a ‘high craft,’ but you could elevate it to art.” He admires the “transformative nature” of what local chefs like Jose Salazar and Jean-Robert de Cavel do with food.

“They do beautiful presentations, but the food is still ridiculously delicious,” Buschle tells me.

“So yeah, that’s probably art for them. For me, I just want to nourish people.”

Buschle, who paints, does metal work and has degrees in fine art, has played around with “Jackson Pollock pancakes,” but will stick with “a bunch of pig” for this year’s gala: winter flavors, rilletes, a real heavy fennel sausage with Alsatian figs, pickled vegetables and mustards. 

Chef Andrew Mersmann is tweaking and revising his menu at Django Western Taco, the Northside eatery that gets its artistic inspiration from the Wild West. I recently ate Mersmann’s guacamole at another art opening and was swept off my feet. For The Art of Food, he’s deconstructing his shrimp tacos. 

“They’ll be shrimp nachos,” he says, laughing. “I know, but it tastes better than it sounds. We’re pushing things a little, and this is new: poached shrimp, a salad of goat cheese and spinach, with sweet chili sauce and a pinch of tempura flakes.”

The nice thing about a gala like The Art of Food is that it gives chefs a chance to do something they don’t do every day. When I want an amazing hot dog, I head to Senate — so Senate’s chef/owner Daniel Wright is not bringing hot dogs to me. “Every year we do a raw thing for this event, something you don’t ordinarily associate with us. This year, we’re doing Hamachi Sashimi with soy beans, tofu, all the flavors of the Orient.” With Wright’s passion for perfect ingredients, I’m sure his sushi will be amazing.

Otto’s will be serving a lobster roll for the event. According to Chef Paul Weckman, this dish will be on their spring/summer lunch menu, and is one of his personal favorites. 

“It’s simple, fresh and classic. To me, and what inspires most things at our restaurant is the larger picture, the whole scene,” Wechman says. “We provide the opportunity for people to get together around a table and nurture and build relationships. Food is the reason for sitting down, sustenance, so it has to be good, fresh and lovingly prepared. But we’re also ‘hungry’ for other things: smiles, laughter, tall tales, jokes, resolutions — all a part of the larger picture. At Otto’s, we’re not trying to have our guests only talk about what is on their plate literally, but also figuratively. For this to be achieved, the decor, the music, the flowers, the service and the food need to exude a feeling of comfort. So, to me, it is the whole scene, not the plate, that is the art.”

The Art of Food opens with the gala 6-9 p.m. Friday, March 1. Advance tickets are $25 for members, $40 general admission. The exhibit runs through March 21. For details including all participating chefs, visit www.thecarnegie.com and check out CityBeat’s Feb. 27 cover story.

CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: amitchell@citybeat.com



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